Caught in the middle

I have never witnessed an audience quite like the one present the night I got all dolled up for The High Low Experience. It wasn’t until we were seated and I turned to absorb the crowd behind me that I realised the Barbican Centre had been swamped by Millennials.

Aside from personal individualities, cultures and ethnicities, the 99.9% female turnout looked more or less identical: my fashion sense, style and tendency to clutch my phone at all times was mirrored back at me.

When I thought I was being clever in deciding to ditch the ladies toilet queue and instead pop into the men’s for a quick getaway, I was horrified to find that half of my generational gang also in the same predicament had the same idea and the line was equally as long. Turns out nowadays we’re all modern and ballsy enough to confidently opt for the boy’s loo for a wee when it’s convenient (the few men lingering round the urinals were positively mortified).

It was a similar situation at the bar: at one time I would have (outrageously) been looked up and down disapprovingly for necking a beer, and yet as I waited for my pint of Camden Hells a swathe of young women sauntered around with theirs in hand, shielded by fluffy faux leopard coats.

Of course it would be foolish to assume everyone in that room was the same. We all had unique quirks and lives defined by our own paths, but we are the product of a generation that tells us that if we are born between a certain period of time we are bound to share more than just age. We are grouped under a label that assumes we are obsessed with avocados (guilty, but irrelevant) and ourselves.

Irrespective, I felt some kind of heartwarming alliance with these people; the fact that despite our mystery backgrounds we were inevitably united over one thing we had in common – our love for a podcast – made me feel like I could strike up a friendship with anyone I turned to (including the girl in the men’s toilet queue who I joked with about never seeing so many Millennials in one place).

I can only imagine what Dolly and Pandora thought of the undeniable similarities from the eager listeners indulging in their every word; it’s no surprise that their audience are a depiction of the two Millennial women themselves, as they attract a following that are interested in the stories, lifestyle and personalities that are tapped into by The High Low.

Evidently we all shared the same sense of humour, love for literature and interest in both novelty and current affair news stories, or else we wouldn’t have spent 30 quid to enjoy our favourite podcast live. Another detail I would highly bet on us sharing was that we’d all read and related to Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I Know About Love.

It got me thinking about generations and nudged me to confront a notion I had been mulling over for some time: somehow I feel like I have slipped between the hands of two. It’s as though I’m teetering on the edge of both: the Millennials who stereotypically love that dusty shade of pink and spend half of their income at Pret, and the Gen Zers who allegedly trust social media as their prime information source and are ‘politically woke’.

I was born in 1997, and although I’ve tried desperately to decipher exactly which group I belong to, no source can accurately define where Millennial ends and Gen Z begins. Each outlet claims a different year on a sliding scale, which inexplicably has left me at odds to who I can align myself with.

It’s as though I’m floating aimlessly somewhere in the middle. What is it that annoys me so much about not being able to determine myself by a specific generational lens?

Perhaps this is an extremely trivial problem – especially compared with the enormous issues I should be concerning myself with in terms of the agenda that younger generations rank so highly, but it triggers an unsettling lack of identity not to be able to pinpoint the side I should be playing for. It’s like I can’t claim to be one or the other for fear of being found out a fraud, and ridiculously I’m jealous of those who can so easily describe themselves according to their generation.

Am I simply the love child of both? Some of the conventional traits are bullshit, others I feel I strongly possess. But are these an influence of my age or the way I choose to set my moral compass? Realistically, I think it’s a result of being exposed to social media and the digital world for effectively what is my whole life, and therefore having access to the en-vogue lifestyle of the cohort above me.

As did the rest of Gen Z I grew up with the evolution of technology, and grasped the release of new devices as naturally as a past child would have fed on the relevant toys and books and culture for their age. I became (and still am) the designated technological guru of our household: Lily will fix the laptop; Lily can connect you to the WiFi; Lily can tell you how to work your phone.

Simultaneously, though, I always played outside as a kid; I was adventurous and enjoyed climbing trees as much as I looked forward to playing Snake on my parents’ Nokia phones. I spent my free time collecting pavement injuries from tripping in my Groovy Chick rollerblades. So perhaps it doesn’t hold as much weight as I’m allowing it to, and maybe it’s another nudge from society that is pressuring me to fit myself into either one mould or the other. Being assigned to our generation surely strips us of our originality, and allows the negative associations of it to be mocked.

I’m confident in who I am. I’m proud of being a feminist, climate change activist, pescatarian (most of the time), and someone who takes an interest in politics. I’m also proud of being a blogger, a keen social media user and I have to admit I bloody love a good brunch. But I’m so much more than these simple factors that barely touch on the person beneath the surface – and don’t even get me started on the financial presumptions (I’m shit with money, by the way). And unlike what some critics would have you think, Millennials are some of the hardest-working people I know.

Society can’t judge us depending on when we were born. Maybe I am a Millennial by default, or maybe I’m Gen Z. For me it feels like I’m the Prosecco hangover of the previous generation and I’m still reliving some of those moments – and you know what? I’m fine with that. And despite what I could initially decipher from The High Low audience, I can tell you for a fact that no two of us could ever possibly be the same.

DRESS Ganni (sold out, similar here) | HEELS Boded (gifted, similar here) | BAG Topshop (gifted, similar here)

The High Low Experience itself was wonderful, and I relished in the funny and lighthearted atmosphere so momentously that my jaw hurt for about an hour afterwards from smiling so much. The book recommendations and readings kept me aware and engaged, and the idea to share some listener stories was nothing short of a stroke of genius (as was the theme music for the hosts walking in and out between intervals).

I am lucky enough to work in Moorgate, central London, so heading over to the Barbican after finishing for the day was a breeze – although Abi and I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get to the pretty church across the pond on the Barbican Estate so I could get some outfit photos, only to find it was nearing darkness by the time our goal had been achieved. We (very fittingly) treated ourselves to a Wagamamas prior to the show, so it’s safe to say my Millennial radar was on overdrive throughout the evening.

I had to seize the opportunity to show off my Ganni dress again before the weather prevents it until next year, and was overwhelmingly satisfied on realising how smoothly it styled with my velvet Boden heels. My party season looks from this point onwards have a lot to live up to.

I adore the detailing of the dress. The material is unlike anything I’ve come across before and honestly the only way I can describe it is ‘bouncy.’ I’ve drooled over Ganni on Instagram for as long as I can remember and managed to snap this gem up in the sale! The sleeves are showstopping, the frilly cut falls beautifully and the sillhouette combines the ultimate mix of flamboyance and elegance. A refreshing twist on the classic polka dot frock we have seen done so many times before.

I ditched my traditional gold jewellery in lieu of my mum’s gemstone earrings and a silver necklace to coordinate with this pearly Topshop diamond of a bag that has become my default for any occasion.

Oh, and if you haven’t listened to The High Low yet, you’re missing out! I listen on Spotify.

p.h. Abi Thomas

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