For the first time I understand what it means to be on the other side of the age gap. Not that I haven’t had many glimpses earlier, but now they’re following me everywhere.
I remember the gap between my views and those of my parents after they turned fifty, as well as the battle cry of the era, coined in 1964: “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” My parents and their peers favored Richard Nixon (at least until he made that impossible), thought hippies were destroying the world, viewed women with pierced ears as verging on slutty, considered protestors communists, and hated rock and roll.
In that same era, tattoos were for sailors. End of discussion. Now they are a fashion statement for men and women.
Hair colors used to be brown, black, blond and gray. Since then, we’ve added pink, blue and green. The most bewildering change, from the perspective of someone who spends money to hide gray hair, is that young women are choosing to add gray.
Slang changes often, so it’s no surprise that you’re not sure of the meaning now attached to words you used to know. Three I’ve picked on for this blog: — ‘cancel’ as in ‘cancel culture,’ “Boomer,” as in”OK Boomer,” and ‘humblebrag.’
The latter is my favorite, because it opens the door to so many creative possibilities. You can brag about anything if you just use the right combination of words. It’s not that the action is new, but the label is. Here are two I copied from Twitter: 1)”The first million is the hardest.” 2)”…You’re the coolest man on the planet!! … — what I resisted saying when I met Johnny Depp …”
And one of my own. “My hand is cramped from all the people who asked to shake it today.”
“OK Boomer” is intended to remind older folks that we’re responsible for ruining the earth and being condescending, negative, judgmental (just like our parents). In the context of the environment, there’s truth here, though trucks and SUVS are the most popular vehicles in America and the largest purchasing group is between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four.
Some call 2019 “The Year in Cancel Culture”). ‘Cancel Culture’ means boycotting famous people who’ve behaved badly. But that’s not all. It can be much darker, says a teenager who was canceled — meaning no one talked to her –during her first two years of high school. “We all do cringey things and make dumb mistakes and whatever. But social media’s existence has brought that into a place where people can take something you did back then and make it who you are now.” (NYT, Tales from the Teenage Cancel Culture, Nov 2, 2019)
“From Marvel movies to OK Boomer, 2019 was a year of generational divides,” says Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times) Fear of the future enters into it, but, he says, “it is a progression changed by, but as old as, time.” And he reminds us the older generation is still in charge. The current president is 73. The top three Democratic presidential contenders are 70 (Warren), Biden (77) and Sanders (78). Yet two out of these three are popular with younger generations. Proof that generation gaps are more complicated than we might think.