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Boomers Gatekeeping the Shitty Nostalgic Decor of the Old Housing Millennials Currently Live In

“Who remembers these paneled walls?” asks a blissfully unaware Boomer. Millennials don't just remember, we LIVE with them! I saw this:

And and decided to make a shitty meme out of hit myself:

Feel free to roast me for the grammar, I rewrote it 65,000 times trying to fit what I was trying to say on my version of the meme. Maybe if I would've been given a single glass of water in the 90s I could've focused in school and wouldn't have the English skills of a pop-tart. 🤷‍♂️ I’m not loving the aesthetics of my meme either but there was only so much I could do to add on top of the original, so let's just say I did a bit of a DIY job overlaying the original meme. Think of it as a visual representation of Millennials making the best out of what we've got.

Ok time to get started on the post instead of giving 46 more disclaimers about the meme I am clearly self-conscious about, and stick to what I’m good at.

"Ok, Boomer" 

This phrase pisses them off to no end, it rocketed to viral fame partially as a sassy comeback from millennials used to shut down the outdated views and condescending tones often associated with the Baby Boomer generation. But it’s actually a lot deeper than that and they refuse to engage with its true meaning. The Boomer generation rode the wave of an extraordinary economic boom post-World War II, roughly from 1946 to 1964, Source a period marked by an insanely prosperous time. During this time, they enjoyed benefits that now seem like a distant dream: easy access to affordable housing, a good job market, and relatively low-cost education. Homeownership was within reach for a lot of people, in contrast to today’s sky-high real estate prices. Higher education was more accessible, not the crippling financial burden it has become for many in recent generations. This era setup Boomers for a lifetime of success, providing them with opportunities that significantly shaped their lives and future economic stability. The phrase "OK, Boomer" also hints at deeper systemic issues–things like colonialism, slavery, and white supremacy–that built systems that favored certain groups (cough, white people cough), giving them social and economic benefits that others didn't get. This unfair head start has led to lasting inequalities that we still see today in 2024. Many Millennials feel frustrated by the difficulty older generations have recognizing deep-rooted systemic issues, especially compared to the awareness and understanding shown by younger generations.

Turning A Blind Eye To Systemic Injustice

Millennials and the younger crowd, perhaps from being raised in a world that's more connected and diverse, seem to be more open to talking about and tackling issues like inequality and injustice. I somewhat understand that older generations grew up in a time when society, schools, and media didn't really get into issues like colonialism or racial injustice. Some older people grew up with history lessons that downplayed how bad things like colonialism and slavery were. To recognize these injustices, they'd need to rethink those old ways of thinking. Accepting the reality of systemic injustices can be fucking difficult, especially if it means questioning your own long-standing beliefs or recognizing your privilege. This is something that I can actually empathize with having left an abusive religious and borderline white-nationalist childhood environment I grew up in and having to unlearn internalized problematic beliefs I was taught. This clash often causes discomfort and defensiveness, making it hard for some to openly accept or try to understand these issues. So I get it, it’s tough, especially for those who think their success is all due to their own hard work, without comprehending the bigger picture of systemic help they might have had. And recognizing systemic problems means facing the fact that the system you've benefited from isn't perfect. This lack of critical discussion back then means they now don’t appear to fully grasp how deep and widespread these problems are. Over time, what's seen as normal and acceptable has shifted. Education on history and social issues has changed a lot, and Boomers are all over social media lecturing us about how good we can have it if ‘we just work hard enough’ so that means they clearly have access to the internet and/or resources where they could bring themselves up to date. Many younger folks now learn about past injustices more critically in school than was the case when the Boomers were in school, but that isn’t a justification for the ignorance of the Boomers because the Boomers could take care of their own unlearning if they wanted to. Thanks to online platforms it is easier than ever to find a wide mix of viewpoints and life stories. This kind of exposure can help anyone better understand complex systemic issues and feel more empathy for those impacted by them. Social media and the internet have been a big part in spreading this information, which I’ve seen argued makes younger generations more globally aware, but as the original portion of this meme demonstrates, and as we all know from our racist old aunts on Facebook posting Q-Anon shit, the Boomers are absolutely online. 

Boomers seem to view the prosperity they experienced when they were young as normal, believing it came solely from their hard work, without considering the unique advantages of their time. They often overlook the broader historical and systemic factors that played a big part in their success, focusing instead on their individual efforts. They appear to miss how the changing economic situation has made it much harder for younger generations to have the kind of success they had. So "Ok, Boomer" is something actually pretty profound said to older generations to chastise them for brushing off the real struggles younger people face. Millennials for and Gen Z example are dealing with fucking stressful ass shit like super high housing prices, making it increasingly difficult for us to buy homes like the older generations did. In a quickly changing job market, we face very stressful uncertainties in employment, a major contrast to the more stable career paths often experienced by Boomers. The massive threat of climate change is a unique and existential challenge for younger generations, one that requires urgent action and understanding, often not fully grasped by older generations. Boomers may struggle to recognize or validate the complex issues we are dealing with today and often underestimate the severity of their impact. They often gaslight younger generations about this, telling them their personal failings are due to a lack of effort rather than systemic issues, and they may resist changes that would help tackle these larger problems. This is horrible on it’s own but something that is especially nefarious considering how many people in the younger generations are already victims of abuse, mental illness, or are simply people of color who are exposed to medical gaslighting every time they go to their own doctor, and none of these people need to be further gaslit. Some Boomers actively work to keep their privilege and status, even if it disadvantages other people, or ignores the need to fix systemic inequalities. There's often resistance among Boomers for supporting policies that would more fairly distribute resources, because it might challenge their established privileges and they are selfish fucks who don’t want to lose their special goodies. But Millennials are the big babies, amiright?

Cultural and Socio-Economic Implications in Relation to Housing

So I have to give the disclaimer that I am not an economic expert so this part is just to contextualize the sociological situation and not going to be an in-depth economic analysis of the Boomer-era of economics. The boom that benefited the Boomer generation often meant they had better access to affordable housing compared to later generations. This is relevant because buying a home was financially achievable for a big segment of the population, making it a more common goal for many during the Boomer era. In contrast to that, Millennials and subsequent generations are dealing with skyrocketing house prices, shit wages, and of course total financial uncertainty, making home ownership a far more intimidating challenge than what the Boomers dealt with at similar stages of life. The prosperity Boomers enjoyed allowed them to accumulate property and wealth over the course of their life, and their assets have often gained value over time. This is something they fucking flat out refuse to talk about when they start their bootstrap bullshit. In today's economic conditions, the kind of wealth accumulation from property that Boomers experienced is often unattainable for younger generations. 

Colonialism and systemic inequalities paved the way for certain groups (cough, white people, cough) to have easier access to property ownership and that type of wealth accumulation created historical advantages that persist today. But yep it’s about memes, we’re just crying over memes. Boomers frequently find themselves in the position of inheriting property or wealth from their families, and that is often conveniently left out of the conversation. How many Boomer ‘business owners’ do you know that run ‘Mom and Pop shop’ type situations actually got the business from their parents? Same with Gen X. I bet if you start asking questions you will find out it’s a lot. Millennials and younger generations might not see similar inheritances, as the increased longevity of older generations and the spreading out of wealth across more people dilute these potential benefits and don’t get me started about the sad facts about the things that are killing the younger generations because that’s a whole different blog post. 

Anyway, many Millennials end up in long-term renting due to the high cost of down payments, making home ownership out of reach for us. This situation contrasts significantly with the Boomer generation's experience, where home ownership in a totally different timeline was a more realistic and attainable goal. I can (and will) do an entirely different blog post on how things like gentrification, urban development, and redlining, often propelled by wealthier, (cough, racist, cough) older generations lead to rising housing costs, which can push out younger and less affluent residents from their neighborhoods. Older generations may misunderstand or underestimate the housing challenges younger people, particularly people of color, face, not fully appreciating the extent of the difficulties. The lack of empathy and support from older generations for policies aimed at helping secure stable and affordable housing is why we don’t care that “OK, Boomer and clowning on their memes offends them. 

Wood Paneling

Wood paneling in American homes has a rich history, evolving significantly over the centuries. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a symbol of affluence, often handcrafted for aesthetics and practicality like insulation. By the Victorian era, paneling became more ornate and accessible to the middle class, thanks to new woodworking techniques. The Arts and Crafts movement later introduced simpler, rustic styles. Post-WWII, paneling saw a resurgence with affordable materials like plywood, peaking in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s in many American homes. This style is often now seen as retro. Recently, there's been a revival in paneling's use, with styles like shiplap and bead board becoming popular rustic and farmhouse design trends.

Unlike the sepia-tinged images from decades long ago they want you to think these got left behind in,

We are paying a ridiculous amount of money to live in these shit holes!:

Are you super sad that you couldn't snag up this time capsule for yourself?! Well don't worry, there are plenty more available on the market for reasonable asking prices such as this:

Boomers' 'Innocent Nostalgia'

Having traced the evolution of wood paneling through the centuries, I want to now explore how this design element intertwines with the experiences and memories of the Baby Boomer generation. Boomers came of age during the height of wood paneling's popularity, when affordable and easy-to-install options like plywood and fiberboard were common in homes. This type of interior decor was also prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s, which coincides with the childhood and early adulthood of many Boomers. Post-World War II, the surge in demand for affordable housing for the expanding population, including Baby Boomers, led to paneled walls becoming a popular, budget-friendly choice for interior walls in many homes.

When Boomers share this meme it often comes from a place of nostalgia, as these styles remind them of the homes they grew up in. The meme shared by Boomers portraying paneled walls as some sort of quaint relic of the past, it comes off as tone deaf with Millennials and Gen Z, who live in the houses being condescended about. Confronted with high housing prices and lower wages relative to the Boomers, younger generations are frequently confined to renting older properties, unable to afford updates or renovations, or unable to change anything due to rental lease agreements, this can be a sad reminder of their different economic realities. Our housing realities often include living with features we don’t necessarily love, and a perfect example is these paneled walls, which for us, are not ‘nostalgic’ but something about a shitty situation we are forced to live with because of the world the Boomers created and then refuse to take accountability for. For Boomers, paneled walls often carry a nostalgic charm and simply represent a style choice, in contrast to Millennials who live with them more out of economic necessity than aesthetic preference. In the broader cultural landscape, ‘outdated’ things from the past like this, and have transcended mere design elements to symbolize the growing frustration with the perceived cluelessness and privilege of older generations. It is not just a clash in aesthetic preferences, but it mirrors the economic, social, and historical shifts that have shaped the majorly different experiences of the Boomer era and the present day.  Source and Source

Gen X

I have seen some Gen X individuals share the meme. These folks were born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s Source, and so they grew up as paneled walls were still in vogue, especially towards the end of their popularity. Positioned uniquely as a bridge between Boomers and Millennials, Gen X has adapted to major cultural and technological shifts, including the evolution of interior design. By sharing this meme, Gen Xers have a few possible ways of giving their commentary on socio-economic changes, resonating with the challenges faced by both themselves and Millennials. In my observations, they generally use memes for discourse with all the generations, for both connection and humor.

Media Influence and Social Bubbles

The evolving dynamics between generations, shaped by economic shifts, housing market evolution, and changing design trends, reveal a complex blend of things like media influence and social bubbles, contributing to a massive disconnect in perspectives and experiences across different age groups. Boomers, who grew up during all the prosperity and affordable housing that I have talked about, might assume that these favorable conditions have remained the same or even improved, overlooking the economic shifts over time. This gap in understanding, where Boomers may not fully grasp the housing challenges Millennials currently face (such as living in older, less modernized homes) fuels the frustration highlighted throughout this blog post. It's this very disconnect that carries the use of phrases like "Ok, Boomer," as it sums up the younger generations’ response to what I understand as a lack of recognition and empathy for our struggles, a sentiment that's deeply rooted in the differing realities of these two generations. Since the Boomers' era of home-buying, the housing market has changed drastically, creating a massive contrast between their experiences and the Millennials. Today, with rising housing prices and shitty economic conditions, many Millennials find the idea of ever owning a home basically fucking impossible. This isn’t just an economic issue, but a super important part in understanding the different realities these generations face. As I pivot from the economic aspects that affect housing to the realms of media, culture, and social dynamics, it's clear that these factors play a significant role in shaping the generational perspectives and experiences I've been laying out. Let's get into how these elements further influence the divide between generations.

Media often spotlights modern homes and renovations, skewing the perception of what constitutes a ‘normal’ home today, leading some Boomers to genuinely believe that houses with features like wood paneling are a rarity now. This focus on modern homes in media ties into how people, including Boomers, often stay within their own socio-economic and age-related ‘bubbles’. Socializing mostly with peers in similar situations, many Boomers might not see the varied living conditions of younger generations, including those in homes containing things like original wood paneling. From a Millennial's perspective, given the context outlined in my blog post, a Boomer sharing a meme about wood paneling often appears as more than just being 'out of touch', it's seen as an oversight of the deeper generational issues at play. This entire situation, with its layers of generational misunderstanding, can essentially be boiled down to one word: privilege. 

Generational Strain

One of the sharpest divides between generations lies in their differing economic realities. The ‘pick yourself up by your bootstraps’ approach, commonly associated with Boomers, was more realistic in their youth. They grew up in an insanely prosperous time: where education was nothing like it is today, the job market was nothing like it is today; which meant it was a world where self-reliance seemed more attainable than it does today. Boomers typically think of education as a reachable goal without associating it with crippling debt in contrast to millennials, who often face steep tuition fees and long-term financial burdens from pursuing higher education. For Boomers, starting from the time they first entered the job market, it was a landscape of plentiful opportunities and career stability, and they have been able to leverage their privilege ever since. In contrast, when Millennials entered the job market in an era of heightened competition, instability, and diminishing rewards for similar levels of effort and qualification, they faced a starkly different reality. When Boomers share memes that romanticize or trivialize aspects of their past, even something as seemingly silly as paneled walls, without recognizing the struggles these represent for younger generations, it often comes across as insensitive and dismissive. The Boomers tend to use stuff like this to mock and gaslight the Millennials, calling us sensitive crybabies who are getting our panties in a bunch over a meme about paneled walls. But the reality is they are refusing to have any hard-hitting discourse on important topics and have to use red-herrings to make us look like whiny little bitches because they know we are right. 

This lack of recognition of the changed socio-economic context exacerbates feelings of frustration and misunderstanding among Millennials and highlights how the Boomers are unwilling to do any introspection about how they need to work on things. These situations often highlight a broader issue of miscommunication and cultural disconnect between generations. Memes and social media posts can be interpreted in various ways, and what is nostalgic or humorous to one generation might be a reminder of economic hardship to another. The nature of social media, where content is shared quickly and often without context, can amplify these misunderstandings and anger. Instances like meme sharing can also inadvertently reinforce stereotypes – all Boomers being out of touch, all Millennials being overly sensitive. However, these moments can also open the door for deeper conversations, offering a chance to bridge understanding and address misconceptions on both sides.

Generational Gaps & Misunderstandings

Boomers may not fully comprehend that their socioeconomic advantages are due to the legacy of historical systems of inequality. This lack of understanding of privilege intertwines with the broader challenge they face in recognizing systemic issues. The lack of awareness among Boomers about their generational privileges often leads to a significant generational disconnect, since they might fail to recognize or acknowledge the structural advantages that have benefited their generation, creating a gap in understanding with Millennials and younger generations. 

Differences in communication styles, especially in the use of social media, can make these misunderstandings between generations worse, since each group often has distinct preferences and approaches to digital interaction. Memes shared by Boomers are most likely intended to be lighthearted or nostalgic, but with the lack of awareness of the broader context, they come across as dismissive of the realities the younger generations face. Since their successors are generally more vocal about systemic injustices and seem to be more likely to view societal issues through this viewpoint than them, generally speaking. This cycle of stereotype reinforcement perpetuates the divide and significantly prevents the development of understanding between the groups. 

It’s important to recognize these generational divides and stereotypes, but it's also important to take a quick moment to remember the variability within the Boomer generation itself, acknowledging that a generation is not a monolith and understanding these issues within a global context.

Broader Context

The Baby Boomer generation, like any other, is composed of individuals with a wide array of experiences and backgrounds. While much of this generation did benefit from economic prosperity, other marginalized groups had to contend with issues like discrimination, economic hardship, and a lack of access to the opportunities that we use to define the era for their (let’s be honest: white cishet, probably Christian) peers. Therefore, acknowledging the heterogeneity within the Baby Boomer generation is essential in painting a more accurate and nuanced picture of their collective experience (btw heterogeneity basically just means having a mix of different types and kinds within a group). The experiences of the Boomers differ significantly across various countries and cultures. The socio-economic conditions, horrific ableism and still fairly primitive approaches towards mental and physical health conditions, LGBT+ right issues, patriarchy problems, historical events, and cultural contexts unique to the different regions of the world have a massive influence on how these generational dynamics were experienced globally.

Final Insights

My exploration into the "OK, Boomer" phenomenon and its ties to the painfully out of touch Boomer meme I vandalized about dated wood-paneled walls often found in Millennial homes reveals much about intergenerational dynamics and perceptions. The meme, humorously reflecting generational divides, also helps us understand a lot about a deeper socio-cultural narrative, if you’re not a Boomer with your head buried in the sand afraid to address this stuff. While it points to the Boomers' often unacknowledged privileges and a certain nostalgia for a bygone era, it also sheds light on the varying economic realities faced by Millennials today. The occasional participation of Gen Xers in this dialogue, with their unique position in the generational spectrum, adds another layer of complexity. The phenomenon is not just about outdated home decor or crybaby Millennials, it's a symbol of the broader disconnect and lack of awareness among many Boomers regarding the current living conditions of younger generations. This gap is further widened by media influences and social bubbles that reinforce stereotypes and deepen misunderstandings. As with any analysis of large groups of people, it’s super important to remember that the Boomer generation itself is not homogeneous. Their experiences and perspectives are as varied as the global context they come from, as fucking as annoying we might find them to be as a group. Acknowledging this diversity is key to moving beyond stereotypes and towards a more nuanced understanding of each generation's unique challenges and viewpoints. Ultimately, this meme reflects the multifaceted nature of generational relationships today. I hope it can serve as a call for more open dialogue across generations, encouraging us to look beyond the surface of social media trends to the deeper societal implications they carry.


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