People try to put us down, just because we get around. Things they do look awful cold. Hope I die before I get old -The Who
I remember when the two surviving members of The Who played the halftime show at the Superbowl a few years ago. The last line of their classic “My Generation” had been changed to “Don’t wanna die before I get old.” I guess Pete Townsend has figured out that life after sixty wasn’t so bad after all.
Like a few million other boomers, I’ll be watching the premiere of “Mad Men” this weekend. The series has brought back many memories of the psychedelic sixties, not particularly good ones.
In a way, “Mad Men” is the epilog to Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.” Our parents survived ten years of depression, went on to save the world from Germany and Japan, and then came home to lead America into an era of prosperity unequaled by any civilization in history. And they did it while completely intoxicated.
Of course, not everyone was soused. My parents would have a few highballs on the weekends, usually when they had their friends over for a few hands of cards. I never once saw them drunk, but one of the friends usually had to be led out to his car at the end of the evening. It was nothing out of the ordinary.
When I entered the workforce at age fifteen, many of my employers and older co-workers thought nothing of drinking on the job. Another one didn’t drink during the day, but at five he would crack open a jug of Red Mountain Wine and abuse his wife and children.
Drinking was a rite of passage to manhood for us boys. (Just watch about any John Wayne movie.) For women, I suppose it numbed them to their second class status as many of them were stuck in dead end relationships with little hope of making it on their own in a man’s world.
Of course, that didn’t stop the grown ups from lecturing us on the evils of drugs, even if they were drunk while doing it. It was that kind of oblivious behavior that led us to question our parents’ values, and fueled the angst we felt while watching movies such as “Rebel without a Cause”, “The Graduate,” and “Easy Rider.” It should also be noted that it was the adults who were selling us on these concepts.
But I don’t want to excuse the bad habits that we boomers wallowed in. We grew up in a very easy and privileged world, and we took advantage of it. I could be the poster boy for the self-indulgent sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle many of us led in the latter half of the 20th century. Do I have regrets? Yes and no. It made for a lot of great experiences and stories, but it will probably catch up with me in the end.
Recently, commenter and self-avowed Gen-x’er Ryan Mount wrote, “I want to point out to boomers that we’re now managing their retirement funds and were probably the mathematical whizzes that came up with these financial instruments that pumped up the speculative real estate bubble.”
“You’re welcome. We learned from the best.”
Touche’, Ryan, but if there’s one truth that every generation must face, it’s that someday you’ll get old too. Think of it as deferred kharma.