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postcard-from-l-a: More ‘pledge’ blowback: I ♥ millennials, but some need to learn how to take a joke

In my last column, I offered up a list of what millennials might do to improve themselves. Lighthearted, it started with the admission that I am a millennial myself, a joke the target audience didn’t seem to get (I never said which millennium).

The piece provoked backlash like I’ve never seen, making me wonder if most of them don’t get jokes at all. Here’s a hint, kids: You fight humor with humor, not with sanctimony and angst. The world doesn’t really give a whoop about the struggles of middle-class American kids. It’s as if I set an entitlement trap for you, and you fell into it headfirst.

Among the other suggestions in the “Millennial Pledge”:

• I am entitled to nothing.

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• I will show up on time.

• Just once, I will try driving without texting.

• If my first-born is a boy, I promise not to name him “Uber.”

Stuff like that. Not exactly James Thurber or Dorothy Parker, but who is anymore?

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Let me just say I’m proud to have started this healthy debate about the war between the generations because, according to them, that’s exactly how they feel. Till now, they’ve been rather quiet about it, frankly. They have plenty of beefs ... some very good reasons to be hugely upset. (One offered up as a counterpoint a baby boomer pledge: “I won’t ruin the environment I won’t ruin the economy I won’t demand that you act grateful for the hell we made.”)

So I’m glad to give them a chance to vent.

“This dude [meaning me] looks like a lame extra on a forgotten episode of ‘This Old House,’” one critic tweeted, in one of the few clever (and very true) responses.

Some of the smug punks even had the nerve to mock my “mustache.”

For the record, that’s not a ‘stache. It’s an earthquake kit, containing three weeks’ worth of bar food.

Another young woman huffed, “I will not read insufferable newspaper columns about millennials because I will not read newspapers.”

Take that, America!

At which point, in an online follow-up, I suggested that this is what you get “when you raise an entire generation without spanking.”

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That verbal smack-in-the-butt provoked another round of lectures about the harm in spanking. The gist was that spanking ranks somewhere between child abuse and capital punishment. For a bunch of kids who’d never been spanked, they seemed to know a lot about it.

This isn’t a new fight. Generations are always at odds. Most twentysomethings have the perspectives of pigeons. Your moms and dads were like that too. One of the delicious ironies of this dust-up is that the boomers never respected authority and now have raised a generation of kids who don’t respect them either.

Payback is a stitch, right? In the vernacular of the age: Oh. My. God.

Another delicious irony is that almost no one has been a bigger booster of the millennials than I have.

Last year, I wrote, “The young people we sometimes dismiss as a bunch of coffee-swilling slackers will wind up being the Greatest Generation Yet.”

I based that on coaching them, working with them, sharing the occasional beer. I still think that, and have written entire columns to that effect.

A 2014 Pew study backed up my positive impressions, finding the millennials better prepared and more optimistic about the future than their moms and dads.

I still believe that but worry for them if they can’t laugh at some of their own quirks. In addition, they haven’t rallied into any sort of political force. They seem to prefer to throw social media tantrums than to get personally involved.

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Instead, they are addicted to phones and social media. They even seem old before their time, disappearing into their gadgets like a grandmother leaning into her knitting.

Maybe they just needed me to rally them? As a fellow millennial, I hope I’m up to the task.

“I can tell [you] from interviewing hundred of young people over the past 30 years that millennials do think of themselves as entitled and above everything and everybody else,” commented one retired human resources director. “I think this list should be appended to every application where the applicant is a Millennial. That way they may have a clue as to why so many of them lose their jobs.”

Chimed in one overly defensive Twitter respondent: “You don’t get it. The problem isn’t that we can’t take criticism....”

No, that’s exactly the problem, kiddo. Worse yet, most of you can’t seem to laugh at yourselves just a little bit.

Amid all your AP physics, the Mandarin classes, the SAT prep sessions, we failed to teach you that invaluable life skill?

Shame on us. Now, to your rooms, all of you.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes

MORE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES

Cutting strangers some slack (but not getting any when it comes to college loans)

How to keep your young son from becoming an old man

Tim Cook’s commencement speech from a cynic’s view


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