I cut my hand a few days ago while doing the dishes. No stitches required, although I did take a chunk out of my right hand. Very bloody … and although it was hardly the end of the world, it was darned inconvenient.
Since my typing ability was curtailed (especially on Friday and Saturday), I spent some time doing a bit of shopping. One destination was the local mall at Rivertown Crossings. As I was browsing for books — I ended up buying Milton’s complete poetry, including some Latin stuff — I did some people watching. I was struck by the increasing sub-specialization of generations. I have never really identified with a particular generation or social clique, so I don’t have a lot of experience trying to conform to the demands of a particular tribal group. But that notwithstanding, it’s curious to see how outward appearance is such a strong indicator of social status, and how minor changes of style can fairly clearly signify a narrow age range.
I’m 29 — young enough, I like to think, to recall the early years of my undergraduate experience. I recall that a person’s appearance helped to define, broadly, his major social group; you could get a basic sense of what kind of person you dealt with depending on whether he wore athletic wear, grunge-style flannel and torn jeans, business-casual attire, etc. Now, looking at upper-middle-class high-school and early-undergraduate students, I get a sense of just how much more different they are compared to my peer groups at that age. And it’s not like we’re talking about a million years of separation, either. There seems to be an increasing specialization of apparel that is, in a broad sense, interesting. When evaluated with changes in technology (my peers were e-mail whores, whereas preoccupation with instant messaging, SMS notes and community blogging seems to mark today’s youngest adults) and decreasing understanding about the world around them, it seems that there’s a generation shift at work that could potentially rival the Baby Boomer phenomenon. Not since the ’60s has there been such a complete change of culture within a generation as I think is going on right now. And the implications of this, if my observations ring true, will rock American society in years to come.