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I was recently mopping to music I once partied to when I felt excruciating pain in my lower back and a pricking sensation down my right leg. I’m now reckoning with two uncomfortable truths: I have a herniated disc in my lumbar spine, and I’m a middle-aged woman whose pastimes include doing chores to the chorus of early-2000s hits.
Even though many people, me included, still consider Millennials to be that young, opinionated bunch, ageing doesn’t lie – like Shakira’s hips and my inability to move mine now. Millennials are now aged between 27 and 42, so we’ve started to hit the mortality midway mark.
Shakira performs the song Hips Don’t Lie at the Grammy Awards in 2007. Credit: AP
The bad news is that my back issue will take months and dozens of treatments to resolve, but the (kind of) good news is my generation won’t succumb to tired midlife crisis tropes.
Inspired by Scott Morrison assigning various portfolios to himself, I declare myself a Millennial Minister for Ageing. My generation has RSVP’d to the midlife crisis camp in Las Vegas. We’ve unsubscribed to the sportscar newsletter.
Why? Well, at the risk of sounding like a dramatic Millennial, our entire life has been a crisis. Many of us are prone to experiencing existential angst at least once a fortnight.
We’re also far too povo to afford a midlife crisis and are waiting for a meme to tell us how to do it on a cost-of-living-crisis budget. And of course, it has to be gender-inclusive, and we’ll only engage in a midlife crisis by giving our verbal consent, preferably recorded.
While there’s no agreed-upon definition, a midlife crisis is often understood as a rebellion that comes in the second half of our lives. Thanks to gendered Hollywood portrayals – and that gropey uncle who took up solariums, shredding and sex workers with zeal ahead of his 20th wedding anniversary – it’s a concept most people are familiar with.
But Millennials are different from their predecessors and, given all the self-love we espouse and the social justice wagons we’re driving, we’ll be doing things our way.
Primarily due to years of inequitable economic policies and unforeseen global events, Millennials are in worse financial shape than every living generation ahead of us. I’m prepared to throw my vegan protein bar at anyone who tries to dispute this well-documented fact.
Like Boomers and Generation X, we know adversity and are a resilient bunch. We mourned the last Blockbuster store shutting down and now spend entire evenings watching trailers on Netflix – so spoilt for choice yet seemingly unable to make one.
But we don’t feel restlessness and agitation – stereotypically associated with middle age. Thanks to the gig economy and casualisation, we are never restful. Job security is unfamiliar. The only stable thing in our life is our work-from-home office desk, which another Millennial from Airtasker assembled for $50.
We also aren’t divorcing en masse because many have never been married or are still in the early “my partner is so cute when they sleep” stage. We’re also not getting our first ink because we now have 12 tattoos after getting the ball rolling during schoolies on the Gold Coast.
So then, how will Millennials mark midlife? With careful rebranding first, of course. At this stage, there are three brand option routes.
The “early halfway” is for those who refuse to succumb to the effects of gravity, a slowing metabolism and a more injury-prone body. This is usually paired with enthusiasm for Botox and Ozempic.
But it is not only for women seeking to keep up with the Kardashians; men have a place here too. These types are in denial about the suitability of still using a skateboard in their 40s for both the health of their ACL and their dignity. The early halfwayers have succumbed to never owning a property, so their discretionary spending is high.
Next up: “midlife spices”. This is about self-care and self-development one turmeric latte at a time. It’s marked by silent retreats, setting boundaries and gratitude journals, and an enviable cabinet of protein shakes, given the biggest thirst to ditch alcohol comes from Millennials. Spicies lean into things they can control, having given up on inflation, stage-three tax cuts and Australia’s desire to reach its carbon emission targets.
But fear not, there are growing numbers of subscribers to the “midlife climate crisis” group. This comes with a sense of resignation that envying your parents’ generation’s negatively geared properties and fat super funds doesn’t really matter when the planet is on fire. These Millennials are committed to rescuing the earth and humanity. You’re welcome.
Don’t worry, you’ll know when a Millennial selects their midlife style because there will be a hard launch on Instagram. It’s what I’ll be doing, given I turned 40 on Sunday.
Antoinette Lattouf is a broadcaster, columnist and author. She is co-host of The Briefing podcast and co-founder of Media Diversity Australia.
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