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tick tick boom
hey baby boomer, get offa my cloud
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
pop culture

Early one morning, I paused on a home shopping channel.

Normally this would be akin to my skinning a kitten, but when I saw the close-up of the handcrafted John Lennon “Imagine” pendant, I became curious. The jeweler waxed poetic about Lennon's dream of peace and how wearing this pendant promotes harmony and love…all for three easy payments of only $39.95 in the next 49 seconds!

That, right there, is exactly how the Baby Boomers have ruined it for everyone else.

The John Lennon estate made more than $20 million last year: not bad for a man who took the long and winding road 20 years ago. Why? Because Yoko still pimps him out. Oh, and yeah, a few Beatles records keep selling. And for some reason, former 60s hippies/80s yuppies/00s rulers of the free world just can't stop idolizing him any more than they can stop buying $200 tickets to hear the entire Rolling Stones' anthology from the 2nd balcony of an arena, instead of free at some casino.

Lennon's murder was such a tragedy; Boomers have no choice but to sell his memory.

The g-g-generation that refused to be defined is now clogging the very system they created with massive wads of “Hi! Don't forget--we're fantastic! Hi!” Almost every headline at the beginning of 2006 touted “Boomers Turn 60!” They shake their fists from the leather seat of their Cadillac STS convertibles while blaring Led Zep and shout, if the Botox will let them open their mouths wide enough, “We, not our parents, are the greatest generation!”

It's beyond disappointing to witness how those who claimed to be individuals in thought, spirit and pursuit still demand such attention, simply for being born at a certain time. In addition, many Boomers believe they are the voice of that entire demographic, even those of their generation who never hung upside down from a lamp post at Haight and Ashbury or danced naked in the mud of Woodstock.

Here's a generalized newsflash, Boomers: the world? After you've been playing with it for 40 years? Not so great.

In answer to civil and equal rights, you built projects to corral everyone and we're still saying “the first black…the first woman…the first Asian…” Inflation is such that an average family can't buy a home, much less afford not to have both parents working. While Boomer corporate executives justify walking away with $18 million from a failed company, Boomer politicians consider raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to something more livable and decent a crisis for the economy. Greed drives your health care system, your evaluation of personal happiness and acquisition and the overall state of the union. Plus, we're involved in a seemingly senseless, endless war.


And the musicians you idolize so much? Stole most of their music from black blues players who never received credit or royalties, yet you're still forkin' over a couple of Franklins to multi-millionaires so you can feel young again.

Makes a gal just want to whack that Lennon pendant against your forehead until sense seeps in.

I tuned in and turned on during my teenage years too. But 20 years later, I'm not claiming I changed the world during that time. With my mall bangs, skintight leggings, raccoon eyes and British pop-rock attitude, I'm surprised I could buy Wonder Bread, Coca-Cola and a box of Good n' Plenty at the convenience store, much less be taken seriously for my ideas and actions.

There is, however, a marketing name for what I am: a Tweener. Not quite a Baby Boomer. Not quite a Gen Xer. Slipping between the monstrous cracks of 1962-1970, there isn't a specialized demographic plan for Tweeners, as most of the time this subculture is noted, but usually lumped in the either/or category of Boomer or Gen Xer. We're not glorified like Boomers or vilified like Gen Xers: we just are. It's a very happy place, because it defies categorization, segmentation and explanation, as I've written about before Shameless Self-Promotion.

It's almost like Tweeners are wrapped in an invisibility cloak and consequently, avoid targeted exploitation. Which is probably good, because living up to such self-proclaimed standards as the Boomers do would be a downer, man. I'm a Boomer: I will vacation like no one else before! I'm a Boomer: I will age -- or not -- like no one else before! I'm a Boomer: I consume and spend like no one else before!

In another generalized newsflash, it's not that Baby Boomers are all bad. There have been some advances created by Boomers from which subsequent generations will certainly benefit.

But here's the thing. What the Boomers spinning this hype fail to acknowledge is that every generation benefits from the one before and every generation carves out an identity. Flappers splashed in bathtub gin just to tick off their Victorian elders. Children of the 30s and 40s splurged on zoot suits and big cars -- something their tinfoil-saving, Depression-era parents couldn't bring themselves to do. 50s boppers worshipped at the alters of Elvis and TV. 80s and 90s kids rallied against their hippie-turned-yuppie parentals by going all punk, all goth, all grunge and anti-nuke.

70s kids had heroin, disco and macraméd owl wall hangings. If not for the grace of funk, they probably wouldn't have made it out alive.

Yet my grandma, a member of the Brokaw-tagged Greatest Generation, doesn't wear a commemorative Glenn Miller charm bracelet. But shouldn't she? I mean, that dude just disappeared. During a world war. And my brother doesn't have the face of Kurt Cobain carved onto a silver earring, although I'm sure that Courtney just hasn't gotten around to selling those yet, and now I've opened my big mouth.

Frankly, in a small way, I kind of wish I could have experienced the 60s. But from all historical accounts, it was pretty trippy, what with Vietnam, riots, assassinations, bombings, corruption, racism and inequality. You can follow the magical mystery tour around the world three times over, but nothing will change the fact that the 60s was an extremely turbulent decade, and most of the problems then exist today.

So Baby Boomers, I hope someday you'll join the rest of us and the world will truly be as one. You're older, richer, supposedly wiser and since you're projected to live much longer than your predecessors, you still have time to live up to your purple hazy reputation and change the world.

Peace out.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

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brian anderson
4.28.06 @ 9:05a

Isn't there a bit in Generation X about how both Historical Overdosing (like growing up in the 60s) and Historical Underdosing (like growing up in the 80s) cause self-absorption?

stacy smith
4.29.06 @ 11:58a

Perhaps it's just me, but I don't see much difference between then and today.

Baby Boomers or not, a simple look around at society and how it is today isn't in a better place than in the 60's. If anything, it has taken considerably bigger leaps into something more ugly.

Morals? Savings account? Ehtics? Honesty? What is the meaning of all these things?

Recently the word "guest" means that an illegal ailen is given residence here. Last I knew, "guest" meant that people actually went home.

I'm not defending the Boomers, but the Tweens and Generation X are also sticking their paws into the screwed society that we live in.

If Yoko wants to cash in on her husband's death, so be it. It just goes to show where people are at by todays standards.

I'm off to burn my bra now. LOL

anne marchmont
4.29.06 @ 10:57p

Hey Tracey Kelley, nice piece.
But, have you read "Generations" by Strauss & Howe? I'm a huge fan of their books. According to them, you ARE a "gen xer", but they call it "thirteener". It starts in 1960. All that angst you feel towards the Boomers (believe me, I don't blame you!) practically proves that you are. There's supposed to be a huge rift between 13ers and boomers, their whole lives. Read that book, I swear, you'll love it!!!

juli mccarthy
4.30.06 @ 9:22a

According to most of the numbers I have seen, the dates are 1946-1964 - which makes me THE youngest Boomer (born 12/31/64.) While I think it's fun to be able to say that, I think those dates are a little too broad, especially since they would put me in the same generation as my stepfather.

I don't think you can deny the positive influences of the Boomer generation, but no, they/we have definitely NOT left the world a better place overall.

tracey kelley
5.1.06 @ 12:34p

Anne, I'll be interested in reading the book you suggested.

The numbers for generational segmentation flucuate quite a bit. As Juli said, general BB numbers are 1946-64, but some research cuts boomers off as early 1958, 1960 and 1962, simply because there was a continued decline in births after vets returned home from Korea.

The FDA approved the use of the Pill in 1960 and although use wasn't wide-spread until the late 60s, it was greatly experimented with between 1962-1968, also contributing to an even sharper decline in births.

It was Yankelovich, the gigantic marketing/demographic research firm, I believe, that coined the term "tweener."

The Gen X segment is more clearly defined with anyone born 1970-1975, because soon the Millenials start to take over.

And that kind of relates back to what Brian said - the
"Underdosing" by those who grew up in the 80s - this little sliver of a population that doesn't feel it "belongs" and thus, tries to roar louder than others.

Again, it's a generalization motivated by marketing.

tracey kelley
5.10.06 @ 10:31a

From a friend's e-mail: The problem I see is that so many people who want to pretend they had something to do with changing the world in the 60s really didn't do anything. They sat back and watched the hippies stand up against the Vietnam war. Those are the same people who want to pretend they are doing something to make the world a better place now by opposing gay marriage, starting an unnecessary war to fight invisible terrorists so they can protect our never ending consumption of oil and pretending that democracy will improve the world, when in fact it is capitalism they believe will change the world.

Geez, now I'm tired. Better go take a nap. I'm getting too old for this stuff. Fortunately, my 14-year-old son is now reading Abby Hoffman books. He wants to be a hippy more than I did, and that's saying a lot.

sandra thompson
5.15.06 @ 8:31a

I'm a Tweener, too, born in 1934, too young to be part of the "Greatest Generation," and too old to be a Boomer. I've given birth to two Boomers, one a yippy and one a preppie. 1934 is supposed to be the epitome of the Beat Generation, but I was too passionate to ever be really cool, so I joined the yippies, too, marched in civil rights demonstrations, made speeches at teach-ins against the Vietnam war and held consciousness-raising metings at home. For a few months in '68 and '69 home was an SDS commune, until SDS died its whimpering death when the Weathermen marched off to go out with a bang or two. For a while there I thought we were making some progress, until the people who own the planet asserted their fee simple title to it. That's where we are now: watching them ruin everything. If we can get some honest voting machines maybe we can begin to change things again, but I'm not very optimistic. I'm spending my "retirement" agitating against another endless war, and the same old bugaboos of racism and sexism. The more things change.......you know the drill. As Fred Neil sang, "This old world may never change....."

dan gonzalez
5.16.06 @ 10:54a

Fortunately, my 14-year-old son is now reading Abby Hoffman books. He wants to be a hippy more than I did, and that's saying a lot.

Interesting tidbit, considering that the hippies were completely wrong about, say, everything from "consequence free sex and drug-use" to, say the 'horrible' war they 'ended' (resulting in the butchery of 2.5 million people in '75), to, say the philosophical idea that socialism can somehow cure rather than completely undermine capitalism.

Yeah, Abby Hoffman was brilliant! Keep reading him, kid, if you want to be a self-indulgent, poorly founded, self-promoting blowhard that is completely devoid of any philosophical soundness, but will make up for the lack of it with authoritarian social planning and fascist federal oversight.

Sorry but this kind of fires me up. Tracey's got this right, I'm afraid. They will go down as a very large, very cooperative marketing demographic without a single decent thought or value to pass on to the next generation.

I mean, what IS the 'legacy' of the boomers? Sitting around in a circle at Berkely childishily chanting 1-2-3-4, We don't want your racist war'? Assuaging the complete and painful failure of their snake-oil value system with plastic surgery and S.U.V's?

dan gonzalez
12.30.07 @ 4:30a


This needs a bump, considering that, if one calculates the birth-years of boomers as running roughly from 1946 and 1959, then 2008 is the first year that true boomers will be eligible to retire according to the 'entitlement' system they seem to love so well.

According to Boomer apologists like American University's Leonard Steinhorn, who argued in his book The Greater Generation that the Boomers were so confident about their believes that they would not go quietly to the 'golf course', but would rather stay involved, keep working hard and cementing their legacy. Steinhorn warns us non-Boomers that they will not be a silent senior group, but will continue to make 'echoes' with their votes.

Fucking great. A shitload of elderly people with a sense of purpose. I can already hear them. "KEEP WORKING BITCHES! PAY OUR SOCIAL SECURITY AND WELFARE. SCREW YOUR BIOLOGICAL KIDS, WE'RE YOUR KIDS NOW!

robert melos
12.30.07 @ 10:13p

According to my accountant it runs from '46 to '66, pushing me into the last three years of the boomer generation. I'd so much rather be a Gen X'er.

As a borderline boomer I know I'll never willingly retire. I've seen retirement destroy my family, parents, aunts and uncles, non really lived much beyond three or four years after their retirement. I intend to work until I drop, and if that happens to be standing at a door at Wal-Mart shouting "Welcome to Wal-Mart" because my hearing aide isn't set right and I assume I'm talking in a normal tone, then so be it.

It isn't so much the desire to be useful as it is the desire to keep busy. Keep going or you stagnate. It doesn't matter how much you don't feel like going on, if you retire, stop, take time off, it'll all fall apart and increase the chances you'll end up in a nursing home shouting at an aide, "honey, bring me a drink. I have to go to the bathroom. I can't breathe. Where am I? Who am I? Are you my son?"

I'd rather be screaming at annoying customers in a crappy department store.

I'm working on the fiesty part now while I'm young.

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