13 Distinctive Traits of Every Gen Xer (According to the Internet)

Written By Tracy Chesterson

Wondering how to spot a Gen Xer? The internet’s got a list of 13 unmistakable signs that just scream “Generation X.” From iconic pop culture references to distinctive traits, these attributes give a clear nod to those born in that era:

13. Pick Up Your Date

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“Do you go to the door? Do you wait in the car? Nah you wait outside the car leaning on it as she walks out. Preferably with Whitesnake playing in the background. Years ago my neighbor had a tenant who lived by herself upstairs. Older single woman. Like maybe 45. She went on a date once with a similarly aged guy. I witnessed this first hand. It was iconic.”

12. Watching MTV

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“You play the guitar on the MTV,” sang Mark Knopfler of British band Dire Straits, whose Brothers in Arms album was the biggest selling of the decade in the UK during the 80s. Exactly when Gen Z kids were growing up. MTV first appeared in 1981 and was an instant hit, though it took some time for countries other than the US to catch up with 24-hour music television. “Watching MTV headbangers” on weekends was one of the hallmarks of a Gen-X childhood, according to one Redditor.

11. Going to the Video Arcade

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Another way kids back then would entertain themselves is by going to the video arcade. As one person wrote: “Before Gen-X, graphics weren’t good enough, and after Gen-X, you’d play the games on your own home console. No other generation claimed them like we did.” Of course, you needed cash to play. Someone else recalled that, “Putting a $20 into the change machine at the mall arcade felt like dropping a house payment on a Vegas poker table…”

10. Making Mix-Tapes From Radio Request

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In the days before digital downloads, Gen X kids made their own mix tapes – often with help from the radio. One Gen-X Redditor says they’d, “call the local rock station to request a song, then sit there with a tape at the ready to hit record as soon as they played our song.” You just had to hold out hope the DJ wouldn’t talk over the track…

9. Having Huge CD Collections

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CDs first hit the scene in 1982. By 1985, Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits became the first CD ever to reach a million copies sold. Generation X kids thus often amassed vast CD collections during the 1980s and 1990s, whether they preferred to retain the sleeve and all or to store theirs “in binders for easy access” like one Redditor mentions doing.

8. Being the “Forgotten Generation”

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Those who were born during the Gen-X days often bemoan the fact that they’re so often overlooked. One Redditor wryly remembers being ignored by “the other two generations”. Both the Baby Boomers who came before them and the Millennials who were born later outnumber Gen X, which is cited as why this shrunken generation often feels forgotten.

7. Being Latch-Key Kids

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Gen-X children had so much freedom that they’re commonly referred to as latch-key kids. People on Reddit remember “being allowed to roam the streets until almost dark” and “doing whatever [they] wanted for one to two hours after school” because their parents were still working.

6. Wearing Swatch Watches

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Watches made from brightly colored or patterned plastic were a big thing, and what every self-respecting Gen X kid wore on their wrist. While the Swiss maker does still turn out these timepieces, Swatch watches are never likely to be as mega-popular as they were back then.

5. Loving Life Before the Internet

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Many Gen-Xers seem to cherish the fact that they grew up without the internet. Not to mention social media. As one Reddit commenter says, “there’s no photographic proof of anything” these kids did while they were growing up. Cameras were something for special occasions, rather than being carried around all the time as they are today.

4. Being Unreachable

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Though they had their own front door keys, the parents of Gen X kids had no way of reaching them unless they were at home. With no internet or cell phones, only landline calls to friends and family gave adults any chance of tracking down their children.  

3. Going to Record Stores

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“Record stores” are also mentioned on Reddit as a Gen-X highlight. Kids from all over the US and in fact the world would spend their weekends flicking through racks of vinyl, stacks of cassettes and piles of CDs. Taking a new item home to play, and pore over, was a far cry from the digital downloads of today.

2. Listening to Grunge

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Grunge music was one of the hallmarks of Gen X. Listening to bands like Pearl Jam was de rigueur back then, and still popular among who were in their teens or twenties during the 1990s. The Seattle area was a notable hotbed of grunge band talent, and is where Pearl Jam originated.

1. Going to Blockbuster

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A mention of Friday nights at Blockbuster sparked plenty of debate on the Reddit thread. Checking answerphone messages to see if the movie you wanted to see was finally in, or scouring through the recent returns in the hope of striking gold are fond memories for some. Though many mention missing out due to the limited stocks of movies everyone wanted to see in each store…


10 Things Frowned Upon Today That Were Normal in the Nineties

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You could get away with all sorts back in the nineties that’d wouldn’t go down well in today’s world! Here are 10 such things you might remember.


10 Typical Nineties Scenarios That Today’s Youth Will Never Understand

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Bedrooms were filled with Beanie Babies, Nickelodeon was forever on TV, and your biggest responsibility was remembering to feed your Tamagotchi. Here are 10 everyday Nineties scenarios kids today will never experience.


10 Things Folks From the Nineties and Earlier Did Before Bed (According to the Internet)

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What did people in the 90s do before going to bed? After all, they didn’t have a smartphone to stare at! Here are 10 pre-bedtime preferences from the nineties, as voted for by people online.


10 Common Nineties Meals That Kids These Days Will Never Know

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Child of the nineties or earlier? Are there any meals you used to eat all the time back then that you never see anymore? Here are 10 that might ring a bell.


Source: Reddit.

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