Those oldies look more like goodies all the time

August 19, 1996|By Mike Littwin

I'M WATCHING the Republican convention the other night, and everything is going great, except that the TV ratings are in the tank and most people, including Ted Koppel, would rather watch reruns of "Bridget Loves Bernie" than what passes for democracy in action.

If the convention is short on news, though, it is long on good feeling. It's a regular lovefest, sort of like Woodstock, if everyone who'd gone to Woodstock had worked at Smith Barney.

Anyway, it's all goodness and light, until it comes time for Bob Dole to take on the age issue.

As anyone knows who follows politics, Dole is so old he actually remembers "Bridget Loves Bernie." Dole doesn't view this as a negative. He has his own take on the situation, and one I may someday adopt myself: The problem isn't that he's too old; it's that everybody else is too young.

He can get downright nasty on the subject, if you want to know the truth, particularly when he slams those in the Clinton baby boom White House "who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned. "

Some people are upset about this characterization, taking it as a shot not only at Clinton but as a blanket condemnation of an entire generation, a generation that, in my view, never did anything so terribly wrong -- if you don't include the glamorization of sex and drugs and decaffeinated coffee.

And some of Dole's comments do seem unfair.

Though I can't speak for all my fellow boomers, I, for one, have sacrificed. I remember it perfectly. It was at a company softball game in the late '80s. There were runners on first and second, and I laid down a perfect bunt, allowing both runners to move up. I got a bunch of high fives, and a can of Bud Light, for my efforts.

And suffered? You think drinking light beer is not suffering?

But I'm not upset about Dole's hit on my generation. Not at all. In fact, I'm tempted to vote for anyone who considers me a kid still trying to find himself.

Wasn't that our goal: forever young?

Never grown up? Can there be a higher compliment?

I'm glad Dole brought this topic to the attention of the American people because Bill Clinton turns 50 today, meaning Boomero Uno is now, by most standards, not exactly a kid.

More important than the day you turn 50 is the day you first regard 50 as not so old. Fifty stayed old (meaning all but dead, or, more precisely, better off dead) for all my 20s, all my 30s and until sometime deep in the sweat-soaked night I turned 40.

Now I see 50 in much the same way as I see 60 and 70 and 80: as a goal. As in, please God, let me make it that long.

The thing is, I have this nagging suspicion that, whatever Dole says, we boomers actually have grown up. Look around.

You may find that you play golf, a sure sign of adulthood, if not maturity. Clinton loves golf. He's a golfing fool. He's the biggest White House golfer since Ike, who was so adult he was also bald.

You want more clues? You may find that college is not just a place where you once took over the administration building; it's a place you now must send tens of thousands of dollars to educate your children.

Chelsea and Hillary recently took the tour of ridiculously expensive, fancy-shmancy colleges, the same tour my daughter and I took a few years back. This is when you grow up: You get the first tuition bill and realize the only thing you've saved in your entire life is the first issue of Rolling Stone, a handful of scratchy 45s and $1.62.

There are other indications of a youth forever lost. Like, when you find yourself talking to the lunch gang about your 401(k) balance, how you don't understand today's (post 1974) rock and roll, you think anyone who wears a tattoo is "shady," and you believe you can relate better to your kids by listening to Hootie and the Blowfish.

I've got a friend who has a daughter approaching her teen years. She and some of her friends were talking recently about what kind of music their parents listen to. The friend's kid said her mom listened to oldies but that her dad listened to alternative music.

Your dad, they said. Meaning: somebody that old. Ewwwwwww.

I first grasped that I might not be, well, young when a legitimate young person began asking me what it was like in the '60s. In the middle of the conversation I realized I was playing the role of my Uncle Leonard talking about World War II. Suddenly, I was an oral history project. I stopped the conversation immediately and turned it to Hootie and the Blowfish.

I'm sure Bob Dole would understand.

Pub Date: 8/19/96

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