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Laughing in America: a Millennial's answer to Mourning in America

When I watched the "Mourning in America" ad skillfully crafted by Fred Davis's "Strategic Perception" firm, I didn't feel sad. Unlike the people who distinctly recollect the 1980s, the new commercial doesn't fill me with bleak sadness and despair. To the contrary, it makes me, well, laugh.

I'm speaking as a Millennial, of course. The commercial portrays me as one of the people who is supposed to be getting married right around now, 6,000 every day -- something my grandmother keeps suggesting in equally subtle ways, training a parrot to follow me around and repeat, "Why are you still single?"

"6,000 people a day," she will call me to say, as soon as she sees the ad. "Those sound like good odds. Maybe you should try just standing outdoors more, so they know you're supposed to be included in the sample."

But the ad seems unnecessarily depressing. Life today is great, especially for my generation! It's like the '80s, but with fewer shoulder-pads and less meaningless optimism.

Don't believe me? Let me describe my typical day.

"What a beautiful mourning," I think to myself, climbing out of bed. I brush my teeth, get dressed and lug my portion of the national debt down the stairs. It seems to have grown overnight. I take it out for a walk, waving at my aging neighbors.

"Mourning, Alexandra!" they yell. "How's the not-expecting-to-be-better-off-than-your-parents' generation going?"

"Great!" I yell back. "I love being part of a smaller workforce that's expected to pay for your generation's health care and retirements. It makes me feel needed."

"Happy to help," they say. "We're planning to replace all our hips with cyborg hips."

"I can't wait!" I respond. "Send me a picture when you're done so I can feel good about where my money is going!"

I have a large wall at home of pictures like this, framed portraits of the heads of large banks, a few dazed-looking pelicans, and the entire U.S. Postal Service. Sometimes I go find people who rely heavily on welfare and encourage them to spend less of it on necessities such as food, housing, and educational materials, and more on awesome things such as cars that turn into robots or life-size, animatronic sculptures of Darth Vader. "All I'm saying is, some of it used to be my money," I point out. "At least consider it."

This is when my portion of the national debt goes on my shoe, and I have to hose it off. "Bad Debt!" I say. China walks by, briskly. "Looking good, China!" I shout. It ignores me. It does that a lot lately. I think it even stopped following me on twitter, which is like insulting me in addition to injuring me.

I take my portion of the debt back inside. It liquidates all over my assets. I change the bottom of its cage, which reminds me of a visit I'm supposed to be making.

I walk down to the hospital and sit beside the bedside of the print newspaper industry. It's in the ward between Civil Discourse and Books. "I'm dying," it croaks. "Nonsense!" I tell it. "You've been saying that for years now, and you're still here!"

"I mean it this time," it says, coughing weakly and producing some in-depth coverage of Bristol Palin's appearance on Dancing With the Stars.

"Stop it," I say.

"Hey, it gets people's attention," it says apologetically.

As I walk home from the hospital I noticed that the terror alert has turned from green to orange, signaling the start of fall. I stride through the industrial fog, inhaling thick lungfuls of carbon dioxide, as several endangered birds plummet from the sky and fall dead at my feet. "I'm dying, too!" the earth shouts. "You have to deal with this!" "Shut up, Al Gore," I respond. "You're just trying to bring me down." Someone wanders past and divorces me for no reason.

It's shaping up to be a beautiful day!

I get it, Citizens for the Republic. America isn't nearly the way it was in the '80s. Maybe it's not morning in America. Maybe it's just 2:30 in America. The American dream isn't dead. It's just -- sleepy, groggy, and wants a nap. We need some Five Hour Energy, or whatever the policy equivalent of that is.

True, most of us don't think our lives are going to be better than our parents' lives. But my generation is largely, well, okay with that. Our parents' lives seem fine. What more do we want? Golden toilets? Those unnerve me. Besides, we're increasingly coming up with our own definitions of success. So what if our new vision of success looks suspiciously like "living in our parents' basements without jobs"? We're in on the joke. That's why we do things like get really excited about Alvin Greene or Christine O'Donnell or decide not to vote at all. It's hilarious! Don't you see me laughing? I'm laughing all the way to the bank! I have to go there now to withdraw my life savings. What can I say? My share of the national debt needs feeding again.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 22, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  millennials, mourning in america  
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