Friday, 27 March 2009

Talking ’bout my generation

Finally someone has acknowledged what I always knew. I am part of the lost generation.

‘As in the 1980s recession, another generation is at risk of being washed up, never being connected to working life,’ writes Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, showing rather more sympathy to Generation Y than I can find myself. They’ve had it too good too long: we never had that chance. I just want to shout: what about us?

Somewhere invisible between the baby boomers and Generation X, we don’t even have a name. If the current lot are Generation Y, we must be Generation What.

We were on the receiving end of the Thatcherite recessions as we started out working life. And now we’re on the receiving end of the 21st century recession as we anticipate the end of our working life. Except it probably never will end, because we can’t afford to retire.

We were the ones who couldn’t get on the career ladder because hundreds of jobs were being lost every day. Who couldn’t get on the housing ladder because we didn’t have steady jobs. Who, in many cases, never even had the chance to think about a pension - and if we do have one, are likely to watch it disappear to nothing.

And we were the ones disenfranchised because as soon as we were old enough to vote, the wrong party kept getting in. For eighteen years.

I went proudly to university, one of the ten per cent they let in at the time; the first of my family to do it. I left with a 2.2 that’s now worth nothing because a 2.1 is the default setting for 50 per cent of the population. I spent the first few years of what should have been my working life signing on, re-training and on a job creation scheme.

I was one of the lucky ones. There are people my age who have never had a proper job. After I found my feet, I managed to find work. I’ve always been skint, but I’ve never been destitute.

But life has always felt precarious. Once, I imagined spending my twilight years in a nice retirement home, playing the Sex Pistols at full volume. (If it’s too loud, you’re too old. And if it’s not loud enough, you’re so old you’ve gone deaf.) Now, it doesn’t seem so likely… what was that line about ‘no future’?

Am I a ‘grumpy old woman’? No. Am I an angry middle-aged woman? Bloody right I am.

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