Talkin’ ’bout my generation by
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(282 Stories)

Prompted By Mind the Gap

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This story was originally published on October 18, 2017. At the end I talk about having just come back from my 45th college reunion. Coincidentally, today was the last day of my 50th reunion, but this time we didn’t get to interact with undergraduates, because the reunions were all moved to the week after Commencement and the students were gone.

* * *

The Who, in their song My Generation, famously said “Hope I die before I get old.”

The Who, in their song My Generation, famously said “Hope I die before I get old.” One of their members did, drummer Keith Moon, who died at age 32 in 1978. The rest of them later said that line was not to be taken literally.

In the abstract I did believe the admonition not to trust anyone over 30 when I was in my teens and twenties. When my oldest sister turned 24, just before my 17th birthday, I made her a card that said on the front, “On this day it’s nice to know . . .”, and then on the inside, “You still have six more years to go.” Funny that I still remember that so vividly.

I trusted my parents, for the most part, although I certainly didn’t want to discuss drugs or sex with them. I knew they were always there for me, and even if they didn’t always approve of what I did, they would support me if I ran into any kind of difficulties. Politically, they came around to being antiwar after my experience at the 1968 Chicago convention. They knew I was hitchhiking in college, and it must have driven them crazy, but they never said anything about it. They never initiated phone calls to me, instead waiting for me to call them, because they didn’t want to appear to be checking up on me. While they gave my older sisters the chastity pep talk, they never did with me, and in fact offered me birth control pills (which my doctor father got free from the pharmaceutical reps) without even asking if I needed them or not.

My mother chauffeured me around a lot in high school, and we always had the car radio on, playing the stations I wanted to listen to. She learned all about the Sixties music scene because it was important to me. I followed that model with my own children, although with the first two it was easy, because the music they liked best was Sixties music – “classic rock” or “golden oldies.” My third child, Molly, rejected that genre, and so I came to learn about, and appreciate, the music of the 2010s. Molly and I have gone to many concerts together, including those by Taylor Swift, who is her favorite artist, and Bonnie Raitt, who is mine.

Last year after Molly and I took our annual trip to the State Fair together, she posted the Featured Image on her facebook page with the caption: “Best day ever with the best mom ever.” That was the most amazing gift she could have possibly given me!

I have just come back from a fabulous week at my alma mater, attending my 45th college reunion. Looking at the undergraduates of today, I had no trouble talking with them and I felt like they were interested in hearing about my (our) college experiences. I also felt politically and culturally in sync with them. In contrast, someone pointed out that when we were college seniors, the 45th reunioners would have been the Class of 1927. I cannot imagine for a minute that I would have had anything to talk about with them.

So on the whole, while I do see a generation gap between the so-called Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, I do not see an equivalent gap between Boomers and Millennials. Maybe I’m deluding myself, but if my own kids and their friends are any indication, I think I am right.

 

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Just love that Molly posted the photo of you as the “best mom ever” and I believe it, based on what you’ve written and now that I’ve come to know you. You genuinely take an interest in others, have true empathy and learned Molly’s music. What a gift to your youngest. Taylor Swift concerts, wow! I chose not to write about the fact that I hid my sexual liberation from my mother (my father knew and was supportive), but I think you nailed it when you say that we can more easily relate to this younger generation, than our parents’ generation could to us. We fought those culture wars so that could be true. I worry that today’s youth may not appreciate the freedom they have and how easily it could vanish. (Roe v. Wade, same sex marriage, etc. Those in charge today seem intent on taking us back to the ’50s!)

    I always love your choice of song titles, Suzy. This one is perfect. I saw The Who in concert in a high school auditorium in 1968 when they were still smashing their instruments at the end of their concert and were so radical. My older son was in the Stanford marching band, and was their warm-up act about 11 years ago in the Stanford Stadium. He was distressed. He told me they were SO OLD and couldn’t remember the lyrics to their songs. HA! How times. change!

    • Suzy says:

      I think the young women recognize that they have to fight again now, just to keep the rights that we won. There were several young women dressed as handmaids in Harvard Yard, and I talked to one of them about their protest. She asked me “have you read Margaret Atwood’s book?” and I couldn’t help replying “yes, before you were born!”

      Thanks for telling me about The Who then and now, great story!

  2. John Zussman says:

    I think you’re right that, on average, we boomers are closer to our children than we were with our parents. Still, I have to give your parents props for trying to understand our generation and for giving you leeway to find yourself. Of course, maybe your older sisters broke them in!

    What a wonderful compliment Molly gave you! She clearly appreciates your companionship—and the leeway you’ve given her.

    • Suzy says:

      I definitely benefited from being my parents’ youngest child. Especially with regard to their attitudes about sex. With drugs, I had to blaze my own path, because my sisters preceded the whole drug culture, so that was harder.

  3. Great way to explore generation gap intricacies. I think our generation’s mixture of love/hate for the older generation has as much to do with our age at the time: in our 20s, with a world to change. Because I teach university students, I have a window into another generation gap. I find I have a lot to share and learn from millennials, possibly because I relate to the leaner, meaner world they are growing up into. I had a tough time with Gen X. That crew left me cold and inspired some intense interactions regarding our efforts at changing the system. You’ve broached an interesting topic here, Suzy, as always with your warm, personable style and approach.

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I hope you write a story about the gap with Gen X. Because I had my kids late, they were all millenials, so I don’t have any experience with Gen X.

  4. Glad you reposted this story Suzy, Molly’s tribute to you is wonderful!

    And Bonnie Raitt is my favorite too!

  5. John Shutkin says:

    As you can imagine, Suzy, I am focusing on your thoughts coming from your 45th reunion since, as you know, my 50th (plus one) is beginning this week. And I fully agree that there is far less of a gap between our generation and the younger ones than between us and our predecessors. Indeed, I remember thinking (along with my roomies) what a bunch of old f*rts the guys who barged into our housing suite just before my own graduation were — and they were only coming for their 25th reunion.

    But, as with your 50th, the students will all be gone from the campus by the time my reunion starts, so I will also be unable to gain any empirical insight into this. Sure would have been fun to “rap” with those kids — or whatever they call it these days. However, I was recently at a gala for my law school journal and I did just fine communicating with the current students — though maybe they were just humoring me since I chair their board. Smart kids!

  6. Marian says:

    Good to reread this story, Suzy, and I believe you did benefit from being the youngest child. I was the oldest, which was really difficult. Interesting about the “gap” with us being young and the class of 1927. I would have thought the same as you, except when I was working at the Mills Alumnae Association after graduation, I was tapped to manage the 50-year reunion of the class of 1927. Turns out they were the coolest women ever, had done amazing things in their lives, and were absolutely hilarious. They told us how they got out of the dorm, sunbathed on the roof naked–the same things many of our class did. They could drink everyone else under the table as well.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m reading this for the first time, and it’s still a great take on this prompt.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    I agree that The Gap between us Boomers and later generations is less yawning. I also think that the post-boomers are being extraordinarily kind to us, seeing as how our generation has done more to screw up the world than any other.

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