The New Rules of Being a Millennial
Here's everything you did six months ago, versus everything you're doing now.
Photo: Emily Bowler
Not to make the sausage in front of you, but I'm struggling with this intro. The first few paragraphs in a Fun Online List should set up what we are about to read: it should entice the reader, ignite the palate like a good menu might. But I have no idea how to describe this one.
- In the year 1955 (bear with me), Nancy Mitford (bear with me) wrote an article in a CIA-funded (please, stay with me here) magazine called Encounter in which she documented the unwritten rules of being "U" (upper class) and "non-U" (not upper class). These are mostly linguistic rules, but they sort of reflect life as well. It’s very: "took a bath ⟶ had one's bath". I need you to bear with me.
- In 2018, the magazine Tatler did this list again, but for the year 2019 and with a lot of loaded new-money stuff that seems to be a specific subtweet about rich Russian teens who rev around Chelsea wearing Balenciaga.
- So the idea was that we would do that for us. You know: us. Not rich people. The class divide that can be roughly described like this: if you're getting the Eurostar to Paris from St Pancras International, you've got Tatler readers at the champagne bar (Them) and all the rest of us in a big queue clanking backpacks into one another in Marks & Spencer, trying to buy those little cans of gin and tonic (Us);
- The problem with the "us" thing is that we (Us) do not have a collective term for ourselves which isn't wildly inaccurate or painfully cringey. "Hipster" suggests a level of effort that I think we're all big enough to admit we don't subscribe to. Does "millennials" work? Sort of, but not. It's too broad. Plus, "millennial" is more-or-less a slur these days, isn't it. Nobody self-identifies as one. It's just something your dad calls people with university debt. It's nothing. The people I'm talking about are the ones who know what De School is and don't really know what a "James Arthur" is.
- Do you understand why this intro was difficult to write yet.
- So to recount: trying to do a list of rules based on a 1955 article I simply cannot find online, for a group of people who have no collective name.
- Listen, here's the best way to describe this list: here are some things you used to do vs. some things you now do, presented in a way that makes you aware of all those things and their current status on the barometer of cool. Here's what you did six months ago —> here’s what you do now. That sort of thing. Within half a year, this list will be totally out of date, and when I am a mad old rich novelist with a castle, you will all dredge this content up again to undermine how wrong I used to be back in the old days, when I was poor and young.
- I think it's actually quite important to document this fine-grain cultural stuff that so inevitably gets lost to time when we recount it. Like: best I can tell from my own dim recollection and every montage I've seen, the 90s in England was just Paul Gascoigne shouting through a megaphone at Oasis, beneath white-hot sunlight, forever. But I'm sure there was more to it than that. But everyone was far too on ecstasy to write it down
- Enjoy the content!
Avocado toast at a cute brunch spot ⟶ Shakshuka at a cute brunch spot
Aggressively vaping ⟶ Ruining every party you go to by talking about CBD oil
Buying a record player and, some weeks later, exactly two records, which you stack neatly next to it and never play ⟶ Baking your own bread two times then never again
Fixed-gear bike ⟶ Walking everywhere, but telling people you've walked there and exalting walking like it is an art form
Getting accidentally talked into a £10-a-month charity donation that you are too sheepish to cancel for 13 straight months, even though you really can’t afford it and never read the emails they send you telling you how many huts have been built in your name ⟶ Hosting a safe space club night that promises all the profits "to charity", but then you realise it runs at a deep, deep loss even though the photos of the night do look really fun on Instagram
Fixing posters to your wall with bulldog clips ⟶ Buying exactly five plants then immediately putting "plant dad" in your Insta bio
Genuinely doing balloons ⟶ Ironically doing balloons
Laughing at Goop ⟶ At least three charcoal products in your house and some sort of brass bracelet that you're convinced "adjusts your vibe"
Fucking off Tinder with wild abandon ⟶ Having a really very fucking awkward showdown with not one but two people you ghosted in May of last year when they both turn up at the same day-rave as you and make that weird, wild-eyed cross-room eye contact where you know they're going to come over and make tight smalltalk while vividly recalling exactly what your genitals look like, before they both separately send you 400-word WhatsApp messages at the end of the night, and honestly the whole thing prangs you out so much you go sober for three months and take up jogging
Emailing people properly ⟶ 25 Instagram Story updates a day, texting "sorry, didn't get this!" in reply to texts you definitely got
That unopened box of zines you did because for some reason you thought 500 people would buy a zine you did, and you were wrong ⟶ Secret meme-only Instagram account you only really set up so you could watch your ex's Story compulsively without them knowing it's you
Two-hour queue for food at a hype pop-up ⟶ Saying "fuck it" and going to Nando's, which tastes better 100 percent of the time anyway
Tweeting ⟶ Launching a doomed start-up "social media killer", which is just Twitter but with a black-on-white design, raising $100 million of venture capital, hiring out a whole WeWork and filling it with lads drinking raw juice, shutting it within a year, inexplicably appearing on tech panels for the rest of your natural life
Shakshuka at a cute brunch spot ⟶ Spending somehow £18 and two-and-a-half hours of your life making shakshuka at home from a recipe you thought was a very cute, informed food blog thing, but was actually just the BBC Good Food recipe verbatim, pre-empted by a 6,000-word story about having a daughter
Eating good shakshuka ⟶ Sorry to go on about shakshuka so much, but I forgot to mention the shashuka you made could charitably be described as "just eggs in red" and you never bother to make it again
French tuck ⟶ Completely forgetting about the French tuck two weeks after telling everyone how transformative the French tuck is
Loving sincerely and with all your heart ⟶ Sending someone exactly six memes a day and fucking only on the one Sunday a month you're not both hungover
Being mad about the housing crisis and the global warming crisis ⟶ Quietly, darkly thinking that maybe if you buy a terrace house in Stoke, you can sell it for vast profit once the waves come inland
Playing pool at Efes in Dalston ⟶ Playing pool at Canavan's in Peckham
Slightly overlong Facebook status announcing the joyous realisation that you're pansexual ⟶ Awkward lunch with your mum and your two poly lovers, one of them is wearing cat ears
Getting one of those apps that tells you exactly how much you spend on Uber every month ⟶ Quietly ignoring the push notifications it sends about reconnecting your bank account to it because honestly it was getting a bit much
Going slightly into debt by having the iPhone XR "because of the camera", even though you only post to Instagram like once a month and your camera roll is mainly screenshots of people you know but mostly dislike ⟶ Having the same cracked phone you had three years ago on a SIM-only plan but still constantly running out of data
KonMari-ing your flat ⟶ Realising all the charity shops have really good shit in them all of a sudden???? Wow????? And spending £140 buying more shit than you threw out last month????
Sharing a picture of your mate's shit streetwear brand (black T-shirt w/ a single poorly-illustrated rose, rip-off of Drake "6 God" hands, the word "ILLEGALLY" down each sleeve in gothic print) on Instagram because they sent you one, inexplicably £45 T-shirt ⟶ Chucking a fiver into your mate's GoFundMe so they don't get evicted from their property guardianship
Putting your coffee pod machine on Gumtree because "robots can't make coffee" and watching loads of YouTube videos about "pourovers" ⟶ Big jar of Maxwell House
Knowing what the government is up to and hating it ⟶ Not knowing what the government is up to but also hating it
Getting drunk five nights out of seven and mainly eating beige or fried food, and somehow spending £500 a month on Deliveroo and feeling bad all the time, just no energy at all and gripped with a sort of constant clench of anxiety and dread that only seems to dissipate even slightly when you have another pint and start the whole fetid cycle again ⟶ Not doing that
Saying "self care" every time you spend £30 in Boots ⟶ Taking "having a bath" just way too seriously
Sunday night Blockbuster movie on Netflix with the heating up on full and a full Indian takeaway currently 25 minutes away from delivery ⟶ All that still, but you learned how to make your own rice so now you don't have to buy the rice, so that’s £2.95 saved
Forgetting your tote bag at home ⟶ Forgetting your KeepCup at home
Wearing glasses a graphic designer typecast in a Bridget Jones movie might wear ⟶ Wearing glasses a small-town sex offender in 90s Scotland might wear
Actually owning Yeezys ⟶ Having some very boring but loud opinions about how Kanye is problematic or something
Wearing Air Max 97s even though you know they’re "very Urban Outfitters" now ⟶ wearing Fila Disruptors even though you know they’re "very Urban Outfitters" now
Losing an entire Saturday and most of your Sunday to a dark web pills-fuelled mad one at Printworks ⟶ Someone’s serene "birthday drinks" at a £6-a-pint pub where someone genuinely brings their toddler
Broadway Market ⟶ A dedicated vegan market where everyone there has done something monstrous to a jackfruit
Weekend in Berlin where you fail to get into Berghain, even though all you talk about in the six weeks leading up to it is getting into Berghain ⟶ Weekend in Lisbon where you fail to buy heroin, even though &c. &c. &c.
Having too many tote bags ⟶ Having too many Glossier pouches
Putting all your clothes on Depop but ignoring all messages sent about them because cba lol ⟶ Putting all your clothes on Depop and very desperately hashtagging every single one of them and describing each and every one as in "supreme condition" because you really could do with selling a few of these H&M tops; it’s been an exceptionally long month
Having a complex relationship with Wetherspoons because you recognise that a lot of people go there as a sort of ironic performative working class thing, so you get a lot of genuine pissheads who have brains like corned beef from years of pints, BUT you also have a lot of CSM students being slightly baffled by Curry Club ⟶ Having a complex relationship with Wetherspoons because you know Wetherspoons-fronted propaganda was a real breeze block at the corner foundation of what led to Brexit, but you really, really can’t argue with a sub-£3 pint, can you
Stanning legends ⟶ Stanning murderers
Gentrifying Peckham ⟶ Joining a niche funny Facebook group only after its popularity has been documented in a series of online explainers and after a knowing reference in a national paper, therefore becoming the exact thing that ruins the group even though your intention when joining said group was very pure
Still laughing at the word-pair "nut milk" ⟶ Very sincerely saying "oat milk is better for the environment actually" when a barista offers you soy
Ironically dabbing in 35mm photos your mate takes of you ⟶ Losing your actual temper when your ten-year-old nephew tries to teach you to floss and you absolutely can’t get your head round it
Buying that H&M House of Hackney rip-off cushion with the leaf-print on it ⟶
Buying that mug with tits on
Somehow spending more than five actual pounds on an "artisan doughnut", which looked really nice when you looked through the window of the shop at it, but once you'd queued up and picked it and learned the price there was a really ugly feeling of guilt associated with it, which tripled the second you tapped your Monzo card onto an iPad to pay for it (they didn't have a real card reader), and now you're stood outside next to some shipping containers (no space in the shop) eating the doughnut and it's fine, yeah, but it's a little bit sweet and you have to grab it with a piece of greaseproof paper and you’re still getting loads of coagulated sugar on your hands, and basically you don’t feel any sort of glee at all about eating it, you basically only feel shame ⟶ Same as this but with churros
60-like photo of that Christo barrel sculpture on the Serpentine ⟶ Ten-page Insta story of that Jenny Holzer exhibition
Writing a somehow 550-word intro that doesn't even come close to explaining the piece ⟶ Going back to journalism school and learning to do your fucking job