It’s almost too easy to make fun of us Baby Boomers. But satirist P. J. O’Rourke, who is one, has a book coming out in January entitled The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasnt My Fault) (And Ill Never Do It Again). An excerpt printed in the Wall Street Journal had me grudgingly laughing:
We are the generation that changed everything. Of all the eras and epochs of Americans, ours is the one that made the biggest impression—on ourselves. That’s an important accomplishment, because we’re the generation that created the self, made the firmament of the self, divided the light of the self from the darkness of the self, and said, “Let there be self.” If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you may have noticed this yourself.
That’s not to say we’re a selfish generation. Selfish means “too concerned with the self,” and we’re not. Self isn’t something we’re just, you know, concerned with. We are self.
Before us, self was without form and void, like our parents in their dumpy clothes and vague ideas. Then we came along. Now the personal is the political. The personal is the socioeconomic. The personal is the religious and the secular, science and the arts. The personal is everything that creepeth upon the earth after his (and, let us hasten to add, her) kind. If the baby boom has done one thing, it’s to beget a personal universe. (Our apologies for anyone who personally happens to be a jerk.)
Self is like fish, proverbially speaking. Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and, if he turns into a dry-fly catch-and-release angling fanatic up to his liver in icy water wearing ridiculous waders and an absurd hat, pestering trout with 3-pound test line on a $1,000 graphite rod, and going on endlessly about Royal Coachman lures that he tied himself using muskrat fur and partridge feathers…well, at least his life partner is glad to have him out of the house.
So here we are in the baby-boom cosmos, formed in our image, personally tailored to our individual needs, and predetermined to be eternally fresh and novel. And we saw that it was good. Or pretty good.
We should have had a cooler name, the way the Lost Generation did. Except good luck to anybody who tries to tell us to get lost. Anyway, it’s too late now. We’re stuck with being forever described as exploding infants. And maybe it’s time, now that we’ve splattered ourselves all over the place, for the baby boom to look back and think. “What made us who we are?” “And what caused us to act the way we do?” “And WTF?” Because the truth is, if we hadn’t decided to be young forever, we’d be old.