Why Are the Baby Boomers in Such a Bad Mood?
Starting sometime in the mid-1950s, baby boomers became the center of American cultural attention. Toni Home Permanents, cap guns, Hostess cupcakes, “American Bandstand,” lovingly packed lunches, the Beatles, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” Motown, Madras shorts, the SATs, undoing Nixon, the civil rights movement, ending the Vietnam War — all came into existence just at the time we, age-appropriately, could ingest, wear or wallop them.
True, our timely presence enriched record and lingerie companies, but we also caused great political change. Later came grad school, Sweet ’n Low, Datsun 240Zs, Tab, thong underpants and free love — it was clear: Life had been lovingly fashioned around us.
Cut to: The Present.
I recently asked a neighbor how old she was: Nervous, reluctant, she said, “Oh, 60 or 61.”
This conveys the ennui of today’s “new middle age” baby boomers, immersed as a group suddenly in retirement, the loss of parents, the start of Medicare, the end of daily routine, the start of your husband’s affair, the sudden, urgent need to grapple for assets for the rest of life and to guess at its length while enduring rash-raising reactions to the word “Kardashian” (for which no prescription creams exist at present). Or all of the above plus no retirement and no assets because of no job! This produces “artisanal stress” (created, by hand, by individual boomers for themselves).
To those of us in it, the new middle age in America is the most despised age ever, right up there with “stillborn” and “dead.” No lovely, leafy glade — just a hazy, terrifying landscape of crepey cleavage, popping veins, trifocals and sagging breasts strewn across a lifeless vista. (And the one for women is just as bad.) This new middle age does not describe the lithe, the sexual, the hip or the cool — especially hard on baby boomers, the actual inventors (see above) of both “hip” and “cool.”
The fact is, the culture ignores us. Baby boomers — a “niche” group of 74.9 million — are snubbed by the movie industry, TV, jeans designers, the music business, everything, in favor of Gen X, Gen Y and the millennials (who sound like a sad, droopy human bouquet).
For years, we were the largest demographic (the millennials recently surpassed us), but we’ve got the bucks — the experience, the drive — and not a few of those millennials get their bucks from our wallets. Clothes, social media, TV shows like “Entertainment This Second!” and “Famous People Who Are Thin” are all aimed at them. Ever hear anyone say, “I think I’ll go watch that great new show ‘Trapped Between Killingly Costly Kids in College and Heartbreakingly Aging Parents in Assisted Living’?” No. But that show would be a hit! It would resonate for at least 35 million of the 74.9 million mentioned above!
Other possible boomer TV hits: “What Do You Think This Lump Is?” (quiz show), “We’d Like to See the Dessert Menu” (sitcom about dating in midlife), “Panic Investing in Midlife” (Sunday a.m., with expert panel: Warren Buffett, Ben and Jerry, Beyoncé and that cartoon fish, Dory), “Hip and Knee Replacements for $100” (the new “Mature Jeopardy”). And re: social media — emojis (cute, emotion-bearing symbols) once O.K., but under this president, it could engender fun, fast and goofy nuclear war. Homeland Security should manage.
No other generation deserves this. Gen X, the first latchkey kids (working moms/divorced parents), whose TV babysitters (Peter Jennings, John Dean, Richard Nixon) provided a lovely background visual as “My Sharona” played a million times on the stereo. Millennials are determined, driven and tech-savvy, and will one day know how to easily erase a prenuptial agreement from their spouse’s hard drive in the dark. Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” — through the Depression and World War II, had the faith, drive and love for Betty Grable (see film, “Stalag 17”) to save the free world and have us! Amazing!
Thus, slathered with their postwar affection, we became the behavioral template for ...