Watch out, the Boomers are in charge now

MIKE LITTWIN

November 06, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Baby boomers, check your service. Turns out, there is no Peter Pan. Starting immediately, you are the grown-ups.

You know what this means, don't you? As of now, when you and the parents go out to dinner, you pick up the check.

My g-g-g-g-eneration?

This is the rite of passage we've all heard so much about, but never really believed in. Never wanted to believe in. Now you can mark the date -- Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1992. Bill "Baby Boom Boom" Clinton wins the White House; Tinkerbell is dead. (The good news is, you can still wear jeans and sneaks. The bad news is, eventually you're going to feel silly in those jeans, even the Easy Rider version favored by Clinton and Peter Fonda.)

From now on, it's on you. And you. And you. You know who you are. Everyone knows who you are. The baby-boom generation is the one that was born screaming, "Look at me. Now, dammit!"

It is now officially time to put up.

The one thing you know is that Boomers never shut up.

Face it, people were already sick to death of the baby-boom movement long before the Bill and Al show. It is the generation that will almost certainly be remembered for nonstop celebration of itself. Not everyone, it turns out, enjoys this. My teen-age daughter, as an example, says if she hears one more mention of Woodstock she's going to do something desperate, like melt my Country Joe and the Fish albums into coasters.

For years now, the Boomers have dominated the American cultural scene. But I've got a wild hunch it's one thing to champion the merits of bell-bottoms or decaf cappuccino and quite another to run the government of the nation that leads the free world, which is pretty much the only world we've got left.

Scary?

You bet.

Fortunately, I'm sure there will soon spring from nowhere a rash of support groups across the country for those who feel uneasy with the responsibility. There will be meetings a couple nights a week, and how long before someone steps up to say: "Hi, my name is Seth -- I'm a boomer and I'm afraid to be in charge"?

The thing you must know about baby boomers is that they were raised not to be afraid to die -- James Dean was an early and enduring hero -- but to fear growing old (up).

I think the first time it really hit me that I might no longer actually be, uh, gosh, um, young came a few years ago when I was taking my wife, daughter and daughter's date to a Paul Simon concert.

The young man, trying to make conversation, asked me, "How long you been into Paul Simon?"

I didn't have to think.

"From the beginning," I said.

Still, I was able to fool myself. I've got this job where I don't have to wear a tie. I've got a job where I can be a critic, which is the complete opposite of being in charge.

And then comes Clinton, and nothing seems quite the same.

I wasn't sure this could ever happen. There was a sense that having spent any part of one's youth in the '60s might effectively eliminate him/her from presidential consideration and that an entire generation would be skipped. We'd move from the George Bush era to Doogie Howser.

As it turned out, Clinton had to overcome the Vietnam draft problem. He had to overcome the grass problem, for which there is now a politician's guide: If you want to get elected to high office, you have to admit you "experimented" with marijuana, but that you tried it only once and didn't like it, even if you got stoned every night. Apparently, nobody checks.

Clinton is easily identifiable as a boomer, and not just because he loves Elvis and has a '66 Mustang, but because he listens to Kenny G. and knows a '65 'Stang is better. OK, Clinton's a policy wonk and maybe Al Gore never quite fit in with the Pepsi generation, but they still will be the first president and vice president ever to high-five and look like they know what they're doing.

It is during Clinton's administration that, if you listen closely, you will be able to hear Pink Floyd emanating from the presidentially sealed White House boom box.

So, yes, it's a new day. It's an incredibly new day. Clinton was born in 1946. No other president had been born after 1924. What's the slogan now -- don't trust anyone over 60?

Actually, for the first time, the Boomers don't have to trust anyone other than themselves. For a lot of people, that has to be a disquieting thought.

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