I had to face the music. I wasn’t 30 going on 13, I was 26 going on 27 and becoming cripplingly uncool.
XXXTenacion had died and I didn’t know who he was; I've had to admit I'm more familiar with Shaun the Sheep than Shawn Mendes and then with my dignity in tatters I asked my cousin if Ikr was an off-shoot of IKEA. There was only thing to deduce from this – I was getting older. I was becoming out of touch with a younger generation who could never fathom the heartache caused by scratched CD-ROMs or Nokia’s monophonic ringtones. In Gen Z’s eyes I was probably just another old fart, the kind they think plagues Facebook – alas, what’s a millennial to do when they start losing their cool?
Alas, what’s a millennial to do when they start losing their cool?
If you graduated from university deep into the recession you may be acquainted with the premature quarter-life crisis. It hits early, around 22. That’s when the real world crushes all your hopes, expectations and dreams to smithereens, but on the plus side, you still fit into your Depop crop and can get away with having one bev on a weeknight without feeling like your insides have been hung, drawn and quartered the next day.
25-year-old advertising executive Norma Nwokenna reflects on this: "We’re still so far away from becoming successful adults, the only quantifiable thing I could hang onto was being young and cool. Instead, now I’m a loser, crippled in debt, unable to afford a house and with zero career prospects – at least being cool made me feel warm inside". Silver linings, right? Think again. After barely surviving your quarter-life crisis and you’re creeping into your late 20s but fast approaching your 30s, the millennial mid-life crisis comes out of nowhere. Hitting you like Theresa May’s curtsy, one moment upright and tall, then suddenly – bam! – contorted limbs collapsing into an incomprehensible heap. You’re not only re-evaluating your life as you approach a milestone birthday, but now keeping up with the Gen Z’s seems more arduous than keeping up with the Kardashians.
Of course social media must be held accountable; Instagram offers endless and easily accessible points of comparison, as you wistfully watch Gen Z’s like Iris Law and Kylie Jenner living their best life better than you would if you had nine. Factor in Instagram is the worst app for our mental health and us ‘idealist’ millennials are its heaviest users – it’s a one-way ticket for self-sabotage.
It turns out technology has lots to answer for, as 29-year-old Content Manager Hannah Parry reveals. "My nieces ask me to add them on Tik Tok. I thought that was a Kesha song, turns out it’s an app. Kick’s another one – #confused."
Meanwhile 27-year-old PA Georgina Dilkes is hooked on acronyms. "You know when you say something to be ironic, but you’re just being uncool? I say YOLO once a day and can’t get it out of my vocabulary – that and bae. I hate myself for it, but I can’t help it. Gotta roll with it.’
For 26-year-old homeware buyer Merran Mills the struggle to stay on-trend keeps her on her toes. "Can someone tell me if I’m tying my trainer’s right, what’s the cool way to lace them? I just don’t know." A pair of fresh creps would come in handy for her next concern..."Not knowing the latest hype dance – from Macarena to Le Bloc Boy, from Cha Cha Slide to Flossing – I feel old." How fussed is she really? "Too tired to keep up."
For 30-year-old marketing manager Alessandra Campos dark and dingy nightclubs bring to light the disparities between her and Gen Zs. "Vision’s Video bar is swarmed with 19-year-olds in health goth from Kayne’s collections. Then imagine me, in my yoga pants." Does it bother her? "I’m totally cool with being uncool. Still, I don’t get trap music – it wasn’t a thing growing up. Who are these players and why is Tyga spelt with a 'y' – sorry, why are we spelling things incorrectly?"
It’s not just the stress of what to wear clubbing and misspelt artists, but also where to go. Norma elaborates: "I ask my mate’s younger sister every time if we go on a night out if I’m becoming uncool, but by doing that I’m automatically fucking uncool, but I still ask." Ultimately does she care how she’s perceived? "I don’t get worried about it because I’m still hanging on to enjoying going out by the skin of my teeth. Only when I’m faced with younger people is there the drastic realisation I have 2000 more things to worry about – and that’s why they’re so cool".
While the millennial mid-life crisis entails a constant battle between cultivated indifference and suddenly freaking out we’ve turned into a frump – are we losing any sleep over it? No. The general consensus seems we’d rather accept that becoming uncool is the new cool so we can go to sleep soundly, reminiscing over Tammy Girl and Tamagotchis. It’s only natural our interests and definition of what’s on-trend evolves with age – like a preference for crockery shopping over Cabernet Sauvignon (don’t judge).
Regardless, our definition of cool should always be grounded within ourselves. Chidera Eggerue (The Slumflower) reiterates in What A Time To Be Alone: "Hanging out with people who you think 'look cool' won’t necessarily make you cool if you are doing nothing to develop yourself to a level where you can be cool with you, without any other association with anybody." Ultimately, you’re only as cool as you feel and that’s all the validation you need. Now Google Shawn Mendes before anyone else sees.