Tuesday 22 January 2019

What have millennials to feel guilty about?

Frank at large...

Millennial malaise: The 'snowflake' generation is too self-critical
Millennial malaise: The 'snowflake' generation is too self-critical
Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

Let me put something on the record before I even start. I like millennials. I own three of them, rearing them all to a standard where they are capable of going out into the world and making no more of a bags of it than anyone else.

I am aware too that the talented, witty and self-deprecating columnist who usually fills this page with fancy turns of phrase is herself of that very generation.

I don't want to insult any of the above. Nor, I should add, the undergrads I study with every day as a mature student at Trinity.

Millennials - to broadly define them - are those who have emerged into early adulthood this century and it is a demographic that only applies to the self-indulgent West.

The rest of the world is too busy surviving.

But all told, and in the main, a fine generation of people. The nation, and indeed the future, is safe in its hands.

They have their critics but I wouldn't be one of them and I have never referred to them, even behind their backs, as snowflakes.

It's just that, as the first generation to grow up with, and harnessed to, social media, we hear an awful lot more of what they have to say about everything and anything.

If they occasionally come across as precious, perhaps that is why.

But I mostly find them to be resilient and dutiful. To a fault.

From where I sit - be it in the comfort of my own kitchen or perched in the back row at a history lecture - it seems to me that they take life all too seriously.

They need to be more like we were. Which was not to take things seriously at all and to be dutiful only when adults were paying attention and our Irish Catholic God was snooping. This week, procrastinating over a coffee in the Arts building instead of preparing for a tutorial on the Balfour Declaration, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation between a circle of female students who were sharing a long bench with me.

They chatted across me as if I were invisible, which is what older students generally are. They were sharing anecdotes of their previous evening of hedonistic excess.

This involved tossing pancakes and eating too many of them. With syrup.

Yes, that wild.

I'm not naïve enough to think that it doesn't get any crazier than this. Or that, at the very same moment, there weren't other students so hungover, they couldn't crawl out of their sleeping bags to make lectures at all.

But what made it a bit sad was the level of guilt that they seemed to feel, their voices lowering to a hush as the decadent details were swapped.

"You had four pancakes?"

Why are they so hard on themselves? Why so critical? Why so ruthlessly censorious not only of their own behaviour, but everybody else's, too?

Isn't it sort of ironic that the first generation of young Irish people to have been brought up in a truly post-theocratic society seem to be so adept at good old-fashioned Catholic guilt?

The guilt isn't about sexual morality, of course. It's moved on to things like body image, weight and food.

It's the guilt of not being pretty enough, thin enough or successful enough. Of not being, to borrow a hideous piece of popular jargon, 'the best you'.

Who's to blame? Well, we can't finger the Church for this one. In this spinning global, digital village, fuelled mostly by the shallowest of values and instant gratification, perhaps a bit of sermonising wouldn't do any harm.

But nobody would listen.

And as parents, perhaps we shouldn't have wrapped them up in cuddly duvets all the time, cosseting them from any chance of hurt or failure.

But we did. If only with the best of intentions.

Millennials will be in charge soon. It will be their world. But I wish they lightened up a bit and threw a guilt-free party for themselves first.

They deserve it.

They hate each other? Not as much as Bette and Joan did...

Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker

I can't remember which Sex and the City movie it was, but all I know is that it was 90 minutes of my life that I will never  have refunded.

I would acknowledge that the TV series did have its moments and some sharp writing too, though it will have dated badly. The Nineties were a long time ago.

But I never bought that old shtick that it was some sort of empowering feminist parable.

It was just another reworking of the most laboured trope of popular female fiction: how to get a man.

But it was written by a woman, so that was all right.

The latest twist in the feud between its stars Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker has, briefly at least, rekindled interest in the series that ran from 1998 to 2004.

One source breathlessly told US Weekly: "They hated each other."

So, what was source of the mutual loathing? Why, money, of course.

A peeved Parker said Cattrall was making "diva demands" before signing on for a lucrative Sex and the City III.

No skin off my nose. That's 90 minutes of my life that I won't have to mourn.

And as movie feuds go, it's hardly up there with those truly terrifying divas, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who loathed each other almost to the point of mutual destruction.

Or even Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Not to mention Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor.

These were Hollywood rivalries on a grand scale, sometimes lasting lifetimes and involving, on occasion, killer putdowns and withering asides.

Real stars. Proper harlots. Respect.

Alas, this is cheap-seats stuff.

Perhaps Cattrall, at 61, and Parker, a mere 52, should say no more and act their age. On and off screen.

As if.


Winter olympics

From the snowboarding halfpipe to speed skating, the Winter Olympics have been a blast. And let's be honest, it's the falling-over that's the fun part. I didn't even know they gave out medals until yesterday.



Quorn had to recall 15,000 vegetarian curries in Ireland and Britain because of fears of rubber contamination. Sorted now. In fairness, I don't think that is what they mean by a meat-substitute recipe.


Boris Johnson's big Brexit speech was full of tasteless jokes that nobody laughed at and which left him sweating. It was so bad, the Daily Mail loved it.

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