I heard Tom Hanks was in the running for Sexiest Man Alive and for a minute I thought we Baby Boomers just might be relevant again.
Then they gave the award to John Legend.
Just one more sign the reign of the Baby Boomer is over. And no matter how much we keep telling each other how good we look, America apparently thinks otherwise. To me, Tom Hanks cuts a pretty striking image for a 63-year-old, but compared to 41-year-old John Legend, I suppose he comes up about as sexy as, well, Mr. Rogers.
Weren’t we Boomers just in our 40s? And proclaiming things like, “40 is the new 30?” And then “50 is the new 40?” We could say things like that and make them stick because back then we were still in charge, still calling all the shots. Just like we did from the time we were born.
We didn’t know it at first, of course — after all we were just babies — but once we started arriving in those post-World War II years, and arriving and arriving and arriving, we were the center of everything. It was all about us, and it would stay that way for the next 70-plus years.
Right off the bat, we made Dr. Benjamin Spock a household word. It was as if parents didn’t know how to rear children until his book “Baby and Child Care” came out in 1946, not surprisingly the year regarded as the beginning of the Baby Boom. There were just so many of us newborns, moms needed somewhere to turn. And Dr. Spock was right there to provide it.
More than a million more babies were born in 1950 than in 1940, and babies kept coming in staggering numbers up until 1964, considered the final year of the birth boom. By then, some 76 million of us had arrived.
The oldest Baby Boomers, by the way, were 18 when the youngest were born, and I take issue with that gap. How can you be a Baby Boomer if you have no recollection of seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show? That what I say.
Anyway, long before we made those four guys from Liverpool the spokespersons of our generation, and sent barbers looking for bottles of Maalox, we Boomers were making our presence known.
When the bulk of us turned 5, communities couldn’t build kindergartens fast enough, and within five years of The Beatles appearance, new high schools sprang up everywhere. Look at how many high schools around here were built in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Pittston Area and Wyoming Area among them.
The Beatles and the bands that followed them weren’t “The British Invasion,” however, we Baby Boomers were The British Invasion. True, the music was spectacular, but it was our embracing it that made it a thing. That’s the kind of power we had. When we all wanted to look like Elvis, we made a ton of money for the manufacturers of Brylcream and Vitalis. And then The Beatles came along, and that was that.
We were a marketer’s dream, we Boomers. Whether baseball gloves when we were Little Leaguers or bell bottoms when we got to college, if you aimed your sales at us you stood to make a lot of money. And by the time we got to cars and houses, forget it.
Everything was “Us,” even a magazine that came out in 1977. TV was Us: The Mickey Mouse Club when we were tykes, American Bandstand when we were teens, and Happy Days when we became nostalgic adults. Cars were Us: the Mustang when we wanted to be cool, the minivan when we started having kids. And, of course, the music was Us: classic rock stations all over the dial.
And then, meaning now, out of nowhere something unforeseen became Us, too: old age.
It came upon us fast. We blinked our eyes and it wasn’t high schools they were building for us but nursing homes. The money to be made from us no longer came from music and fashion but from knee replacements and Jazzy chairs.
There are still more than 70 million of us Baby Boomers, but for the first time in our lives, we are not the dominant demographic. That honor now belongs to Millennials, who have overtaken us. And when you throw in the Gen Xers and Gen Ys, you know what you get? You get the new phenomenon of “Okay, Boomer.” Yep, they’re making fun of us.
If you haven’t heard “Okay, Boomer,” don’t worry, you will. And if the expression sounds cutting and dismissive, it’s supposed to. It’s the younger generation’s way of telling us our time has come and gone. That they are going to keep right on wearing baseball caps in fine restaurants so we might as well get used to it. “What’s that you say? The bass on our car speakers is too loud? Okay, Boomer.”
Can’t say I blame them. Young people have been putting up with us, and in many ways cleaning up our messes, for a long time. Despite the technological advances our generation can take credit for, it’s not like we are handing younger generations a better world than the one given to us. Just the opposite. Our parents weren’t afraid to drink water out of their kitchen faucets.
Like it or not, we own the problems young people are going to have to find a way to fix. So it’s hard to get upset if they can’t resist the urge to put us in our place. We certainly deserve it.
But no matter how out of step we old folks may be, one thing Millennials must admit is we definitely got the music right.
Can I get an “Okay, Boomer” on that one?
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.