The New Year’s ringing, but the baby boomers might be too old to hear it
December 29, 2005
How does it sound to you? If this New Year rings to your ear just as any other, you may find it more difficult than usual to appreciate this column. For this is the year we baby boomers begin the unavoidable and irrevocable encounter with growing old. Not older, mind you, but downright aged. Unless we live to be 120, middle age is long past and those of us at the forefront of this demographic bubble must contend with a new consciousness: We have grown old.Despite a propensity to forget why I began the sentence I’m speaking, reaching senility doesn’t seem such a bad destination. I’ve noticed the old in our society get excused for all kinds of outrageous behavior. Everything from erratic driving to unexpected burps or worse must now be accepted by others as the price they pay for sharing life with a baby boomer. I am certain that the thousands of other Americans who, like me, were born in 1946, will find other pleasures awaiting us as we reach the 60 plateau. And I’m not talking discounts at the movie theatre here.
I expect to reap enormous reward from engaging in mannerisms that once would have me banned from public functions. No longer must I worry about offending the bore at the table or the cook in the kitchen. Old people can say what they think and eat what they like. We can push our way to the front of the line or slowly jaywalk across Main Street and people will just have to put up with us. I really can’t wait.”I’m sorry, officer. I thought the speed limit was 155 MPH.” “Will you let an old man sit here in the front row? I just can’t make it up to the 3rd balcony.”Of course, we boomers have had it pretty good for the last six decades. We were eagerly welcomed by our parents to share in their lives nine quick months after the war came to an end. We were coddled and cuddled even as we made it clear that an apartment in the city needed to be traded for tree-lined suburbs where we would have our own backyards to play in when it was nice and a TV room when it wasn’t. It is with a certain boomer pride that I remind you that whole cities were created just to please us. Such indulgence couldn’t help but impinge on our precious psyches.But there were disappointments, too. I remember how deeply distressed I was when I compared my own parents to Ozzie and Harriet or Ward and June.
The profound sense of existential loss permeated my being and I am certain I wasn’t alone in this.Vietnam, Watergate, the Osmonds?so many disillusionments during our formative years. Is it any wonder that we have taken a little longer than others in reaching our full potential? Boomerism had difficulty blossoming as well when we encountered the startling realization that we would have to work for a living. This was quite a shock as we had been thoroughly unprepared for such a reality. I can’t tell you how utterly astonished I was to discover that mortgages were meant to be paid each month. All of us, I think I can fairly report, were deeply saddened by the news. I know it impeded our emotional progress. It may have affected our innate intelligence, as well. Perhaps such an insight will help you understand the actions of our last two (boomer) presidents.
But that is all water under the bridge? or over the dam. I never am sure which is the proper metaphor to employ. Of course, as an official old person, I don’t have to worry about it any longer! Such grammatical glitches will be dismissed with a roll of the eyes and the semi-sad realization that this writer is among the growing ranks of aged boomers who can’t be held accountable for their actions.So look out world. Here we come. Soon as we take a nap. Rich Mayfield’s new book of days, “Reconstructing Christianity”, is available at Amazon.com or your favorite bookstore.