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February 25, 2008

Late Boomers

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Steve Sailer writes an enlightening posting about late Boomers -- people who are technically Boomers, but who were born too late to enjoy trashing the campuses, snagging the groovy jobs, and helping themselves to the cultural reins: the younger siblings of the crowd usually thought of as "the Boomers," basically. I wrote about the same group -- the gang FvBlowhard and I happen to belong to -- back here.



posted by Michael at February 25, 2008


Hey Michael2B,

In speaking of this whole Boomer-resentment business, you always go on about the economic crises of the 1970s, which were certainly real enough - but you don't mention that the recession that began in 1982 was the worst since the Great Depression. Here's a passage from a random googling:
When, in August 1981, Reagan signed his Recovery Act into law at Rancho del Cielo, his Santa Barbara ranch, he promised to find additional cuts to balance the budget, which had a projected deficit of $80 billion -- the largest, to that date, in U.S. history. That fall, the economy took a turn for the worse. To fight inflation, running at a rate of 14 percent per year, the Federal Reserve Board had increased interest rates. Recession was the inevitable result. Blue-collar workers who had largely supported Reagan were hard hit, as many lost their jobs.

The United States was experiencing its worst recession since the Depression, with conditions frighteningly reminiscent of those 50 years earlier. By November 1982, unemployment reached, nine million, the highest rate since the Depression; 17,000 businesses failed, the second highest number since 1933; farmers lost their land; and many sick, elderly, and poor became homeless.

I know we've argued about this before, but I'm not letting go until I get you to admit that perhaps it wasn't so easy being in your early 20s in the early 1980s, either. Harumph.

Posted by: alias clio on February 25, 2008 7:57 AM

Just to rub it in: I'm an early boomer. In my final year at university I applied for 12 jobs. I was offered 13.

Posted by: dearieme on February 25, 2008 9:14 AM

I've experienced this horror first hand.

I worked with this kid (well, he was 10 years younger than me), who I called "Cartman" because the son-of-a-bitch was exactly the same type of self-centered, no account fat bastard.

I didn't start out this hostile toward my Cartman. After we worked together for a while, I realized that the bastard was hoping that I'd develop late stage cancer and die so that he could have my job.

Worse yet, he was gay... but not in the way that men were gay when I was young. No, the younger crowd had redefined gay, I discovered. Gay was now officially better than hetero! Cartman told me every day in as many ways as possible that being hetero was hopelessly unfashionable, and that I should exit the stage so that it could be inhabited entirely by exciting, hip gay men... just like him.

It didn't matter that Cartman was a fat slug... just like the TV Cartman... and that he couldn't get laid through a glory hole in a public toilet. I was getting laid every night... sometimes twice. Cartman made it clear to me that this didn't really count... because I was sleeping with women. In the new math of fag worship, my full date book amounted to nothing.

We each had our contingent of female supporters in the office. Mine, of course, were hetero girls. Cartman's were fag hags.

This is a breed I cannot fathom. What is it that these strange creatures get out of their lowly existence as sideline cheerleaders for gay boys? Apparently, they score immense hipster points. The colleges seemed to produce legions of these fag hags in the late-Boomer stages. They were equally vocal in wishing us old John Waynes dead. As it turns out, in fag hag ideology, we John Waynes are responsible for all evil in the universe. We exist primarly, according to the fag hags, to beat the hell out of innocent young women who are stupid enough to get into bed with us.

I did have my moments of triumph. I remember with special pleasure the time when Cartman and I were standing in the hall and a very pretty young black secretary stopped to flirt with me. He was always incensed that the hetero girls liked me. That a young black girl would find me attractive caused Cartman, for one of the few times I can remember, to lose his cool.

"Don't you know how old he is?" he growled as he pointed at me.

The black girl didn't give a damn. She liked me. We became great friends.

I recalled my reading of King Lear often in those days when I could barely stand to go into the office to face the infernal Cartman and his fag hags.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 25, 2008 9:50 AM

In addition to the deep recession of the early 1980's, there was also the Great Recession of 1990-1992. While its effects were somewhat regional, in the areas it hit, it hit hard. I very barely survived it and will never forget how horrible things were.

Posted by: Peter on February 25, 2008 12:22 PM

Some chronological questions:
I was born at the peak of the Boom (1957) and so came of age during the seventies. Yet so suffocating was the hold of the sixties crowd that they made my cohort disappear down the memory hole without even a name. So I nominate the name given us by the great Stiv Bators, a proudly nihilistic member of our group: at the peak of his act, Stiv used to sprawl face-down on the stage, start to pleasure himself with his microphone, and scream, “We’re the Blank Generation, and we got nothing to say!”

But…I’m thinking that you and Friedrich were a little old for the punk thing, weren’t you? (Just trying to get my chronology straight here.) Very early seventies was glam rock, progressive symphonic Yes-style stuff, arena rock, California folksy navel-gazing, some pretty amazing R&B and soul. No punk though…and the New York Dolls don’t count. Were you guys slumming with the youngsters in 1975-76, the years of the punk explosion? I like to think of Friedrich doing his dancing bear in a punk-jammed mosh pit.

As for clio, the same article about the ‘82 recession points out that unemployment was back down to seventies levels by 1983, with inflation dropping to a third of its late seventies rate and the economy beginning its eighties boom. Which means the misery index was waaaay higher in the late seventies than in the eighties, with double-digit inflation, near double-digit unemployment…and most of all, the feeling that America was doomed. I call it "that seventies feeling". And you had to grow up in those years to understand what it was like.

Example: I can summon to this day the sickness I felt when the hostage rescue mission failed in 1980, and I saw the stunned deer-in-the-headlights visage of Jimmy Carter there on the television taking “full responsibility” for what had happened, and the very next images showing Ayatollah Khalkali, the “hanging Ayatollah”, standing over the remains of an American serviceman at Desert One, smirking as he picked up and played with the dead soldier’s charred, amputated right foot. I’ll never forget the black volcanic hatred I felt for Carter at that moment, the moment I realized that America simply did. not. have. a. leader. I wanted to jump into the television, grab the President of the USA…and stomp him into the ground like the soft-bodied bug he was.

That feeling, that the f*cking world was out of f*cking control, that no-one was running the store, that seventies feeling, dissipated like a bad dream when Reagan came to power—shooting down Libyan MiGs, firing the air traffic controllers, Presidential stuff like that. Led well or led poorly, at least America was now being led. Not so during the years of the bad dream: Watergate Nixon, Whip Inflation Now Gerald Ford, and most of all Mister Malaise himself, the guy with the melting face, the watery eyes and the simpering soul of an Ayn Rand villain. That bad-dream feeling was what seventies grads grew up with every year of that benighted decade, the years when the lights were going out, when every bouncing disco tune was a whistle past the graveyard, the only decade of America’s 20th century when everything got worse every f*cking year.

I grew up then. In that decade. In the nineteen f*cking seventies. In that dark age.

Why, it’s a wonder I can smile! :-)

Posted by: PatrickH on February 25, 2008 1:11 PM

A. Clio -- Totally, wouldn't want to minimize the drear of '80-'83. My point isn't to compete, just to point out that economically the '70s as a whole stank. In standard U.S. econ history, '81-'83 is seen as "what had to be done to put an end to the craziness of the '70s." Sad to read that we're once again risking stagflation ... Stagflation (and what had to be done to end it) was some serious no-fun.

Dearieme -- Grrr.

ST -- That's a great yarn. It really is amazing how gay (and feminized) much of the media life has become. Hard to believe, really. In the late '70s, for instance, book publishing on the editorial side was probably 80% straight guys. These days it's about 80% gals, and 19% gay guys. (Slight exaggeration for effect here, but only slight.) I wonder what it'd be like to be "the straight guy" in the midst of that.

Peter -- Yeah, that was a no-fun stretch too, wasn't it? The Wife and I bought our co-op in '89 and (it seemed) within a day or two its worth started to plunge. It was pretty dramatic. Was '90-92 your stretch in Connecticut?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 25, 2008 1:15 PM

PatrickH -- I hit the post button at the same moment you did. That's a great job of bringing '70s-itis back to life, though I don't know whether to thank you for brightening up my morning or not ... It's funny, I have many fond memories of the decade, but they all have to do with movies, friends, tennis, sex, dope ... But so far as public mood and prospects went, it was an incredibly depressing period. The US seemed on its last legs, everyone still hated us for Vietnam, nothing we did worked, everything was falling apart ... Yeah, FvB and I are a couple of years older than you -- we fell between the cracks, micro-generationally speaking. Hippie-boomers were 3-8 years older than we were, the Wall Street types were maybe 5 years younger ... So when we dabbled in the punk scene in the late '70s we were a year or two older than most of the people in it. What a relief it was, though -- at the very least, to have the chance to blow off steam at the hippie-era Boomers. Our sympathies and attitudes were sooooo much more aligned with the punks than with the folk rockers or bloat-o rockers ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 25, 2008 1:25 PM

Yes, I had the "fun" of experiencing the early-1990's Great Recession in Connecticut, which was perhaps the hardest-hit state in the country. I have many unhappy memories of the time, but one in particular stands out: running out of money, and desperate for work - any kind of work - I responded to a newspaper ad from a fertilizer wholesaler seeking two or three people at minimum wage to perform general warehouse duties. It was clear from the description that the work was backbreaking stuff. When I arrived at the warehouse there were at least 200 people absolutely swarming the site with more arriving every minute. The warehouse manager was quite naturally overwhelmed and was "interviewing" candidates in groups of twenty.

I didn't get the job.

Of course, as hideous as the Great Recession was, at least it was relatively short-lived just like the early 1980's counterpart. From what I understand, having been a bit too young to really understand its first years, the 1970's malaise was much more lengthy. It began in the early years of the decade, what with the decline and fall of Vietnam, Watergate, and the first oil crisis, and didn't really end until Reagan's inauguration (which actually was in 1981, and then followed by a recession).

We haven't had a full-fledged recession in the current decade, but what we've had is in some ways almost as bad: a descent into panty piddling paranoia, with almost everyone convinced - convinced! - that the Towel Heads are going to Conquer the World and haul us off to the ovens. To see the most powerful nation in the world reduced to sniveling dread by a group of people who, as recently as six and a half years ago, were laughed at for their military incompetence, is just plain nauseating.

Posted by: Peter on February 25, 2008 2:02 PM

I'm too young for the specific example, but I understand the "micro-generation" thing perfectly. Technically, I'm Generation X. Realistically, I don't get the references, and I've been a little bit behind the curve for most of the Great! New! Things!

However, I am now in a position I rather like, and I'm pretty grateful that I *did* miss out on the Great New Things, since one of them was the tech boom... and bust. And since I was just a bit too young to take part in that, I could look at it clearly and think, "Hmm. Tulips," rather than being emotionally invested in the New Economy. This also means that though I still can't quite afford a house, I was able to see that housing was also being tulipy.

So I missed a lot, but I got to learn a lot as well. (Incidentally, my eldest sibs are true Gen X, my nearest brother's a micro-gen like me, and my parents are honest-to-goodness war babies— my mother a half-orphan from the war.)

Posted by: B. Durbin on February 25, 2008 9:38 PM

I'm competing. I think everybody born at the tail end of the Boom---1960-62--resents all older Boomers. Original and Mid-Level. Although the original boomers are sooooo much older as to be alien beings---I don't feel part of the "same generation" as the Clintons, for example. They are 14 years older than me. Let's put it this way---Original Boomers turned 16 in 1962-63 ish---Chubby Checker, Camelot, "Bewitched", "Lawrence of Arabia". Middle Boomers turned 16 in 1969-71. The pesky old draft, of course, but also Woodstock and the Beatles and the Mod Squad and "Klute" and "The Godfather". The tail end turned 16 in 1976-78. "Saturday Night Fever", Disco, Barbra Streisand becoming a producer, Sid Vicious, Jimmy Carter, Hostage Crises----depression, depression. We pretty much hate you.

Posted by: annette on February 26, 2008 4:44 PM

Annette speaks truth. As a "late boomer" the oldsters that were supposedly part of "my generation" seemed more like parents than peers. Those early boomers were the last generation to get a decent public education. By the time I got to school, it was "New English" and "New Math," which meant, of course, that I struggled to learn by myself what they had been taught by experienced teachers. To this day, I resent their gutting and politization of education.

Posted by: Kris on February 27, 2008 7:28 PM

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