In Defense of Baby Boomers


By Neil Offen

After screwing up the world for the last 50 years or so, baby boomers are no longer lead players in our culture. They have become generic character actors, like Chester in “Gunsmoke,” a reference surely lost on people who are busy streaming “Stranger Things.” Boomers, and I am one of them, rightly sense we have become irrelevant to the central story, unconnected to the moment’s gestalt, which many of us believe may be a digestive disorder.

Is it surprising, then, that we are now the butt of “ok, boomer” jokes? Yes, admittedly, we have ruined the planet, despoiled the oceans and bear much of the responsibility for the success of “Celebrity Apprentice.” But does all that justify becoming the coronavirus’s target demographic, constantly referred to as the elderly, the fragile, the at-risk and, worst of all, the dead?

Not that long ago—when old people were called “old people” before the word “seniors” was invented—age and maturity were revered. Youth was something to grow out of, like tie-dyed pants. Older generations consequently weren’t obsessed with staying young forever. They knew they had wisdom, perspective and 5% off on senior day at the supermarket. They were OK with slowly fading away.

Boomers, not so much.

No longer young, many of us continue wanting to seem young. And it’s not easy.

We use regenerative moisturizer (SPF 132!) and drink bottled water from pristine springs rather than Mello Yello from god-knows-where. We eliminate gluten from our diet and try ingesting more antioxidants and fewer oxidants.

We believe we can distinguish between Dua Lipa and Doja Cat (before admitting we have no idea who either of them is). We not only have Spotify and Pandora playlists, but also a bunch of old 45s and three non-ambulatory Walkmans.

We hire a personal trainer, then check our target heart rate on a Fitbit as if we understood what a target heart rate is. We play pickleball and are disappointed to learn no gherkins involved. We go to yoga and Pilates and Zumba and Tai Chi and would do downward dog if we could figure out how to do upward dog immediately afterward.

We play brain games to ward off dementia and do Qi Gong to ward off osteoporosis. We get new knees, replace our hips and swap out our rotator cuffs. We Zoom with friends, Skype with colleagues and Signal with family (but still have some difficulty swiping right). We have so many high-tech gizmos (not to mention several doohickeys), but when something goes wrong with our iPhone 32, we have to find a nearby 12-year-old to fix it.

We do all this trying to hold on to our youthful past, but it’s hard, especially when our past happened back before we were paying attention. Plus, when you get older, there’s a lot more past to remember. And now there’s a lot more complicated present to deal with.

In addition to the traditional problems involved with getting older—increasing bodily frailty, faulty memory, root canals—our generation also confronts some unique challenges, including kale, mounting LinkedIn requests from people you’ve never heard of and receiving mail with an invitation to a complimentary dinner where you can learn about cremation (I chose the salmon entree.)

So, after decades of driving the cultural, political and social bus, how do we adjust to sitting in the back, on top of the smelly diesel engine? How do we make believe we really understand text messages that include acronyms such as KMN?

I looked it up; it’s Kill Me Now. So LOL.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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