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generation Gap

November 30th, 2003 · No Comments

While shopping yesterday in Seattle, I felt something unfamiliar. As we went into the Apple store at University Village, and then to the Gap store there, I realized I was experiencing culture shock. At the Apple store many employees, T-shirted twentysomethings, greeted me as I wandered, asking if they could help me find anything. At the Gap, a young woman, Jen, cooed at the kids, gave the girls scratch-and-sniff stickers and chatted with me about Body Line underwear.

I don’t often shop in Seattle. I like shopping on the island, for the stores are small and convenient. There are few chains or franchises. It’s great to be able to get to know the owners, to build community, and to spend my money close to home.

But I realized, while shopping at U Village, that twentysomethings are few and far between on Bainbridge. Most of the employees I see in stores here are either high school age or older than I am. Lots of the little local stores are run by the owners, older adults. Even the clerks bagging my groceries at Safeway or waiting on me at Rite Aid have mostly gray hair, rather than the younger ones’ goatees and colored locks.

I guess I knew this in my mind from reading statistics, but it was another thing to come face to face with it while shopping somewhere else, recognizing the strange experience. Most of our island friends are around our age, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings, with children. So there are lots of people over 30, and lots of people 18 and under. But not many in the middle.

No surprise – what would a twentysomething do living on Bainbridge Island? It’s a community mostly for families and professionals. And with the income required to afford a house here, young people are discouraged from living on the island anyway. Without a college or university in town, without many businesses to hire them, and with little night life, why live here in your youth?

Yet I coudn’t help but wonder if this generation gap, this absence of younger Xers and older Yers is contributing to the drug problem on Bainbridge. Teens demographically are left here on the island on a cliff of adulthood, without others ahead of them to lead the way. It’s either adolescence or a maturity with a level of income and experience that seems unattainable to the young. It’s like a valley, a large gap between two peaks. No wonder teens might feel discouraged, depressed or isolated. It feels like a dysfunctional family with missing members. It’s unnatural and artificial. I wonder what it would be like for them if we had a full community, with all age ranges, including twentysomethings trying to find their way, bridging the gap between teens and parents, filling out the family of the island.

Tags: island