Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Our Cup of Tea

Thank you, Msfleurette, for asking to read my essay comparing Generation Y to a cup of tea. Your request is hereby granted. This was one of my favorite writing assignments in freshman composition, and what was, arguably, more important, my professor gave it an A+. Without further ado, take up your cup of tea and enjoy!

Our Cup of Tea: Tradition, Trend, and Diversity Among Millennials

It is time for tea. Forget the bone china and pound cake in a cozy English cottage, though. Tea, a beverage savored by cultures around the world, has been spurned by Americans since the Boston Tea Party (with the exception of iced tea, of course). Today, teatime is experiencing a revival in America, its popularity on the rise for tea's soothing and stimulating properties. (Tokarski) America may be joining the tea party at last, but we are reinventing tea for life in the 21st century. Tempest Tea of Dallas, Texas, "a trendy café where customers can get tea on the go or relax on modern furniture," affords "75 varieties of hot and cold brews, including 15 bubble teas, the milkshake-like, fruit flavored drinks that appeal to teens and 20-somethings" (Manners). Tea is traditional, it is trendy, and it is culturally diverse. Those terms could describe my generation, Generation Y, the Millennials, or the Echo Boomers: we are a blend of tradition, trend, and cultural diversity.

Just as Americans are rediscovering the pleasure of a good cuppa, members of Generation Y are rediscovering the traditional values of their grandparents' generation. "While there has been a persistent perception since the 1950's that the under 30-crowd is morally bankrupt, the reality is that Echo Boomers embrace a high value system. Members of this generation are described as more cautious and neo-conservative than their self-focused, liberated Boomer parents. They are also thought to embrace tradition and traditional values" (Moran).

Described as neo-traditionalists, Millennials have hardly been steeped in tradition. Our parents are the Boomers, who in many ways, broke with tradition during the hippie revolution, experimenting with sex, drugs, and alcohol. In America, where poor eating habits have contributed to numerous health complications, tea appears a panacea. The polyphenols in tea are believed to aid in the prevention of cancer, improve liver function, and boost immunity. (Tokarski) Marital fidelity, similarly, appears to be a solution to the risky business of free sex. Because members of Generation Y "grew up in an age where sex can be dangerous…monogamy and marriage are very attractive to them" (Moran). Gen Yers are "arriving at the same conclusions their grandparents did—find a life partner and stick with them" (Stapinski). Stacey H., 22, lives in New York City, and works as a legal secretary, writer, and actress. "I've decided I would never live out of wedlock," she says. I've seen too many instances where the relationship soured. Living together takes the specialness out of it. My friends who live together go through all the problems of being married, but they don't have the joy of being married" (qtd in Stapinski).

Kristy Doig of Young Intelligence, a market research and trend-forecasting group in New York attributes the neo-traditionalist trend among Millennials to our being "fed up with the superficialities of life. It's a backlash, a return to tradition and ritual. And that includes marriage. Focused on finding the right one, they look for opportunities to meet others in values-oriented, friendship, and situations" (qtd in Cozzalio). Tending to date in groups, we are congregating in coffee bars and old-fashioned pubs, and donning our dancing shoes for swing and ballroom dancing. (Stapinski) In our fast-paced society, "the popularity of drinking tea may be due to the soothing ritual of just making a cup of tea, according to Ron Rubin, president of the Republic of Tea, a California-based company devoted to taking life 'sip by sip, rather than gulp by gulp'" (Tokarski). There is an intimacy in wrapping one's hands around a mug of tea, but it not necessarily a solitary ritual. Gathering for tea is a social custom that is both soothing and stimulating. For Millennials, tradition is like this cup of tea. We embrace tradition as individuals, but our embrace of it does not exclude others; instead, it fosters community.

Like tea, tradition is not merely experiencing a revival, it is being reinvented by Gen Y. As much as Millennials lean toward tradition, valuing home and close friends, we want these things on our own terms. (Moran) We are still selecting fine china on our bridal registries, but the sales on traditional china patterns have been falling for the past five years, a trend expected to continue. "It's not that they [Millennials] don't want china, it's just that they don't want their grandmother's," informs Nina Lawrence of the Condé Nast Bridal Group (qtd in Moran). "There's been a definite swing toward traditional weddings: young women are buying beautiful long gowns, exchanging time-honored vows, and gathering family and friends to break bread," says Millie Martini Bratten of Bride's. "What's changed, though, is who's paying for the wedding," she adds. Thirty percent of couples pay for their weddings; many are planning the celebration together, as opposed to the tradition of the bride's family paying for, and planning the event (qtd in Stapinski).

Milliennials may be marrying in traditional ceremonies, but our unions are less traditional than before. "Cross-cultural and interracial unions are not taboo, but in fashion. In other words, the kids may like tradition, but they are hardly traditional" (Stapinski). According to a report published in NAS Insights,

Generation Y is a very diverse group. One to every three Caucasian people is a member of a minority group. With the ever growing diverse population, the word minority' may no longer have meaning to this and future generations. Members of Generation Y are very tolerant of the diversity around them. Working and interacting with people outside their own ethnic group is the norm, and acceptable. (3)

"As products of the civil rights movement and children of boomer parents, they reject prejudice and are incredibly tolerant of other people–their looks, experiences and preferences. They expect that open mindedness regarding them" (Merrill).

Millennials are citizens of a global community, where "variety and stimulation are the norm" (Merrill). Although we have embraced tradition, we are not bound by it. We are drinking tea, just not necessarily from Grandmother's tea cups. Like a cup of tea brewed from a blend of tea, herbs, and spices grown around the world, our generation is flavored by diverse ethnic and cultural influences. It is our
cup of tea, and we like it this way.

Works Cited

Cozzalio, Dawna. "Meet Generation Y." Public Information and Foundation Office - News

Columns. 2006. College of the Siskiyous. 6 October 2006 <http://www.siskiyous.edu/pio/NewsColumns/Meet%20Generation%20Y.htm>.

Huston, Heather. "Interracial and Cross Cultural Dating of Generation Y." 2001. 12 October 2006 <http://fll.stcloudstate.edu/classes/English191Spring2001/Heather_Huston_CrosCultural.htm>.

Manners, Tim. "Tempest Tea." Reveries Magazine. 19 July 2006. 07 October 2006 <http://reveries.com/?p=600>.

Merrill, Mary. "Call Them Gen Y or Millennials: They Deserve Our Attention." Merrill Associates. May 2005. 6 October 2006 <http://www.merrillassociates.net/topic/2005/05/call-them-gen-y-or-millennials-they-deserve-our-attention/>.

Moran, Michelle. "Generation Gap: The Boom Ahead." The Gourmet Retailer. 1 January 2004.

6 October 2006 <http://www.gourmetretailer.com/gourmetretailer/magazine/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=2070936>.

NAS Recruitment. "Generation Y: The Millennials." NAS Insights. 2006. 6 October 2006 <http://www.nasrecruitment.com/TalentTips/NASinsights/GenerationY.pdf>.

Stapinski, Helen. "Y Not Love?" American Demographics. February 1999. 6 October 2006 <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_ISSN_0163-4089/ai_54624811>.

Tokarski, Kelly. "It's Tea Time." Chowbaby.com. 7 October 2006

<http://www.chowbaby.com/10_2000/features/article.asp?X=24>.

1 comment:

msfleurette said...

Wow, Rebecca, well done! What a great read... if you don't mind, I think I'll link it from my own blog! It was fascinating to read about Gen Yers, too... I actually thought mixing the traditional and the non-traditional in my wedding was unique... I guess it wasn't. ;)