“Gen Z has been mocking millennial style with so much glee in the last few years that doing so has become its own TikTok trend.” — New York Times

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I’m a millennial, and the media has been talking about how young and cool I am for over twenty years. Then, seemingly overnight, I’m old?

I didn’t even know Gen Z existed until a few months ago. And some of them are already adults? I recently interviewed applicants for a new position in my office. As I was introducing myself, one woman began LOLing. She then continued to ROTFL. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “IJBOL because of your hair. Side parts are out.”

What was “IJBOL”? And which part of my hair was in? And why don’t I know?

I told my supervisor what happened. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Young people.” I found this confusing, because I thought I was “young people.”

I took my child to the doctor for a fever. The nurse asked me to fill out some paperwork. She then looked at my ankle socks and quietly laughed to herself. “Don’t bother putting your age on the forms,” she said. “I already know.”

Horrified, I texted my BFF—I mean, bestie. She said, “That nurse was Gen Z, and they’re laughing at us.”

Suddenly, my fear of climate change seemed so small. I knew I had to then live in fear of scrutiny from people one to sixteen years younger than me for the rest of my life.

Unlike many millennials, I have a home, a partner who loves me and aligns with my labyrinth of a moral code, two gently raised children, and a career that affords me all the avocado toast I can eat. But what does it matter, if everyone knows I am no longer twenty-five or at least vibing twenty-five?

My partner and I took out a second mortgage to renovate our home to look like every house on HGTV. At the bank, through tears of laughter, a teller told us our request was denied. He said, “Maybe quit blowing all your money at Disneyland.”

I asked, “How did you know?”

He said, “You were born between 1981 and 1996.”

I thought Gen Z would be full of Greta Thunbergs, ready to save us, but no. Turns out they were vigilantes lying in wait to call me out for being old and quirky.

The other day, I was about to get a mammogram when a group of TikTokers busted into the waiting room shouting, “Look at all these millennials! Wearing eye shadow like a bunch of old ladies! IJBOL!” One shot their phone at me and said, “Look, this one still tucks her shirt in the front.”

I was aghast. But then I noticed something: the TikTokers looked older than me. Was it all the vaping? Or that 2016 and 2020 were a part of their formative years? It didn’t matter. What mattered was the beautiful truth that as a millennial, even in my skinny jeans, I would look forever younger than Gen Zers.