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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.

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