Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, part of The Guardian’s stable of navel-gazing feminists, published the most extraordinary feature over the weekend, in which she compared and contrasted her life as a 28-year-old freelance writer, with that of Michele Hanson, a 73-year-old freelance writer who lives just around the corner.
If the aim was to elicit sympathy for the supposedly beleaguered millennial generation, the piece spectacularly failed, though it scored full marks for comedic value. “Just how different could the lives of two north-London dwelling, Corbyn-loving freelance writers actually be”, pondered Rhiannon without any hint of self-awareness as to how that typifies The Guardian demographic – pretentious, entitled and living in a self-referential bubble.
The article read like Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen in reverse, with the older woman recounting quite how easy she had it in life, compared to today’s generation, who have to work their fingers to the bone. One might have expected Michele Hanson to impart some wisdom and experience to her younger colleague, or imbue her with a sense of realism, but instead she appeared to validate Cosslett’s neurotic envy. In one month, Rhiannon has believed herself to have lung cancer, MS and a brain tumour, which Michele isn’t surprised by, attributing such a high level of anxiety to a lack of financial security.
I know what my mother would say were I to have suggested to her that I might be suffering from three different critical illnesses in the space of a month. It would involve tough love, including throwing away the medical dictionaries, or as in Rhiannon’s case, ditching her internet habit, living in the real world and counting her blessings instead of wallowing in envious self-pity.
If Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is typical of the millennials, then it’s not surprising that they are fast garnering a reputation for self-indulgent whining. When out walking the dogs, she notes that usually at this time in the morning, half past ten, she would still be sat in her pyjamas, drinking coffee and wasting time on social media! Her reflections on the older woman’s life amount to nothing more than a series of moans, the most laughable being that she cannot afford to go out drinking every night, because cocktails cost £10 a throw in her favourite local haunt.
The prohibitive cost doesn’t seem stop her from drinking several on the night that she chooses to take Michele there to meet her friends, though Cosslet justifies this expenditure as necessary. The poor darling had been out partying until 6 am the previous night and therefore had no other way of assuaging her fatigue. It’s hardly a hand-to-mouth existence, working several double shifts just to put food on the table. Plus we learn that her mother paid off her student loan and she enjoys success in her chosen, highly competitive, career.
The entire crux of the article is that in common with many millennials, the writer feels aggrieved that she hasn’t had life handed to her on a plate, drawing a false equivalence between her lot in life and that of the baby boomers. While it’s true that the baby boomers did experience things that can no longer be taken for granted, such as a free university education, it’s equally true that like the millennials they also had to work hard and experienced their fair share of anxiety. I remember when interest rates shot up to 15 per cent in the late 1980s and my parents, in common with many, were hanging onto their house by their fingernails.
Furthermore, the life that Rhiannon compares herself with is by no means typical in that Michele talks wistfully about how she managed to survive on £100 a week in the 1970s, which was given to her by her father. That’s £500 in today’s money – no wonder she was off out every night and her rent made little dent in her lifestyle! Of course, the older woman was able to mess about, chopping and changing and not settling on a career until her mid thirties – but that was not the norm for most young people of that generation, who were still being pressured to leave school early and go straight into a form of apprenticeship.
If Michele’s outlook on life and mental health is more positive, as Rhiannon wistfully notes, it’s precisely because she is not, unlike her, glued to the internet every minute of every day. With a thriftiness typical of the boomer generation, she sees no need to upgrade her elderly computer – why would she, it works perfectly well, even if it is a little slow. This is the generation that was brought up in an era of austerity and rationing which would send the likes of the young media feminists into a nervous apoplexy, were they ever to experience it. Baby boomers have done well precisely because they have learnt the value of saving and also of patience. They also knew a thing a too about cutting one’s coat to suit the cloth.
This self-identifying left-wing feminist has one dirty secret however. Her dream is to get married and own her own home, goals which she says are unavailable to her. I hate to shatter her illusions, but a marriage licence costs £70. She can afford to get married, but what she can’t afford is the sort wedding day to which she aspires. I’d suggest a similar premise applies to her housing situation.
Today’s millennial needs to realise that life is all about hard work and tough compromises. My advice to Rhiannon is to remove her head from her backside. If your job enables you to sit about in your PJs until 10.30 am and yet you are still unsatisfied and anxious, then how do you think you are ever going to be able to handle the sacrifices and hard work involved in marriage, owning a home and bringing up children?
(Image: Alastair Campbell)