Broke: the real story behind the disappearing generation gap

Just when you thought you’d heard enough about scruffy indie rock hipsters to last a lifetime (what with their ironic interest in rap and all)—New York magazine went and published an entire feature on them, in which the vintage-clothing-clad-Death-Cab-For-Cutie-loving scenesters are made out to represent an entire generation. NY’s Adam Sternbergh dubs these people “Grups,” after some Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk lands on a planet where all the adults have died and the children are in charge.

The point seems to be that there are loads of grownups these days that haven’t actually grown up. Which is one hell of a point.

But Sternbergh doesn’t seem to get why. He defines Grups as 35 to 40 year-olds that insist on acting/dressing/living like they’re 22. According to him, this state of perpetual youth is about consuming youth market products—iPods, $600 distressed jeans, rare sneakers. And it’s about youthful freedom—the freedom to follow ‘passions’, the freedom to give your corporate boss the finger and go freelance (and thus go snowboarding in the middle of the week), and the freedom to shrug off the constraints of society by dressing your toddler in a scruffy indie rock band’s signature baby tee.

The disappearance of the generation gap is obvious to anyone with eyes, and it’s well worth talking about. But Sternbergh’s take on it is a bunch of nonsense.

Why? Cause there’s a whole lot of grown folks out there whose lives don’t look very adult, not because of stuff they have—but because of stuff they don’t have.

We’ll call these people Broke. Like their Grup counterparts, Brokes’ lives tend to resemble 22 year-olds. But not in a good way.

Brokes live with roommates, sleep on futons, juggle several McJobs, and strive to build careers in other industries after hours. They max out credit cards, ignore student loan payments (if they got to go to college in the first place), and borrow money from friends and family when they can’t make ends meet.

Whereas 35 year-old Grups can be seen at Starbucks on a weekday afternoon, yapping incessantly on their razor-thin cell phones, 35 year-old Brokes can be seen at that same Starbucks making cappuccinos.

(As an aside, male Brokes have an extremely hard time getting laid. Female Brokes, not so much. Men tend to be more forgiving about their conquests having no car, dingy sneakers, and limited cash flow.)

Most Brokes I know (let’s be honest, freelance writers are almost always Brokes) yearn for everything about adulthood that Grups scorn—namely regular working hours, job security, the ability to buy clothes in actual stores (as opposed to shabby-ass second-hand shops). Square stuff like that.

Needless to say, Brokes—whose poverty-chic Grups are imitating in the first place—don’t find their ‘youthful’ state of being the height of fucking cool. They aren’t hyped on the fact that they don’t have grown-up lifestyles. And they sure as hell aren’t snowboarding in the middle of the week.

  • http://xxl Puerto-Black

    Very Well written. Keep up the good work. But the ? I ask u is which “Broke” is going to be more common in years to come.

  • M

    co-sign. excellent

  • Chance Abrams

    Thank you for writing this piece.

  • GOD

    bol is broke

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    It’s true. If I had more money, I’d be having sex more often.

    Just wait…

  • http://calabashmusic.com J. Singh

    Your piece is quite funny, but I don’t really agree with your assumptions about the stereotypes. I think our notions of what is to be “grown” have changed, the fasion has changed, etc. To me, really being grown is not jumping into petty identify politics which (whether you are “Broke” or “Grub”), essentially boil down to consumerism, I buy nikes, “I’m a baller”, I buy converse, “I’m a hipster”.

    And music (maybe I’m picking the wrong place to rant: on a music genre fan site), is the worst of the lot. Not to defend the Grubs, they piss me off too, but if they want to listen to hip-hop, play it an a banjo while farting on a snare drum, more power to “them.” It seems the only way we talk about people now is based on the shit they buy and hang on themsleves / their lives. And we think we know everything about them from there on out.

    It’s a bit dehumanising, no? I mean, I hated having a boss, and now consult, listen to hip-hop and to the Talking Heads, I’m broke, grew up broke and I wear $2 “distressed” jeans.

    Which one do I fit into?

  • GOD

    get out of here homosexual

  • Che

    Bol pays for sex? ..why am I not surprised?

  • jimi

    massive. big ups, girlfriend. this is fire.

  • will

    yes some “grups” may have money, whereas “brokes”,by definition, have none. however, the underlying motivation for both groups appears to be the same. Freelance writers that are brokes can go and get editorial assistant jobs at a few of the thousand newspapers in this country, however, you guys chose not to because you want “passion” and “control” of your lives. everyone cannot be lumped into the “broke” category. you always had broke people, black and white that lived like they were 20 even though they were in their 50s. that is not a new phenomenon. the reason this is getting pub now is because many of these people have college diplomas, and are still refusing to “grow up” so to speak. in that respect it doesn’t matter if you call them “grups” or “brokes”, it’s just the fact that you have people with the ability and qualifications to have jobs that 15 years ago they would have jumped at, but now are forcefully turning away. if you are a freelance “broke” with a diploma, you can become a sell-out editorial assitant at any of the thousands of newspapers around the country. this would put you on the road to “success.” however, you chose to be a “broke” freelancer. it is that type of choice that the new york article was discussing. as a whole, these choices were not made years ago.

  • noitsnot

    its called alcoholism

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  • mod

    unbelievably good shit. fuck hipsters.

  • 11KAP

    CAN’T YOU TELL AMERICA IS ON A DOWNWARD SPIRAL? YOU WON’T SEE ME ACTING 20 WHEN I AM 40. CHILL WITH THAT NONSENSE.

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  • http://skibeatz.com DJ Main Event

    realest shit you ever wrote… being 19 and broke sucks… coming with a plan to elevate though.

  • http://www.myspace.com/16kingz TheBestout!

    BORN BROKE,DIE BROKE.

  • http://allhiphop.com DA DEVIL

    SEEMS LIKE THIS COMPARISON IS REALLY ABOUT RACE NOT AGE. HUM.. SHOULD HAVE PUT MORE INTO THE BREAK DOWN. NICE READ THOUGH.

  • Avenger

    This was interesting but I don’t agree. Like J singh said what we consider grown up simply changed as did our perception of the nuclear family. We are going through massive social evolution and since we live through the process we want recognize it until our decade passes and the side effects are occuring. What does it mean to be broke in america most people I know don’t fit either description they have a 40,000 a year job and can barely make ends meet and so they are broke. Cat’s who can start a business and be successful should go for it what is this life if we spend it in the wage slave world of cube land.

  • http://quickfixloans.com John Haley

    Not to defend the Grubs, they piss me off too, but if they want to listen to hip-hop, play it an a banjo while farting on a snare drum, more power to “them.”

  • http://www.ohcanadamovie.com charles smith

    Find the “Money Mechanics” video on the net and learn the truth about how the American money system works and the fraud that all of you are going through!!! Your money does not exist and its fraud and money laundry/forgery!!! For those in Canada the “Oh! Canada Movie” is very similar as both systems are debt based and they on go in a downward direction. If one watches the movies and does the research you’ll find all the information on the net for yourselves and court cases and court files of people who are filing class action suits or have won/lost and how to sue the banks/ gov’t/ IRS for fraud!Even the IRS has no law saying you have to pay but they insist though! They have broken laws and violated the constitution. In Canada for example you do not require a license to practice law or even joining the bar association which is a “club”. The primary requirement is passing the university courses which qualify you not going the club!!! If they don’t join then there persecuted for it. Under ultra vires, contract laws and promissory notes and failure to disclose the method of money supplied it’s void contract “people” and you can withhold payment during the dispute!!! If you hire a real lawyer they will defend you and show you how to do it cheaply to represent/educated yourself or get aid and how to fill out the right forms. Even advise you without putting there career in jeopardy!! For fear of the “bar association”!!!! If your going broke what do you have to lose! Sign your name on petition’s and through numbers we can put it back the way our forefathers had it because they new this would happen!!! Under the law if you claim bankruptcy you and “idiot”/mentally incapable and like slaves its a seven year’s before your FREE………..You don’t have to be a lawyer to win just well versed in the law!!

    (LAWYERS/JUDGES)THE STUPIDITY IS THAT UNLESS YOUR THE ‘ELITE’ ALL YOUR SAVINGS AND MONEY WILL DISAPPEAR WITH THE BANKS GOING BROKE!! SO UNLESS YOUR A BILLIONAIRE OR HIGHER YOU CAN SERVE THEM BUT IN THE END YOU’LL GO BROKE AS WELL BECAUSE YOUR NOT HIGH ENOUGH ON THE FOOD CHAIN!!! THINK ABOUT IT!!! “SLAVES IN THE TOMB WHEN ITS SEALED OFF!!!” DUH!

    -the 1930′s are an example of this……………… you may want gold or silver coins/jewels in a can in the back yard!!!!

    Don’t believe me then do the research yourself and see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://youtube.com/sonicsnout Brian A

    Stumbled on this, so true, very nice article. I’m definitely a Broke.