Millennial ‘Ethics’

I recently found myself embroiled with a couple of young women, millennials that I will refer to as A. and S., who seemed to defy all criticisms of millennials that I had experienced.

They became friends, after coming to see me for training as recommended by another millennial that was, at the time, my housemate.

As we were all single, there was more than a little bit of gossiping and moaning during their sessions. I had introduced one of them to an eligible young man, another client of mine. While the date itself was a great success, the young man chose to ghost her afterwards.

I have had some experience of ghosting, having dated a number of millennials over time. It is never attractive to generalize, but I found them on the whole to be ruthless and selfish.

‘Mating’ with millennials is a grim business, especially for me as a Gen Xer. Growing up, I had heard plenty about objectification and had a general understanding of what that meant. I have discussed it in previous posts, but to turn someone into an object means to see them as relevant to their use to you, and not considering them or their feelings outside, or beyond their usefulness.

So, if you use someone to do something, irrespective of how it impacts on them financially, emotionally or psychologically, you have ‘objectified’ them. Feminists particularly have long argued this is an immensely damaging thing to do to another person.

I understood that women were objectified in culture, especially as sexual objects, but discovered upon the advent of the dating app that objectification didn’t begin around the time of my birth. It has been going on for a long time, and has become more intense since the advent of the smart phone.

As a generation, millennials seem to be the most self-involved and least resilient, in addition to those most given to objectifying others. Not only is the process of objectification much more intense for them, they are even more self-centred; even more important, even more the potent nucleus of the world around them. Technology has made this experience all the more conclusive.

What I have noticed among the millennials I have known intimately is that the experience of being ghosted is as intensely painful for them, not only for me. My housemate once spent a weekend holed up in her room, crying her eyes out. It was a most disturbing thing to witness, because ghosting seems to be far more insidious than simple rejection.

Both girls felt that they had successful dates with men who liked them. And then, once ghosted, they weren’t simply rejected, but their entire sense of interaction, and their ability to gauge the success of the date and the strength of the connection they had formed, was completely undermined.

They had the double impact of a rejection that continued to bleed into their imagination, coupled with the uncertainty as to why they didn’t even warrant closure in the mind of the other person.

I have heard ghosting generously described as a lack of social skills, but I have come to take a far dimmer view of it. There is something not only cowardly, but also sociopathic about it.


No man can understand a woman; he needs sensible, intelligent women around him to provide insight at every turn. Both girls were first generation descendants of migrant families, and I found them even more helpful in recent times after I fell head over heels for one of the most dazzling women I have met.

She is Sri Lankan, and while raised in Australia, is culturally very different to me. She is an elite corporate officer and has all the power afforded to someone in her position in Australian society. Her profession gives expression to, and rewards her for, her profound array of talents. And while I have stated on this blog that I don’t believe in the patriarchy, since dating her, I have completely changed my mind.

From what I can see, this woman, for all her power and position, has been raised in a culture that has conditioned her to believe she is essentially a submissive piece of livestock whose principal goal in life is to marry. These strictures reach as deep into her personality as any form of abuse I have encountered.

She lives at home, in her late thirties, and I am kept a complete secret, because I am white and Australian. Apparently, there are significant differences between ‘white’ and ‘brown’ people, which are explained to me at length. 

She also provides much racial comedy, which makes me laugh and laugh. She lives in Glen Waverley, and as a result, there is much cultural comedy about Asians and brown people, replete with impersonations and accents.

Comedy is frequently sourced from the bucket of taboo, and hearing a ‘brown’ person reaching into it provides a source of not-so-guilty pleasure.

In fact, the colour issue is something I come up against quite often now. My two millennial clients, A. and S. once asked me, ‘You look deep in thought. What goes on in the brain of a white man?’

Much of the time, ‘what goes on’ is trying to figure out the right thing to do, under the circumstances.


What I don’t get, or didn’t get at the time, is why my girlfriend hasn’t rebelled. The weight of expectation upon her is crushing, and she complains about it at painful length. It’s terrible to see someone in such pain, yet unwilling to climb out of the cogs that continue to mangle them.

I discussed this with A. and S. While very charming and very funny, S. is also aggressively judgemental. And such a person is always quite confronting in the certainty of their opinion, and the self-assurance with which they are content to dismiss you. ‘You can’t possibly understand, because you’re white.’

You don’t have to listen for long before you can discern how guilt is to love what nicotine is to tobacco smoke. No doubt there are other instruments in the orchestra, but this is the main tune.

I said to S., ‘It’s not like her parents have done her a favour by coming here. They were escaping a war zone! They left where they were so they could have a better life for themselves!’ And there’s all their own guilt and shame, all of the bullshit they insist on carrying.’

This must have hit a nerve.

‘If my parents hadn’t left Indonesia, I‘d probably be sitting by the roadside, selling toys to tourists. My parents are my heroes for what they’ve done.’ When she said this, tears started into her eyes.

I felt guilty – immediately. Possibly white guilt, I cannot be entirely sure. But then, I thought about it.

I consider the notion of my own ‘privilege’ in relation to my grandfather. My grandfather was always my hero. He would take me fishing when I was a little boy, and tell me stories of growing up during the great depression.

He was one of ten children, and described the experience of starving for days at a time, along with his brothers and sisters, until his mother would borrow money to buy stale bread and old vegetables and meat from the grocer. She would cook them into a stew which the children would eat and then vomit up. They couldn’t digest the food because they were starving.    

Eventually, he was sent to live with relatives in the country because his parents simply couldn’t afford to feed him. He worked on the farm to pay his way, in the fields for two hours before school and two hours afterwards.

He met my grandmother when she was eighteen. Both her parents were dead by this time, and they married. The day after, he went away to war in the South Pacific, fighting in the jungles of New Guinea – for six years. He wrote to her every day and when he returned, they started a family – their first child was my mother – and he started his first business.

I was thrilled and touched and saddened by his stories. The punchline of all of them was the importance of getting an education, which was the true privilege. He wanted me to become a doctor, or a lawyer.

You can imagine his dismay when he made some disparaging comment about aboriginal Australians, and I would argue with him, using facts I had acquired at school. Then, when I got to university, I discovered feminism and Marxism (which smelled to his ancient sensibilities as something like communism) which were even more horrible.

This was not what he had paid for.

However, it was the privation and struggle and sacrifice of his generation that meant I could go to school and achieve opportunities equal to the effort I made, and to open a cupboard and eat whatever I liked whenever I felt like it. I think it was those things that made me forget I was a Christian, Muslim or a Jew, or Irish or German or English.

I’m probably nothing more significant than a white Australian man, and for that I am grateful. Perhaps this is why I do not look down on someone else because they don’t wear a headscarf, or dismiss racism, or sexism, or abuse as ‘culture’. I wonder how long it will be before A. and S. catch up?

I’ll be left wondering, because I don’t see them anymore.

And they ghosted me.     

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