Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, favors grunge music, Coen brothers movies and craft brews. He sprinkles the word "awesome" into daily speech and, as a teenager, worked the ultimate "McJob," at McDonald's.
So it might seem fair to assume that the ascendance of the Wisconsin congressman -- at 42, the first member of Generation X to appear on a presidential ticket -- might inspire a moment of unity, even pride, for a generation that hasn't had much reason to come together since Kurt Cobain died.
As is typical with Gen X, it's a little more complicated than that.
"Vice president: It's the perfect Gen X job, isn't it?" said Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of "Prozac Nation," her 1994 memoir of disaffection that was hailed as a Gen X bible. "To have no responsibility, to have only the perks of what was left behind by the responsible people."
The Gen X formula
Consider that a quintessential Generation X take: a dollop of irony, a dash of fatalism and a sprinkle of self-loathing. As countless profiles of the generation have argued, the children of the Baby Bust that stretched between the mid-1960s through 1970s (now in their mid-30s through mid-40s) were weaned on a broken American dream.
Burned by recession and buried in a demographic trough between the baby boomers and the Millennials, they came of age among dire pronouncements that theirs might be the first
Feeling their years
So in the days after Mitt Romney's selection of Ryan, it seemed natural for graying Lollapaloozans to reflect on their own multidecade identity crisis.
"From a vanity standpoint, it makes you feel a bit old to have a person from your generation on the presidential ticket," said the actor Johnny Knoxville, 41, of "Jackass" fame. "And it's embarrassing that it's Paul Ryan. I wonder if the Germs ever felt this way about having Belinda Carlisle as their first drummer."
With memories still fresh of crowd-surfing at Soundgarden shows, others wondered, are we really ready for this?
"My knee-jerk reaction is 'no,'" said Jordan Kurland, 40, who manages the Gen X-friendly alt-rock band Death Cab for Cutie. He found it hard to reconcile that a generation whose name once served as marketing shorthand for "restless youth" was ready to assume the reins of power. His friends, after all, were still buying game consoles and listening to, well, Death Cab for Cutie.
"This is the generation that has fought the hardest to maintain a state of arrested development," Kurland said. "How did we get to this place where we are allegedly responsible adults?"
Such ambivalence stands in marked contrast to the pride that baby boomers (never ones to underestimate their own importance) felt when Bill Clinton, with his sax and his shades, was elected to the White House in 1992 at age 46. For many boomers, seizing the Oval Office seemed like a formality; at 76 million strong, they had been in power for years.
"Clinton's generation has already had its chance to make its tastes the country's tastes," was how the journalist (and boomer) Nicholas Lemann put it in Time magazine after that election.
Generation X, for its part, seems uninterested in cuing "Pomp and Circumstance" for its own generational graduation. Instead, it is still batting around existential questions: What does it mean to be Generation X? Is Paul Ryan real X or pseudo X?
"The generational cliche is not being able to find a job and not caring, and taking care to find yourself instead," said Joe Levy, a former Rolling Stone executive editor and chronicler of Gen X culture who now edits Billboard. "Ryan is someone who always had a job and always had a path. At a time when a lot of his generation was struggling to get their own apartment, he was getting elected to the House of Representatives. That is not the way you think of a Gen Xer."
Some are beaming
This is not to say there weren't glimmers of pride. Conservative bloggers tended to interpret the candidate's supply-side politics as part of a broader generational narrative -- his proposed "Path to Prosperity" entitlement cuts, they argued, were classic Gen X financial pragmatism, an overdue effort to undo the excess of older generations.
"It is with pride to know that the first fellow 'Gen Xer' on a national ticket is a seriously intelligent conservative grounded in the fiscal realities that have placed our nation in peril," Matthew May wrote on American Thinker, a conservative news and opinion site.
Xers on the anarcho-left, however, expressed dismay that a former prom king and driver of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile had been anointed to carry the torch for a Jane's Addiction generation.
"My first thought was 'Dang!' because we are definitely ready -- too long have we been in the shadow of the boomers," said Shane Smith, 42, a founder of Vice, recalling his reaction to the announcement. "I just wish that a Reaganite-friend-of-the-Tea-Party-frat-boy-jock was not our first poster boy."
Similarly, the rap-metal band Rage Against the Machine, which the congressman says he is a fan of, had made its unhappiness known.
"He is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades," Tom Morello, the band's guitarist, said in a Rolling Stone op-ed article that has been widely quoted.
In the end, who is to say if Ryan is a worthy Gen X icon? The cohort is noticeably lacking in voice-of-a-generation types to serve as arbiters. Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix are dead. The MTV executives who gave the world "Alternative Nation" now refuse to discuss Gen X because, a network spokeswoman explained, it's all about the Millennials now.