Monday, January 10, 2005

 

The baby boom: an overview

As we all know, the spawn of the post-World War II “baby boom,” known as “baby boomers,” have wielded influence over culture, the economy and the political system disproportionate to their numbers.

The baby boomers “came of age” in “the sixties” (circa 1964-1974), and established cultural hegemony over the rest of us by successfully making their symbols and reference points the virtual masters of culture since that time.

When the baby boomers decided that, notwithstanding “the 60s,” it was time for them to become high-wage earners, wage-earning became cool. “Power lunches” and “power ties” were in, making money on Wall Street become fascinating and okay.

When the baby boomers decided it was time to have kids, parenting became a frenzied pop-culture fascination. Old parenting standards, which largely consisted of forcing your kids to go to public school on a bus, throwing your kids in the back of the station wagon when you needed to take them somewhere, and otherwise letting them play outside, were shattered by new cultural norms. These new norms all grew out of baby-boomers’ learning in therapy that they received bad parenting. Kids were now to be driven to school (preferably private), encased in car seats within tanklike “family vans.” Time-wasting unstructured playing outside was replaced by arranged “play dates,” soccer, karate and Suzuki violin. Kids themselves were given therapy and even psychotropic medication.

When the baby boomers decided to buy houses, they revolutionized the housing market. They rejected ticky-tacky tract houses, and decided to renovate older living spaces. Victorians and Craftsmen houses with their wood built-ins and Wedgewood stoves, rambling loft apartments in former factory districts, became the rage, and prices skyrocketed. Baby boomers amassed great fortunes selling their TLC-needing “starter” homes to gen-Xers and dot-commers for three, five, ten times the original price.

As the baby boomers hit mid life, dominant culture became very concerned with their mid-life issues. Their tanklike family vans gave way to tanklike SUVs -- family vehicles disguised, through clever marketing, as mid-life-crisis sex machines. Middle-aged fitness (we won’t repeat the mistakes of our couch potato parents!) became cool, bringing us “power walking” and “power yoga.” Hollywood became very intent on making sure wrinkled stars like Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton maintained their grasp on sex-symboldom. As the baby boomers’ parents began reaching the end of their lives, and the boomers started worrying about inheriting their parents money to pay off their kids' college tuition bills, abolition of inheritance tax (the so called “death” tax) became stylishly plausible.

Despite the claims of the baby boomer Department of Marketing, I'm actually not a baby boomer. I'm actually part of a no-name "lost" cohort falling between the cracks of the late baby boom and the so-called "generation X" which followed the boom. To determine whether you or someone you know is a baby boomer, you can take the test in my next post.

Comments:
Hi,
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