a gen x-er takes a selfie


Generation Z ‘War’ on Older Generations Won’t Keep Me From The Things That I Love

Apr 28, 2021

My daughter reaches for my hair and maneuvers it around a bit. It’s a flashback to the good old days when she wanted to play hairdresser. But now she’s a teen, and that game is a relic of the past.  Today, she rearranges my tresses with a weirdly calculated look in her eye.

“That’s better,” she declares, as she stands back and assesses her work. “You really should wear a middle part. Side parts are dead.”

I catch a glimpse of my new coiffure in the mirror. My hair, which hasn’t been cut or professionally coloured in months, thanks to the pandemic, is now divided straight down the centre. My unkempt mop resembles a sad pyramid featuring grey roots up top with “before times” highlights languishing down below.

“I don’t know,” I tell her as I start to sweep it back over to my regular side part. “I’m not sure a middle part suits me.”

My daughter looks at me with pity. Heartbroken that I’m so hopelessly out of touch. Suddenly a chill runs down my spine, and I wonder: Have I become one of those people who clings to a style long past its expiry date? I try to remember the last time I radically changed up my hair and realize it’s been ... years.

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The next day my daughter spots me in a pair of jeans. A rare sighting during isolation where I usually rock my comfy sweat pants. “No one wears skinny jeans anymore,” she informs me, her voice rising with alarm. “You should try baggy jeans instead.” I think about the people I just saw on the street also sporting skinny jeans and worry for them.

How did we not get the memo?

"It dawns on me that the feedback I’ve received about hair and clothing isn’t coming from my kid but a much larger and more frightening source: TikTok influencers."

Then boom, it’s everywhere. My social media explodes with the official news: SIDE PARTS AND SKINNY JEANS ARE OVER! It dawns on me that the feedback I’ve received about hair and clothing isn’t coming from my kid but a much larger and more frightening source: TikTok influencers. Suddenly I’m reading posts inviting me to weigh in on where I stand on the middle part versus side part debate. Some call it an all-out war.

OK, that seems a little much. Since when did where we part our hair become such a divisive topic? I fall down the social media rabbit hole and discover that this is about way more than fashion. A generational divide is erupting between gen Z and millennials.

So much so that the hashtag #bullymillennials got almost three million views on the app. TikTokers, so passionate about the subject, began making videos declaring millennials were old and out of touch. Some even likened their side part to being the “Karen” of hairstyles.

And it isn’t just millennials on the receiving end of the online attacks. In 2019, a video featuring a 19-year-old saying “OK, boomer” took off in reaction to a white-haired man who unfairly disparaged gen Z online. The meme became a teen rallying cry against older people.

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It’s fair that young people might feel angry at the state of the world and those who got us here. They have every right to push back against older people and the harm they’ve caused. However, gen Z is also the first generation raised on social media, and they are only just discovering the power it yields. They aren’t necessarily experienced enough to understand the damage caused when pitting people against one another, regardless of the reason.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my (almost) centenarian grandmother and my gen Z daughter. As a gen X-er, I have so much to learn from both of them. While they may see the world from different viewpoints, I appreciate my grandmother’s lived wisdom and my teen’s fresh, progressive perspective. We have much more to gain when respecting one another.

The other day my daughter came downstairs, and I couldn’t help but notice her hair part had moved from the centre, slightly over to one side. I guess you could say she is learning that dividing things down the middle isn’t as clear-cut as embracing all the angles and dimensions. Life is more interesting when we celebrate all hairstyles. 

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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