This week I fully realized the generation gap between me and my husband. He was born in 1954 – a true-blue boomer. But don’t call him that – he hates that label. Me? I consider myself a shadow boomer, born in 1960. I live smack dab in the middle of the true-blue boomer and the generation X-er. That being said… don’t judge me.
This is a different article for me today. I’ll be discussing things purely from MY perspective and not so much on research. The following article is comprised from little snippets of recent conversations me and hubby were having over wine – and encompass about a week of talking together about the state of the United States.
You would think an age difference of only 6 years between me and my husband isn’t a big deal – but it is. Today, I realized there are two halves to this baby boomer phenomenon. The early boomers (those post-war babies) born 1946 to 1958, and us young boomers born in the shadows between 1959 and 1964. My hubby grew up as a teenager during the 60’s. I grew up mainly in the 70’s. There’s a bunch of us – hanging on between “no where”, and my shadow generation makes up about 38% of the boomer population.
Our influences had the same foundational structure, but our upbringing was different. Us shadow boomers were influenced by the Watergate scandal in the late 70’s, and also dealt with our nation’s economic concerns on the oil embargo, inflation and recession. My hubby’s generation experienced first hand – a decade of war, free sex, protests, experimental drugs and rock and roll. Us younger boomers? We squeaked by from the perils of the Vietnam war and sat by as children during the deep seated changes going on during those turbulent 60’s. However, side by side – we watched the unfolding of the civil rights and feminists movements.
On one hand, these things are true about me:
- I wasn’t a “real” hippie during the hippie movement or an activist.
- I never protested or participated in a sit-ins.
- I don’t quite remember the burning of draft cards and the protests about war.
- I was only 8 during the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention (Hubby was there as a teenage boy – but I do, however, remember the news).
- I was too young for Woodstock.
- There was no real drug experimentation – mostly pot though (and contraband cigs stolen from my friends brother).
- I vaguely remember the Detroit riots (the worst riot in history).
- I had NO CLUE who Timothy Leary was.
On the other hand, these things are also true: (not in any particular order)
- We had a black and white TV, and I remember our first color TV.
- I remember the racial unrest. I remember travelling on a bus with my mother where seats were labeled “white only”, and a bus patron had to buy our dinner for us because we weren’t allowed in the rest stop restaurant – and then they kept my mother’s change for their “inconvenience”.
- I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- When Malcom X was downed my dad swore to uphold the “Black Panther” mentality. Mom didn’t let that go on for long.
- I also remember my household during the assassinations of President John F. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy… all watched on our black & white television.
- I remember a decade of tears over fallen hero’s.
- Nixon was on the scene and debated heavily (and loudly) in my home.
- I remember Watergate, but I didn’t really understand it.
- I was watching as Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot – then paralyzed.
- The Vietnam war was a daily subject – especially since my father was in the military.
- I especially remember the Rock music explosion and American Bandstand.
- I grew up watching Wide World of Sports (who could forget that poor skier?) and The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
- In 1979, people at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois literally blew up a crate of disco records on the field (I was 19).
- I watched the moon walk on TV (No, people… it was NOT a hoax)!
- I remember the Manson fiasco. I was not allowed to watch the news about it – but I remember the household discussions.
- And following that – I remember the Patty Hearst kidnapping in 1974 (I was 14).
- Walter Cronkite was king and so was the Huntley-Brinkley duo. I swear – all we watched was news or documentaries in my house. Blech. Which of course is what I watch now. LOL! 🙂
- I remember and participated in the first Earth Day in 1970 (I was 10. Me and friends planted trees in the neighborhood).
- I walked to and from school – elementary through middle school. In all weather conditions… 3+ miles (true) uphill BOTH ways (not true).
I was very present and aware of the women’s liberation movement and bra burning and remember Roe vs. Wade and the fight for ownership of women’s bodies.
- I also remember when a peanut farmer became President.
- Then our next president was a movie actor! (I thought for sure our world had gone mad)!!
- In essence, I was impacted and effected by the 60’s, but was too young to participate in it’s festivities.
Who are the boomers? And… who owns the term “Baby Boomer”?
Logistically speaking, baby boomers were generally born during the time frame of 1946 and 1964; apparently there are about 75 million of us in the United States. That puts us between the ages of 52 and 70. My hubby will tell you that boomers defined the 60’s. Since I was still a child during that time, I guess that puts me on a proverbial fence – in the middle of no man’s land without a home.
The decades of the 60’s and 70’s changed so radically and so rapidly – this little generation gap amongst the boomers makes perfect sense. We’ve overlapped the decades. And those decades led to long term change.
As I see it, my shadow boomer generation is the perfect time frame. I’m not put in a neat little box of specifics. By being bookended between two generations, I get to see the green grass from both sides of the fence. I don’t mind being a fence-sitter. I think that’s a pretty good place to be. The view is beautiful up here. 🙂
Being stuck between two generations, I thought about the belief structures, value differences and perspectives I bring to the table:
I may not have understood war – but I was passionate about it. I knew I distrusted a government that made it mandatory for men to fight. I was young and thought the United States was about choices. These men had no choice. I won’t debate this sensitive topic. I know some WANTED to go – but look… there were a lot who didn’t. Home of the free, land of the brave. Okay.
I didn’t understand inequalities and the separateness of our country, but I believed in being equal.
I didn’t understand the concept free love, but I could wrap my mind around “loving who you want”.
I understood the value of hard work. I grew up during a time where you worked hard to earn your keep and the plan was to rise up through the ranks of employment – no matter the obstacles. There were no free rides.
Even though I’m that younger boomer… I still learned humility, manners and… patience. I was barred from narcissistic behaviour and I had to be responsible and accountable for my actions. My parents didn’t have “not my child syndrome”, or come to my rescue claiming me to be “their perfect child”. Nope. I had to explain myself, usually upfront and in the raw.
Try to scam or lie to me. Go ahead… try. I’m virtually scam-proof because I question everything and approach life with an arched eyebrow. And marketing has virtually no effect on me either. I either want something… or I don’t; then I’ll either buy it… or I won’t! And sure as hell don’t lie to me. I don’t give many chances for apologies – so don’t risk it unless you don’t care. I’m not that trusting, old school baby boomer… you will NOT take advantage of me, and if you do?… I’ll hunt you down and hold you accountable.
Saving for what you want seems to have disappeared. I learned to save for what I want, and had pride that I bought it myself without help. I won’t lie, though… I considered some of my friends “lucky”. They had parents who gave them money, cars, college educations and anything else they might want. Thank you very much – not me. Now in my life, I’m glad for it. While most of my friends live high on credit – I still save for what I want. They are deep in debt… and I’m not. I don’t judge. It is what it is. I would probably have a different perspective about money had I been given familial handouts or inherited wealth. As it stands, I have a healthy respect for money and the things it can, and can’t supply.
Respect your elders. Yep. I was taught that. But I was also taught to question authority (properly, mind you), and to not assume that I was being given quality information. I was also raised to buck the status quo and not go along with the crowd for the sake of the crowd. I learned it was okay to be an individual. I still stand up for the underdog.
And if an injustice or unfair act has been committed – I’m the first one to say…
I will always question authority because I don’t believe authority always has our best interest at heart.
I believe we should “parent” our kids and not be “friends” with them. Some baby boomers (young and old alike) really missed the mark on this one. I get it… they wanted to give their kids what they didn’t have… I also think a lot of boomers might have been afraid to parent or didn’t want to be like their parents.
I believe a lot of societal breakdown happened because we put our kids on an equal playing fields as adults. Big mistake. By parenting our kids we’re giving them the opportunity to be just that… KIDS!
At some point, when did boomers choose to take this right away from our children? I know how it happened. I guess we hated restrictions. We were restricted and told no; to compensate we told our children “yes” and gave them everything. This was a big mistake. Also, we had to follow the rules because “they (anyone of authority) said so”; so in a fit of parental revenge, we gave our children “creative freedom” to explore their own ideals and answers. WHAM! Another biggy mistake.
Have boomers raised a younger society that takes things for granted? I truly believe lack of parenting is setting our kids up for helplessness and hopelessness.
From a bygone Leave it to Beaver era, I learned to connect with my community and kept watch over what our kids were doing. I believed in teaching kids the difference between proper behavior and improper behavior and consequences of both. When I was a child, my neighborhood helped “raise us kids”. Not because parents weren’t home, but because it was the right thing to do. I don’t see so much of this anymore. I kind of miss that in today’s society.
On that note, I gotta tell ya… I was okay with all the restrictions and whatnot, and I didn’t suffer from it. I understand the importance of boundaries. Even though I was out of fashion… I raised my kid with the same hard-knocks values and expectations. My son is 34 now, and to this day he thanks me for it. While most of his friends are either dead or in prison (or still doing the same ole thing since high school) – he sees a bright future and is supporting his self quite fine. So… call me old fashioned. Please, go ahead; Call me old fashioned – I don’t mind.
Is there really such a thing as “generation”? Where did the decades go?
Actually, I believe there is no such thing as a stereotypical generation as we have been led to believe and understand; we used to define the state of the world by the decade. That makes more sense, don’t you think? After all, you can’t really squeeze an entire generation into neatly defined categories. We used to define and categorize like this:
- 1910’s – A decade dominated by World War I
- 1920’s – A time of cultural and social change – The roaring 20’s and prohibition era
- 1930’s – The Great Depression
- 1940’s – World War II
- 1950’s – The Cold War and Civil Rights Movement
- 1960’s – The Vietnam War and rise of the Peace Movement
- 1970’s – Political uprising and distrust with American Leaders. The rise of Massacres vs. Assassinations
- 1980’s – Major natural man-made disasters took our environment hostage
- 1990’s – The Cold War ended. Technology reigned supreme with the popularity of the Internet and the World Wide Web
With each passing decade, CHANGE was the catalyst that moved our world forward. That change is what shapes who we are, how we define ourselves, and how we perceive our world.
I think the label “generation” was made up for media and marketing purposes. This labeling of America has two purposes.
- It was made up to have a clear path of blame.
- But bigger than that… without the label “generation” how would we know who to market products to?
We as humans, have a need to categorize and label all sorts of things… but especially we label and stereotype people. I think what really we are is merely a product of our environment, a product of war and economics, and a product of technology, and nature vs. nurture.
“Oh come on, Sheila. You’re blogging and talking specifically to and about baby boomers – aren’t you being two-faced here? Aren’t YOU categorizing??”
Fair enough. You’re perfectly justified in asking that question. No, I’m not being two-faced. But I am smart enough to recognize that the world has me out numbered in the category and labeling name game. Plus I love the term baby boomer. I think it’s catchy. And “generationally speaking” we were a product of baby’s being born at a huge and rapid rate. Thank the post-war for that. Come on… those men missed their wives and girlfriends (hell… they missed women, period). What’d you expect to happen? 🙂
The dividing line
My definition of generation is this: One family unit producing another family unit which produces… a family unit.
This use to mean: You, then your parents, your grandparents, great grandparents and so on… your lineage, if you will. Then, in keeping with our American practice of taking something positive and turning it into a negative, we took the word, put a spin on the traditional meaning then used it as a means of division. Divide and conquer. It’s what we do.
However, with that said, I also see a dividing line that distinguishes differences between all ages. It’s definitely there, and reaches across all countries and regions. In all areas of the world – there has been, and always will be… the young vs. the old mindsets, beliefs and traditions.
Sum it up like this:
Old boomer vs. Young Boomer
- War (they had it, we younger boomers didn’t)
- My husband believes if you felt no risk of being drafted into the Vietnam War or it’s effects – you are NOT a true baby boomer
- Political unrest (old school: unrest and movements vs. new school hopefulness/helplessness?)
- The sexual revolution (a solid shift from make love not war… to a free for all by the late 70’s into the 80’s of catastrophic unsafe sex, skyrocketing unplanned pregnancies, STD’s and AIDS)
- Divorce rates (they stayed married – we broke from tradition… over and over again)
- Economics (they had it tough – we had hope for prosperity and grabbed it by the balls)
- Women’s role. Women were confined to the kitchen (or community gardens of the hippies) – we choose the board room over the cutting board.
Our dirty little secret, exposed!
Our initial discussion all started with a show we were watching – Star Trek episode Plato’s Stepchildren (1968) which featured the first interracial kiss on American network TV. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it back in the 60’s! I was stunned!! It was between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. Remember that?
Me and hubby looked at each other and we were like… damn! That was some shit back in the day!
That show made us look at our own interracial marriage and we travelled backwards down memory lane. He grew up with the mindset and belief that you don’t mix races. He was raised Catholic in an Italian/Irish home. Of course they didn’t believe they were racists… they just believed they were right. During the political unrest and amidst the race riots, my husband discovered that he had been lead down a path of wrong.
He changed that fate and broke the family mold.
My turn. I was raised deep-south Baptist and racists behind closed doors. Let me explain. I had friends of all colors and nationalities (okay… mostly white – it was the 60’s and 70’s after all). Plus we lived in an all White neighborhood. I was encouraged by my family to have friends. My mother was supportive and loved all of my friends – and they loved her, but my father would smile at my friends then spat derogatory talk about White people behind closed doors, including about my friends (my jaw dropped). I ignored his behavior – that is until he saw me with a new White boyfriend from high school. Oh boy. Yeah. That apparently was NOT allowed.
To this day, I remain an International lover. 🙂
And, so it goes…
Anyway… take a look at these differences. My hubby was raised flat-out racists – I was raised (for the most part) open and without racial barriers when it came to people in general.
That is how the discussion began:
So now you can understand the rift that brewed between me and hubby as we talked openly about how our lives were shaped by the fate of world events. What really bubbled to the surface was hubby’s absolute hatred for the label baby boomer, hippie and the Me generation. He feels justified in his opinion because he doesn’t see generations – he sees decades… and within those decades, doing something to change what is wrong with the world. I also bubbled to the surface because together we had figured it all out. We agreed and concurred!
It was certainly a lively discussion and grew to encompass generational conversation and the meaning of Baby Boomer. Neither of us anticipated the vast differences in how we interpreted the world. Like I said… we are only separated by 6 short years, but those years birth a myriad of beliefs, obligations, and expectations.
How cool is that?
Please share your story or opinions about this article in the comment section… and please tell us – where do YOU fit in?
Until next time…