I think I am a GRUP

What do you get if you cross X and Y? A GRUP. Sorry. It’s Sunday. Your coffee may not have kicked in yet so I’ll back up and go slow.

You know how you can’t open a newspaper lately without falling over 17 articles about Generation Y? Who they are, what they want and why they wish all other generations would hurry up and die?

And how the media is generation-obsessed, painstakingly defining the characteristics of Ys, Xs and baby boomers?

Well, dividing humanity into homogenised Happy-Meal boxes may have
its purpose, but there will always be a bunch of people who don’t
conform to their assigned letter of the alphabet. Sound like you? Maybe
you’re a GRUP.

GRUPS are 35+ year old men and women who look, talk, act and dress like people who are 22 years old. An XY hybrid. A social group that is technically of one generation (X) but behaves like another (Y).

The inelegant name, GRUP, was invented by writer Adam Sternbergh who identified this sub-genre in a recent New York magazine article. He explains it as “a nerdy reference to an old Star Trek episode in which Kirk and crew land on a planet run entirely by kids, who call grown-ups “grups”. All the adults have been killed off by a terrible virus, which also slows the natural aging process, so the kids are trapped in a state of extended prepubescence. They will never grow up. And they are running the show.”

Look around or possibly in the mirror and you’ll have an a-ha moment as you recognise GRUPS everywhere. As Sternbergh explains “They are a generation or two of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up with none of the bad parts.”

The good parts include grown-up pay-cheques, somewhere nice to live and the pleasures of family. The bad parts would be management seminars, sensible haircuts and easy listening radio stations.

Remember being 22 and all the cool things you wanted but couldn’t afford? GRUPS not only know what’s cool, they also have the cash to buy it and the confidence to carry it off. And this convergence of cash, cool and confidence makes them easily identifiable. Not to mention a very sexy marketing target.

GRUPS don’t want to listen to Billy Joel on Vega. They want to download the Arctic Monkeys onto their ipods (the fact that they even know who the Arctic Monkeys are shows how drastically different they are to previous generations who have hated and shunned the music of the next generation; did your parents buy Aerosmith albums? How about Public Enemy?)

GRUPS wear $400 jeans designed to look old the first time they’re worn. They carry expensive messenger bags instead of briefcases. They have expensive bed-head haircuts and expensive distressed t-shirts. They shop at markets and on the net and at General Pants. They own multiple pairs of sneakers. They may well have facial hair or tattoos. They go snowboarding.


GRUPS might listen to ABC radio in the morning or possibly Nova and Triple J in the afternoon. They might wear Mary-Kate Olsen style giant sunnies and converse trainers while pushing $900 prams around the park with the new Vines album blasting out of their Nano ear buds at full volume. They might grow a beard in an ironic way.

To better understand and identify GRUPS, it’s also worth noting what GRUPS are not.

This is not a generational mutton-dressed-as-lamb situation. GRUPS are not try-hards. They are not desperate or sad or tragic or wishing to be younger.

GRUPS simply don’t comply with the conventional adult wisdom that says growing up means you have to, like, grow up. For GRUPS, getting older doesn’t mean having to get a Hilary Clinton haircut and a pair of JP Tods or Docksiders. It doesn’t mean having to shave every day if you don’t want to. Nor does it mean giving up moshing just because your lower back hurts sometimes – hey, unlike the young moshers, GRUPS can claim their osteopath bills on their expensive private health insurance!

GRUPS are not Adultescents. Remember them? They were the Peter Pan branch of Gen Xers who didn’t want to take on the responsibilities of adulthood and delayed things like commitment, marriage, kids, and mortgages. GRUPS aren’t like this. GRUPS get married and have kids. GRUPS love kids. They just don’t necessarily parent conventionally.

Parent-GRUPS are more likely to bring their kid to the Byron Bay Blues Festival than subject the family to a Wiggles concert.

GRUPS know that three year olds have lousy taste in music and TV shows. That’s why they’re likely to censor the Teletubbies, discourage all things Saddle Club and direct their kids straight to the Simpsons so mummy and daddy get to have a subversive laugh at the same time. Failing that, they’ll just buy DVDs of the Muppets from Amazon.

GRUPS close the generation gap between X and Y. They close it because they straddle both generations authentically and without pretence. They close it with music with fashion with lifestyle and with their attitudes. They close it with jeans and t-shirts and sneakers and technology.

Quite simply, GRUPS found the age they liked being – early twenties – and decided to stay there. But wait, they’re not stuck in their own youth (which would mean listening to the Violent Femmes and wearing acid wash jeans) – if you’re under 25, they’re stuck in your youth.

Imagine how happy Gen Y must be about this. One Gen Yer, Ryan Heath, has helpfully summed up this happiness in the title of his book “Please Just F*** Off, It’s Our Turn Now”. Sorry, the GRUPS ain’t going nowhere.

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