I Did All the Things Millennials Are Accused of Killing
I tried my hand at all the stuff people my age are murdering in cold blood, like the oil industry, home ownership, and other old-person things, to see if my generation's disinterest is justified.
All photos by Jade Jackman
There it is, every month, like clockwork—a story about millennials killing something. Whether it’s marriage, Costco, fast-casual dining chains, or motorcycles, there isn’t an industry, cultural practice, or longstanding tradition that we haven’t been accused of murdering. There’s even a healthy part of the journalism business that is in itself dedicated to figuring out what millennials are slowly strangling to death and writing about it. (Apparently, capitalism is on the chopping block—but so is tipping your servers, which suggests that millennials may also have a less than perfect understanding of labor relations and class solidarity.)
Now, some people might turn their noses up at trend pieces that attempt to homogenize all human existence into blanket statements about whether under-35s prefer to dine at Applebees or sit alone at home, bathed in the glow of their Netflix account, flipping between ordering Seamless on their phone and their ex’s Instagram Stories—but I don’t. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by the all-consuming desire for Twitter favs and RTs. Anything accusations that boomers want to throw at me? Bring it on.
And listen, I understand the appeal of a trend piece. I used to work in fashion magazines! There is nothing so comforting as being handed a list of completely unrelated objects and being told that they are, implausibly, all going to “happen” this season. (For the record, this spring is about linen, tortoiseshell or wood buttons, beaded plastic handbags, and prairie blouses.)
But even I have to scratch my head at some of the stuff that people my age have been charged with wantonly slaughtering. It seems a little improbable that we could engage in the wholesale destruction of so many things, considering we are also apparently too lazy to save for our first mortgage and too scared to even touch uncooked food. But I didn’t want to sit on my ass and make assumptions about the occurrence of social phenomena without actually doing the fieldwork. Maybe there were good reasons for why certain industries and businesses were dying, and maybe they had to do with the fact they were unappealing to my demographic. So I set out to do a few things that millennials have been accused of killing.
I travel an hour out of London to visit Topgolf, which describes itself on its website as a “premier entertainment and event venue with fun point-scoring golf games” rather than what it actually is, which is a golf range. That’s cool, though. As a millennial, I am not averse to a bit of self-inflated marketing speak. As a cricket match plays on widescreen TVs in the adjoining American-themed diner, I introduce myself to golf coach Andy Agnoli, who will be putting me through my paces at the range. Will he be able to convince me that golf is not Actually Dying?
“It’s definitely not growing,” he tells me. “The golf courses I’ve been affiliated with in the past, their average ages have been 60 plus… At this rate, if change isn’t taken on board—you know, those 60-year-old average club members aren’t going to be around forever.”
While Topgolf has attempted to appeal to younger audiences, the traditional British golf course is more than a little off-putting to a younger audience. “Dress codes are a really contentious thing in golf right now,” Agnoli says. “I went to golf course the other day and I had to wear a suit for lunch. You’re not allowed to wear jeans, quite often you’re not allowed to use your mobile phones around the place. Most or some of the older private member clubs aren’t set up for millennials, therefore they don’t attract them.”
As Agnoli hands me a club and enourages me to aim towards any one of the brightly illuminated targets on the range. The ball is electronically tagged and hitting it into a target results in points. I can also order food and alcohol straight to any one of the 55 golfing bays at the range; a house DJ plays here every Friday night. In this way, Topgolf hope to reverse the vertiginous dropoff in their sport.
When I manage to hit a ball to the furthest target of 190 yards, Andy tells me I’m a natural. “You had this lovely long swing, you had that balanced pose, that finish—it was brilliant.” Obviously, being a millennial, I love effusive and unwarranted praise. Maybe golf isn’t so bad.
The BBC reports that, among the many things that millennials are murdering, luxury goods like diamonds are high on the list. The diamond industry is so desperate that it’s trying to lure in younger consumers by turning to Instagram. A quick look at the official account of the Diamond Producers Association, a network of the world’s biggest mining companies, doesn’t disappoint. Look, a picture of Tiffany Haddish! A gay wedding! Rihanna! All the things millennials love, right?
Things get a little more difficult once I actually try to buy some diamonds in Hatton Gardens. The so-called jewelry district of London is home to over 90 jewelry shops and related businesses. It’s also totally deserted when I get there. “We’ve got no staff,” one shopkeeper tells me when I try to enter. I’m not sure if they’re trying to keep out the riff-raff because they’ve assessed the total value of my outfit and figured out that I can’t actually afford to own even the tiniest diamond earring, or if they’re genuinely wanting for staff.
When I finally get into a store, I quickly realize why millennials aren’t buying diamonds. It’s because it’s fucking confusing. “Do you want a plain solitaire, like a plain metal one, or diamonds on the shoulders?” the saleswoman asks as I peer over a shelf of identical looking rings. I have no idea what any of this means, and I can sense both women in the store becoming increasingly skeptical that I can afford to purchase even the tiniest sliver of a diamond. They are absolutely correct. Anyway, if I wanted to sparkle like a diamond, there’s already an app for that.
According to our very own Munchies, paper napkins are going the way of the dodo because millennials prefer sturdier paper towels. I have never bought paper napkins and I have literally zero feelings towards paper napkins. Paper towels are actually an upgrade on what I usually did to mop up food spills, which was to leave them there and then scrape them off a month later with a knife. The first time I ever bought paper towels, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, Wow, I guess I’m an adult now.
But seeing as I’m the kind of person who likes crying in therapy because I enjoy the luxury of wiping my tears away with actual tissue, as opposed to the toilet roll I use at home, I’m open to changing my mind on paper napkins. Maybe if I went out and consciously interacted with a paper napkin, I would stop unknowingly murdering this poor, besieged industry.
I find paper napkins in the first supermarket I walk into, but it only comes in a shrink-wrapped combo deal with some paper plates and cups. I feel bad for these paper napkins, who are so unloved that they can only be purchased as part of a sad picnic package. Then I find out the whole thing costs £5? A fiver for ten paper napkins that I could literally get for free from a single Uber Eats takeaway? No wonder millennials aren’t buying.
Anyway, I road test the napkins by eating the messiest-looking beef chili cheese wrap I can find. It does a good job of soaking up the oily mincemeat, but even I have to admit that it would be easier—and a little less ridiculous-looking—to do this with a paper towel.
According to Business Insider, environmentally conscious millennials are refusing to work for the oil industry because, well, it’s the oil industry. But there’s also a more pressing problem, at least for me. I have always lived in cities with fully functioning public transport systems (sorry, New York), so I never learned to drive. Plus, I can’t afford a car. As far as the petroleum industry is concerned, I’m a double murderer—not only am I one of the people killing oil and gas, but I’m also kicking the automobile industry in its boomer teeth.
In the interest of journalistic impartiality, I’m not going to let that put me off engaging with a gas-guzzling, waste-spewing business responsible for some of the worst environmental disasters in history. So I set off to buy! Some! Oil!
It turns out that I have no idea what oil looks like, how much it costs, or even what container it comes in. When I confidently stroll into the nearest gas station and ask to be directed to the “oil aisle,” I realize I have no idea what I’m looking at.
“The yellow one is thicker, it’s for cars that are more than eight years old,” the cashier helpfully informs me of the differently colored oil containers (cans? bottles? vessels?). “This one is more like water—they say it doesn’t burn when you start the engine.” I have no idea what any of this means, but the idea of having something burning in any transport vehicle is truly alarming. I buy a yellow container that proudly proclaims itself to be “premium multi-grade motor oil” and get out of there.
Let’s face it, as someone who was moved to tears by pictures of Standing Rock protests, I was never going to get along with the oil industry, and I am now way too embarrassingly old to ever take driving lessons. My sorry ass is just going to have to wait for Elon Musk to invent self-driving cars that don’t self-immolate.
If anyone wants some tarry death juice, I’ve got some in my desk at work.
This is obviously the big one. As millionaire Tim Gurner informed us last year, us selfish millennials are wasting our money on avocado on toast and needlessly complicated artisanal coffees and will never be able to afford our own homes. Home ownership? It’s dead, or, in nostalgic millennial parlance: “She doesn’t even go here!”
Thankfully, I will be able to investigate this in more detail as the immediate area around the VICE office is pretty much ground zero for estate agents. Every week seems to bring a new and even swankier real estate company to our doors, taunting all us poor journalists with listings for £550,000 Regency townhouses and luxury condos. I pick the real estate brokers most obviously tailored towards millennials (read: it has exposed brick walls) and walk in.
“So you’re looking to buy? Which area?” a smartly-dressed estate agent inquires.
“Sort of… this area?” I say hopefully.
“The furthest east you go, the more you get for your money,” he says, quickly discerning that although I am the kind of profligate spender who buys lunch in this area every day, I can no sooner afford a cupboard in a tastefully appointed, open-plan apartment block than I can transform my own spit into gold.
When I tell him how much I have in savings, his bright smile never wavers, although he quickly passes me a card for his company’s financial advisor, promising that he will call me to evaluate if my chances of a mortgage.
He never calls.