Love and the Woodstock Generation’s ‘spiritual’ pulse

Let’s do the math. We will start with these dates: August 15-18, 1969.

So if a person was 20 years old and attended the Woodstock Music Festival (or An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music) way back when, how old is this archetypal Baby Boomer today?

You should also recall that the famous Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco actually took place two years earlier. So if you were 21 in that heady summer of 1967, what age are you now and what is going on in your life these days? What are the big issues you are facing?

That’s the unspoken and unexamined context for a fascinating “Your Money” feature in The New York Times, under the headline: “Matchmakers Help Those Over 60 Handle Dating’s Risks and Rewards.” Here’s the summary paragraphs:

According to AARP, 45 percent of adults 65 and older are divorced, separated or widowed. The 60-plus crowd represents the fastest-growing segment in online daters, said Wendy K. Watson and Charlie Stelle, professors of gerontology at Bowling Green State University.

Since its start just over a year ago, AARP Dating, which has teamed with HowAboutWe, a website, to suggest actual offline dates, has attracted almost 60,000 users, said Michelle Alvarez, an AARP spokeswoman.

But online dating can be daunting for this demographic. Unlike younger daters, who are versed in the special etiquette of digital romance, many older people struggle with it. And that’s why some seniors are calling matchmakers and dating coaches to help them make sense of the whole situation.

Interesting stats about the Woodstock generation, right? Might there be a bit of a moral or even religious ghost in those stats linked to the fact that many members of this generation lived, shall we say, adventurous lives before marriage?

Just asking.

But that was not the main religious and/or spiritual reference in this story that caught my eye.

No, it was the term that popped up at the end of the opening anecdote:

After Judith Himber’s husband died in 2010, she didn’t know what to do with herself. “It was a stunning loss,” said Ms. Himber, 73, who works full time as a clinical psychologist in Cambridge, Mass.

She was not sure if she would ever want another relationship; her marriage had been long and happy. But after two years alone she realized that she did want a partner. One problem: She hadn’t been on a date in 33 years.

“I felt old, unattractive and the idea seemed ludicrous,” she said. Still, she joined Match.com, JDate and eHarmony, online dating sites. She found it “excruciating.”

“Signing on each morning and seeing that over 100 guys had looked at my profile and none had contacted me was dreadful,” she said.

She also called Peggy Wolman, a matchmaker and dating coach, paying $2,500 for her services, Ms. Wolman’s starting rate. Together, they explored what Ms. Himber, a grandmother of four, was looking for in a mate. Ms. Wolman and her husband, Richard, a psychologist, also administered a personality test and “spiritual inventory.”

Now, since this “spiritual” reference came at such a pivotal moment — the introduction of the matchmaker theme that is the subject of the news feature — I kept thinking that at some point readers were going to be told more about that part of the mate-searching process.

At the very least, I thought we would find out (a) what kind of issues were addressed in this “spiritual inventory,” (b) whether “spiritual” had anything to do with organized religion and (c) why it was so important to raise that issue, right next to the basic personality test.

But no, the subject literally is never raised again.

I could see several fairly logical questions growing out of this “spiritual” ghost. I mean, the Woodstock era was known just as much for people pursuing “spiritual” adventures as it was for adventures in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’roll. Some of the “spirituality” was woven right into the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, of course. Is that what we are talking about, only now with grandparents doing the searching?

Or are these Baby Boomers who are still seeking soul mates and companionship more likely to be people whose lives have led them to accept some of the religious ties that bind? That often happens when people age, you know.

I’m genuinely curious and, frankly, disappointed. It’s a fine piece, otherwise, and such a solid hook for a story. Thus, I found it strange that the “spiritual” card was played so early on in the report and then dropped altogether. Most strange.

IMAGE: The iconic cover photo from the first Woodstock soundtrack album.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • FW Ken

    I was 17 in 1969, and have spent the last 44 years hearing about the “Woodstock Generation”. Half a million kids show up in a muddy field and that”defined a generation”. Why didn’t the half million kids at World Youth Day in Denver, 1993 define a generation? Or the 3 million praying with Francis on the beach in Rio define a generation? Or the 5-7 million in Manila?

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Youth_Day

    Because the media has been pushing a narrative about American culture that’s only partly true. But notice the value of that narrative: someone made $2500 telling a baby boomer how to date. So ignore the kids going to WYD. There’s money to be made in the Woodstock Generation yet.

    Speaking of dating. I ran into my 87 year old step-father in the company of a widowed friend of his from the retirement center. He’s buried two wives over 65 years, and I’m thinking he didn’t spend $2500 meeting this woman. Actually, he just went to church.

    Speaking of spiritual pulses. :-)

    • Kodos

      Speaking of “pushing a narrative about American culture that’s only partly true”…

      Why doesn’t anyone call the baby boomers the “Altamont Generation”?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Free_Concert

      • Julia B

        I was in San Francisco across the street from the panhandle of the Golden Gate park and blocks from Haight & Ashbury. The Jefferson Starship was practicing for the Monterey Pop in the apartment next door. I don’t think 1/2 million were involved in what was going on. AND they moslty looked like people of my generatiion – War Babies. I was born in 1944 and the Baby Boomers didn’t start coming until 1946/47.
        All this stuff identifying entire generations by a happening or two is bogus.

        The folks at the Summer of Love and at Altamont and at Wood Stock were early on – War Babies – and then later joined by the oldest of the Baby Boomers. I get tired of reading this misunderstanding of time frames. I do remember, though, that kids coming into college 3 years after me (i.e. baby boomers) sure did seem to have a lot more spending money, their own cars and different attitudes toward life – which continues to this day.

        BTW The Beatles were also War Babies, not Baby Boomers.
        And so was Elvis and Chuck Berry and Fabian.

        • Kodos

          Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest that only Baby Boomers were at Woodstock. There was a mix of War Babies and Baby Boomers there. But if the 1970 documentary is any indication, there were lots of Baby Boomers there — many more than the War Babies — at least among the audience. The War Babies are the ones running the show.

  • tmatt

    So, you are all saying that the Baby Boomers were not at Ground Zero for the Sexual Revolution and that high percentages of them were not hit by aftershocks throughout their lives?

    • FW Ken

      No, I’m saying that us baby boomers were more complex than “the Woodstock Generation”, socially, politically, religiously, and, yes, sexually, but the dominant media emphasis has been Woodstock.


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