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« Goodies | Main | Sex Differences »

July 09, 2004

Not-Boomer Boomers

Dear Vanessa --

Greg Ransom (here) points out a good WSJ story by Jeff Zaslow here. It's about how little many late Boomers feel they have in common with older Boomers. Not every Boomer went to Woodstock, trashed the Dean's office, and then snagged a superfab job, y'know. Virginia Postrel comments approvingly here.

Hey, wait a minute, I blogged about this phenomenon back in April, here.



posted by Michael at July 9, 2004


Douglas Copeland wrote a novel about this phenomenon that was published in 1991. The title of the book was "Generation X: Tales for an Accerated Culture". In doing to he of course coined the expresion "Generation X". The interesting thing about it, is that if you look carefully at the dates of Copeland, the characters, and when the book is set, the people he was writing about (as disaffected and without the certainties of people who had come along a few years earlier) were actually those born between about 1960 and 1964, that is the final years of the baby boom. The book is actually about this very difference between early and late boomers that you are talking about, but people seldom seem to realise this.

However, the term "Generation X" is generally used to refer to that generation born between about 1965 and 1973, which is essentially the period immediately before the boomers themselves started having children in large numbers. (Children born in that time generally have parents who were born either just before or during the war - I am one of these). Maybe this misuse of the term is because it takes a while between writing a book and it filtering into popular culture, so readers thought it was about people who were the age of the characters when they were reading the book, or because there wasn't a name for the generation born between 1965 and 1973, and this was a good name. Or something.

Posted by: Michael Jennings on July 10, 2004 8:37 AM

Michael -- That's fascinating, thanks, I had no idea Coupland was writing about superlate Boomers. Funny the way these labels migrate around a bit before settling down. My own personal gripe with the official Boomers goes back a bit further. I was born in late '53, and even so I never identified with the mainstream, or at least the media-image, Boomers, all of whom were five or so years older than I was. I didn't get to college, for instance, until '72, by which time all the '60s carrying-on was over -- it was like arriving in town after the parade or the circus had gone through and left, or maybe showing up too late and the party was already over. And when I got out in the world in the late '70s, the economy was in the toilet -- actually in the worst shape it had been in since WW2. (The Wife and FvBlowhard are my age and had the same after-the-parade-went-by experiences.) So, whatever jollies we had in our own right, there was a feeling that we were stuck cleaning up after the bigger kids and then got no recognition for it. And then, of course, went on to get categorized (and castigated) as spoiled self-centered jerks who'd burned up the capital and ruined everyone else's fun and chances. But, since we've had to shrug off these kinds of indiginities right from the outset, no biggie, I guess.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 10, 2004 11:21 AM

" was like arriving in town after the parade or the circus had gone through..."

This is the essence of my reaction to the boomers (first wave).

They were such a huge cohort, so raucous, so suburban sloppy, so uninflected broad vulgar coarse that....
That what? That everything else was pushed out of the room.

Totally unfair broad brush indictment. But what the hey

Posted by: ricpic on July 10, 2004 12:13 PM

Yeah, as I just saw pointed out recently (here?), the "Greatest Generation" realllllllly sucked at raising kids. They thought that they were all that and a bad of chips and could do no wrong. But it turns out that they were insecure, and wanted the Nanny State to enforce their will upon their children when they got VERY out of hand (the 60's).

I guess if you want to defeat blindly obeying masses (Hitler), then maybe the same is appropriate on the other side. My grandmother (parent of my solidly 'early boomer' mom) didn't really 'get it' that NOT everything you read in the paper is true until the frickin' 90's. Very very black and white view of the world. Greatest at being good little ants maybe, but not much else. Not that letting Hitler run wild would have been good, but good ole Uncle Joe Stalin had ALREADY killed more of his own people than Hitler later killed Jews, and we gave the journalistic cover-up artists who papered over those purges and famines in the 30's Pulitzers and suchnot.

But maybe consider yourselves lucky to be late Boomers, you got to see the immediate aftermath of what the early boomers wrought, and hence didn't have nearly so many illusions about things as them. Or so I'd hope! (yourself and FvB seem to have gotten that out of 'missing the party'!)

Posted by: David Mercer on July 10, 2004 10:22 PM

Ricpic -- If this blog ain't The Dept of Overgeneralizations, I don't know what it is.

David -- I wonder if there's a "bad parenting" gene that's getting passed down (maybe in lieu of a good upbringing) from gen to gen ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 12, 2004 6:29 PM

I don't think so Michael, else why would it get passed down?

I think it's largely cultural, and stems from attempts to have everything 'perfect'. Isn't that the 1950's ideal, that 'perfect' house, wife, kids, etc?

Posted by: Davd Mercer on July 15, 2004 9:14 PM

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