“OK Boomer?” With this boomer, it’s not!

Maybe you’ve heard a phrase about our generation that’s going around right now: “OK, Boomer.” Maybe you’ve heard it, or seen it, or read about it, or if by now someone has put it on a perfume, smelled it. BoomerCafé contributor Erin O’Brien of Warwick, Rhode Island, has had enough of it because she doesn’t like the smell of it at all.

“OK, Boomer!” is a battlecry currently making its rounds on the Internet. As a columnist recently put it in The New York Times, “OK Boomer’ has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids.”

Or as an 18-year-old Gen Z college student told the columnist, “Everybody in Gen Z is affected by the choices of the boomers, that they made and are still making. Those choices are hurting us and our future. Everyone in my generation can relate to that experience and we’re all really frustrated by it.” Mind you, she told the Times columnist that she’s cashing in on the slogan by selling it on everything from shirts to socks to greeting cards.

Erin O’Brien

But fair or not, and profitable or not, the phrase makes me cringe. You can bet it wasn’t another baby boomer who came up with it.

So which one of you adolescent earbud-and-hoodie-wearing-Twitter-using twerps came up with this response to your elders and betters? Speaking for our baby boomer generation, I’ll quote the comedian Rodney Dangerfield who used to say, “I don’t get no respect.”

You younger generations want to sneer and sound off with “OK, Boomer?” I’ll remember it next time I’m at a restaurant and the Millennial waiter (born between 1980 and 1996) says to me, “Hi, my name is Jeremy, and I’m going to be taking care of you.” I don’t need to be taken care of. I just need you to put my food on the table. “OK, Millennial?”

Or the next time I’m at a store and thank the Centennial clerk (born 1997 or after) for her service and she says, “No problem,” as if her professional effort was minimal, or she was doing me some kind of favor by doing her job. What would be better would be, “You’re welcome,” because she’s paid to do what she did and it was her pleasure to be of service. “OK, Centennial?”

What else can I say besides, “Yes, I’m a baby boomer.”

You know, the generation that brought you the Internet.

But I digress.

Just who, exactly, first introduced the “OK, Boomer” phrase? The answer’s hard to come by— there are a bunch of urban legends about it already out there. But I highly suspect a Centennial.

After all, Centennials— also known as iGen, Generation Z, or Zoomers— have a voice, like we did, but they have the Internet, like we didn’t. Like us, they’re holding previous generations accountable for the state of their world. Like we did too.

Millennial consumed by her iPhone and seemingly oblivious to her surroundings of the majestic natural grandeur of Sedona, Arizona.

To their credit, at least they’re clever in marketing. “OK, Boomer” merchandise is flying off the shelves of the Internet. You can see sweatshirts, stickers, and iPhone cases emblazoned with the phrase on high school campuses across the country.

I’m optimistic that the snarky slogan is merely a rejoinder to a perceived attitude— hopefully not used against an entire generation.

As baby boomers we said, “Question authority.” Older boomers in particular scolded their parents as “square.” Do Centennials trust anyone over 30? Apparently not.

12 Comments

  1. I am in total agreement. The “no problem” response to my polite ‘thank you’ really makes me want to say: “Why should it be a problem? It’s your job.”

    And, what exactly are all these terrible things that we Boomers did to these Milennials? Things were not so easy for us. I’ve worked long hours all my adult life. My husband has always worked at least two or three jobs, all while working a full-time job. We’ve worked hard, saved a lot, traveled a lot and now enjoy reaping the rewards of our efforts.

    What is so much more difficult for these milennials? I don’t get it!

    1. 11/15/2019

      You were lucky the worker said, “No problem.” Here in NYC, the cashier says nothing; no “thank you” or even “Have a nice day.” The don’t realize that customers want to feel that there business is appreciated. Without customers, they wouldn’t have jobs! I’m a pre-baby boomer!

  2. Not a single “Amen” from me. I cannot disagree more with the tone of this essay. Do we really need more division in our already divided country? Let’s embrace our youth, their energy and their new ideas. There will always be differences of opinion and approach between generations and they should be celebrated. Let’s count how many times each of us says “no problem” on a given day to a friend, a colleague, a neighbor. It means “I’m happy to do it.” Being a grouchy, critical Boomer plays right into how some young people view us. How about the next time someone says “OK, Boomer,” we say “Hey, let’s talk.” It’s really no problem.

    1. This tone seems to be appearing more often here. I agree with you, Marianne.
      Just like there were the James Deans back in the day, there were a whole bunch of Richie Cunninghams too. Let’s not forget this perceived dichotomy has existed for generations. That’s how things change, for the good and the not-so-good.
      I see a lot of industrious, respectful, positive Gen-x-ers in my world, I choose to think they are the norm.
      When you complain about the Gen-X-ers, remember who raised them.

    2. Yahoo! Marianne, I appreciate your comments and attitude. But, as I had noted before, I am OK, with “OK Boomer” as long as it is not used in a derogatory manner in a campaign to divide us. I accept the criticism of the younger generations, they are our future.

      Not all Boomers were protestors. Also, I think the Boomer time frame is too long. Some of those born in 1960s do not identify as Boomers, from my experience.

      Baby boomers

      1946 – 1955 Leading Edge –The Leading-Edge Baby Boomers are individuals born between 1946 and 1955, those who came of age during the Vietnam War era. This group represents slightly more than half of the generation, or roughly 38,002,000 people of all races.

      1956 – 1964 – Late/Trailing Edge –The other half of the generation was born between 1956 and 1964. Called Late Boomers, or Trailing-Edge Boomers, this second cohort includes about 37,818,000 individuals, according to Live Births by Age and Mother and Race, 1933–98, published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (Accessed 3/16/19)

  3. Hmmm, this is not the first time I’ve read here of some Boomer’s disapproval of the “No problem” response. I do recall that when my teenage friends & I would respond, back in the day, with the word “Bitchin'” it would upset my father. He thought we were swearing. But, quite frankly, I just don’t get why anyone would find “No problem” to be disrespectful or a generational thing. I’m a Boomer and I’ve been saying “No problem” or sometimes “No worries” for as long as I can remember.

  4. As a college instructor, I have the opportunity to delve into this, and my assessment is always the same. I tell the classes, “When we were your age, we said, ‘Never trust anyone over 30.’ At least our insults were polysyllabic!”
    Seems to work well. . .

    1. Again, I just don’t get why anyone would find “No problem” to be a generational thing. I’m a Boomer. My friends and I have been saying “No problem” or sometimes “No worries” for as long as I can remember. It’s been part of the surf lexicon here in SoCal since, at least, the 70s. Perhaps this is actually more of a geographical thing than a generational one?

  5. I’m just sick of everyone causing generational divides. Why is my husband, who is two years older than me, automatically a boomer and I am something else? I recently heard in a movie this quote: there are no problems, only solutions. Get on track all you people of one human race, and work together.

  6. As a Boomer, I’m happy to see young people separating and forming their own identities, the good or bad elements included. My generation was (and is still) far too concerned with material things and we have not put enough of our wealth and brain power to use in helping the environment, homelessness, education and problems they have to overcome. I’m mostly embarrassed by the Boomer generation.

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