In the 1960s, the Post‘s humor series, “The Human Comedy,” focused on broad social issues and generational divides for its surreal and satirical slant. “An Antacid Trip with the Tweeny-Boppers” was Roger Price’s 1967 sendup of the hippie generation. This new installment imagines a millennium twist.
After some lessons in vocabulary, I felt confident in attempting communication with the Millennials. As a member of the Homeowning Generation, I educated myself in twentysomething slang by following every cast member of HBO’s Silicon Valley on Twitter.
Us Baby Boomers had our own hip lingo. We called money bread. The Millennials call it avocado. If we had a categorized interest or scene, it was our bag, and the younger generation calls this dietary restrictions. One of the most controversial new words is fleek. This is a caustic curse word you might have heard before, as in: “Tanner! The fleeking landlord is outside! Hide the fleeking dogs! Fleek!”
But one verb has continuously confounded me: adulting. Is it the opposite of kidding? A new parlor game? Some kind of Most-Dangerous-Game-style hunt of geriatrics?
I had to get to the bottom of this newly popular expression, so I went to a place that was sure to be crawling with Millennials: a tech startup.
The Naming Convention was bleeding-edge B2B crowdfunded lean startup, which, as far as I could tell, meant they kept a bottle of 20-year-old Scotch in the first aid kit. The Naming Convention recently launched an app to generate names for other tech startups, like Boostspace and Upkick. I arrived at their storefront around midnight since I was told the full-time freelance consultants there work nine to five (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.). Joey, the founder, greeted me at the door and let me in. The office was a combination of deteriorating brick walls and chrome with a seven-foot cactus in the center of the room.
Joey wore a houndstooth jacket over a plaid shirt, and he showed me around the space. A handful of employees were spread around the room sitting in swings fastened to the ceiling and working on touchscreen tablets. Now that I think of it, were they working?
“The swings are made of repurposed bamboo and sustainable hemp,” Joey said. One worker was pouring barley wine into a collectible Smurfs glass from a tap in the wall.
“Joey, it’s all very nice,” I said, “but I need to ask you something.”
“I know — you want to know about ‘adulting.’”
Just then, his electronic watch spoke out in a feminine voice about an appointment.
“Thank you Aurora,” he said.
“Who is Aurora?” I asked.
“My watch. Listen, we have a team-building cycling session right now — Aurora, remind me to check Daleyza in the morning.”
“Is Daleyza your phone?” I asked.
“No, that’s my daughter. I’m busy right now, but why don’t you join my partner and me for brunch tomorrow?” He strapped on a vintage bike helmet.
“What is brunch?”
“It’s like church with champagne.”
The next day I met Joey and his partner, Stephanie, at their favorite brunch restaurant, Poached Modern. They each ordered papaya-infused Bellinis with shots of mezcal, so I followed suit. After several more drinks, I wondered if brunch usually included eating.
“You’re both adults, right?” I asked.
“Well, sure,” Stephanie answered.
“Are you adulting right now? Is this adulting?”
“No, no, no, this isn’t adulting; this is brunch,” Joey said. “Adulting is, like, important tasks, things you have to do that you don’t want to do.”
“Um, not really.” Joey looked around. “Aurora, can you explain adulting?”
Joey’s watch lit up: “Adulting, verb, achieving common responsibilities daily, such as banking, scheduling doctors’ appointments, and personal hygiene — ”
“And changing the oil in your hybrid car!” said Stephanie.
“And tying a tie,” chimed in Joey.
“Those are just normal, everyday undertakings! You have a name for things like that?” I screamed. They sat flustered, staring down at their Bellinis. “Well — I — I just mean maybe you don’t need to do that stuff at all. Why should the Man tell you what to do anyway?”
“You mean we don’t need to file our taxes?” said Joey.
“Or move out of my parents’ basement?” added Stephanie.
I started, “That’s probably — ”
“Thank you for joining us for brunch,” Joey interrupted, “but we’ve got to go now.”
“We’re going to Uber to the store to buy some really potent marijuana, then we’re going to watch old John Wayne movies ironically,” Stephanie said.
They walked out, leaving me to pay the bill. Damned Millennials. What can you expect from a crop of people still on their parents’ cell phone plans? A generation taught that each individual is a special star destined for their own incomparable fate? Why aren’t Millennials jaded like us?
The waiter delivered the check on a Spode tray with a little more attitude than was necessary. I wheezed. “Fleek! I don’t have that kind of avocado!”