Have you noticed there are a lot of old guys who like to use the term "snowflake" to describe young people? (Underline "old" and "guys.")
Also, please note that these old guys probably don't utter this generational slur when addressing 25-year-old Navy SEALs.
These same guys use phrases such as "buckle up, buttercup," because they think it makes them sound tough, when it actually just makes them sound like a third-grader smoking a cigar.
Baby-boomer grandfathers who attack their own grandchildren for softness — hence, the terms "snowflake" — are really just exposing their own insecurity. Plus, they probably secretly think they are clever for using a metaphor that contains the word "flake."
Here's a suggestion: Cool your jets, Granddad.
Boomers are defined as Americans who were born between 1946 and 1964. Or, to be more specific, you're a baby boomer if you know the origin of the quote "De plane! De plane!"
Boomers still dominate American politics, but little else. Deep down, they know the end of their generation power is nigh. For some of us boomers, who are used to being "the most important generation," this is hard news to swallow. Plus, we also are coming to terms with the fact we will be the last generation to say "nigh" with a straight face.
As a 61-year-old father of two Generation Z'ers, I have a quirky perspective on this whole generational tug of war. I want to ultimately be on the winning side, and, frankly, the kids have more pull.
Boomers, bless their hearts, would like you to know their lives have remained virtuous while leading arduous lives. Poor, babies.
Being a good person in a hard world has given boomers certain perspectives on life they feel they need to share. Attending the "school of hard knocks" is a virtue to boomers, while to young people it sounds like a self-inflicted concussion.
Boomer hardships are often exaggerated. We went to college when tuition cost a few hundred dollars a semester and raised families during periods of robust economic expansion. Many of us were not particularly productive as young people, a fact we have conveniently forgotten. Actually the movie "Dazed and Confused" — which was set two days before my 18th birthday in 1976 — sort of sums up boomers who came of age in the '70s.
I've been waiting for Generation Z to clap back on the whole snowflake phenomenon.
Now, at long last, it's happening.
Young people are said to be coalescing around a comeback phrase that is the perfect retort to any gray-haired critic. The phrase, if you don't know, is, "OK boomer." Or "OK, boomer" if you consult a grammarian.
Here's a hypothetical exchange:
Boomer: "Buckle up, buttercup!"
Young adult: "OK, boomer."
Translation: Get a life, grandpa.
Depending on your reading habits, this "OK, boomer" stuff is either old news or its not. "OK, boomer" is an all-purpose retort to bombastic boomers, and it's gotten a lot of press in the popular media in the last couple of weeks. Think of it as a jujitsu move against boomer invective.
Older Americans are busy formulating their response to "OK, boomer," because, well, they are trained to counter-punch. See POTUS.
My favorite Twitter response to "OK, boomer" was this post from BuzzFeed opinion editor Tom Gara: "Teens think they have an all-purpose insult for uncool people over 30 with 'OK boomer,' but little do they know uncool people over 30 are about to deploy our most devastating weapon against it: ruthlessly appropriating it until it's cringingly uncool to say it in any circumstance."
True. We boomers refuse to let the kids have anything nice. Here's where I enter the story. On impulse, I decided I wanted an "OK, boomer" sweatshirt. Amazon obliged for $29 with free delivery!
I wore the navy blue "OK, boomer" sweatshirt to work, to school (I teach a class at UTC) and around the house. My two sons, 13 and 18, were oblivious. Some of my students at UTC were mildly amused. A couple of Gen X'ers at work, fellow creatures of irony, tweeted pictures of me in my shirt. At Walmart, nobody noticed.
It wasn't until I visited Pruett's Market on Signal Mountain that I encountered the "woke" crowd. One sack guy smiled and said "nice shirt." A pair of stylishly dressed young customers in tie-dyed shirts gave me a thumbs up. Another employee hid her eyes and tried to swallow a giggle.
Meanwhile, I was stuck at the cash register, struggling to answer "no" to the "do-you-want-cash-back" prompt on the credit-card machine.
"Sorry, it's a boomer thing," I said as I snatched back my debit card.
The young cashier just smiled, as if to say, "Don't worry, sir. It happens 50 times a day."
See, young people are really nicer than us.
Call them snowflakes if you like, boomers. But know that our legacy — mean or generous — will one day be left for them to define.
And when that happens, better buckle up, buttercup.
Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6645.