This essay originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune as "A generation ages early courtesy of Baby Boomers" on September 24,2003
It's getting very difficult to ignore the fact that the Baby Boomers are aging. The signs are not subtle. Ads for Maxi-pads have been replaced by ads for Depends. Women at cocktail parties no longer discuss episiotomies, they're all comparing notes on colonoscopies.
Well, what did I expect? The Boomers are after all the noisiest, most self-aggrandizing, hey-look-at-us, generation to ever walk the earth and now that they're growing old they are telling us all about it every chance they get. From "Oprah" to U.S. News and World Report, from my sister to my friends who are (ahem) a little older, all I ever hear about any more is menopause, perimenopause (a totally made up thing just to drag me into their aging process) and postmenopause. Yes, the signs are inescapable, and the same generation that once embraced LSD is now clamoring for its HRT.
I am not, as you may have guessed by now, a Boomer myself. I am part of a little-recognized generation sandwiched between the Boomers and the Gen-Xers. We were born between 1960 and 1970. Oh, technically those of us born between 1960-1964 are at the tail end of the Boomers but whom are we kidding here? If you can name the members of the Partridge Family (Keith, Laurie, Danny, Chris 1, Chris 2, and Tracy) you have little in common with those who can name the Mouseketeers (Annette….ummm, were there more?). We are a generation without a moniker so let's just call us the "Shadow" generation.
Being just behind the Boomers has had a weird affect on me. First of all I've always felt like I was trying to catch up. After all, they got to do everything first, and better, and with more meaning (just ask them). They had hippie clothes, dropped acid, listened to The Beatles, and protested the Viet Nam war. When it was my turn I was stuck with preppie clothes, pot, The Bee Gees, and the only cause left to protest by the time I got to campus was apartheid.
Living in their shadow has left me feeling like I'm forever out of synch. When I was twenty-something the hot show was "thirtysomething." If I tried to discuss the dating habits of yellow power-tie wearing young men, my Boomer sister and my Boomer friends rolled their eyes at my shallowness and extolled the virtues of giving birth to a new life. By the time I wanted to talk about my newborn, they wanted to discuss the exhilaration of having the house to themselves again as their children left home.
For years, I bought in to their propaganda and was eager to catch up to them, to live the next phase of life that was obviously so much more fun, more challenging, and more meaningful than the phase I was currently in (just ask them).
But time has marched on and no monarchy, even a cultural monarchy that has outlasted disco, grunge, and Britney can last forever. To quote Boomer icon Bob Dylan, "The times they are a-changin'," and the Boomers are being unseated by Father Time. Though they are loathe to admit it, the Boomers have turned into the Geezers.
Now, for the first time in my life, I find I no longer want to catch up to them. No, you Boomers go right ahead and age without me. And now, also for the first time, they're trying to include me in their new phase. They act like I'm just as old as they are.
But I'm not of their generation. I never have been and I never will be. Why are they trying to include me in their newest phase when they never included me before? Chin whiskers, sagging jowls, stress incontinence, osteoporosis, and memory loss are just a few of the things I know way too much about considering I'm only 42. And the hormone replacement therapy debate: DoI really need to know about that yet? Excuse me but some of us still have our own hormones thank you very much and we don't want to hear another word about your vaginal dryness! I'm begging you Boomers to clam up and grow old gracefully like our parents and their parents before them.
Of course asking the Boomers to grow old gracefully is a complete waste of breath. They would have to stop fighting the aging process, and with role models like Goldie Hawn and Cher that’s not going to happen.
They will continue to obsess, botox, tummy-tuck, Aapha-hydroxy, and glucosamine themselves right up to and all the way through their "clipping-coupons-for-the-early-bird-special" years.
No, they won't stop talking about it and they'll continue to talk to us all as if we're right there with them, ignoring the fact that a large part of the population is indeed younger than they are. But I'm not there with them and I plan to enjoy what's left of my relative youth, so from now on I'm not listening to another word on their aging process.
Of course in ten years when I'm finally experiencing hot flashes I'll turn on "Oprah" looking for some information and solace only to hear her say, "Next up, tips on choosing the perfect nursing home!"
by Judy Zimmerman