Along with millions of other people on this planet, I turned 60 years old this year. It made me smile when I realized I was a sexagenarian. Even though I’m an old man now, sometimes I still have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy.
My generation was labeled Baby Boomers. This always sounded to me like we were infants who liked to blow things up. Which, figuratively speaking, was kind of true. The dictionary defines us as, “the demographic group born during the post-World War 2 baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1964”. I am part of the group labeled Late Baby Boomers, born between 1957 and 1964. This is an important distinction because I consider that we Late Baby Boomers were born at the best of all possible times.
Think about it. We were the first generation raised on rock ’n’ roll. Our formative years were filled with social and cultural changes that our country has not seen the likes of since. It was cool to be anti-establishment and to rebel against everything the older generations believed in. It seemed like everyone was fighting against every kind of authority. Disobeying your parents wasn’t just accepted, it was expected.
We thought this was how the world was and always would be — filled with rebellious behavior and revolutionary changes that promised and promoted freedom and equality. The music and colors that surrounded us were loud and wild, as rock ’n’ roll and psychedelics influenced our art, fashion and design. Life was like the movie Yellow Submarine — an acid-trip-inspired cartoon with a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack. It was a magical time to be a kid.
The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War played in the background while we played with our toys. We weren’t protestors or soldiers or part of the establishment, but our brothers and sisters and parents were. Everyone we knew and everything we saw taught us to stand up for what we believed in. These were among our first lessons in right and wrong. They inspired us to make the world a better place. We grew up with slogans like, “We shall overcome” and “Make love, not war,” which set a powerful tone and ambitious goals for us while we were growing up.
Through-out most of America’s history, sexual attitudes have been unnaturally repressive. Sure, people were always having sex and there were always sexual perversions. But most kinds of erotic behavior were as closeted as J. Edgar Hoover’s cross-dressing and were considered as kinky as an R. Kelly kiddie party.
The 1960’s were a time of open sexual abandon that the world had not seen since the Roman Empire. It all started when the FDA approved the first forms of birth control, which gave women more sexual freedom than at any time in modern history. Phrases like “The Sexual Revolution” and “Free Love” were popularized and became rallying cries. Feminism and Women’s Liberation exploded onto the streets and into our homes and workplaces as revolutionary movements. Women started wearing miniskirts and bikinis, going bra-less and standing up for their rights all across the civilized world. And all of this was happening at a time when my generation was reaching puberty and would soon be able to enjoy the benefits. It was the best possible time to be a horny teenager.
Many men in the Early Baby Boom generation had to fight in the Vietnam War. For others, anti-war movements inspired them to burn their draft cards and run away to Canada. This moral dilemma created a looming fear and dangerous crossroad that divided our country even further. But, as further proof of how lucky we Late Baby Boomers are, the draft ended just as we became eligible. Seriously. Men born after 1954 didn’t have to register for the draft, for the first time since it was instituted. As Maxwell Smart used to say, “Missed it by that much.”
The ’80s and ’90s were a mixed bag for my generation. Our country continued to fight its wars but now did so with a volunteer army. The economy rode out several minor recessions, but we managed to avoid another depression. The AIDS epidemic was horrible, but we had reached the age where most of us had settled into monogamous relationships. The quality of our arts and culture may have waned, but that’s really a matter of opinion.
In 1998, Viagra came on the market. Are you kidding me? At almost the exact moment when Late Baby Boomers are experiencing their first signs of erectile dysfunction, they invent a pill that cures it! Hell, we didn’t even know there was such a thing until they found a way to fix it. It was just accepted that when men reached a certain age that they wouldn’t be able to get it up anymore. This is a condition that has plagued mankind since the dawn of time. My generation was the first to receive the gift of ageless hard-ons for the rest of our lives. I believe, that alone positions mine as the luckiest generation. Well, at least for the men.
And now, as my generation approaches retirement, we hear a lot of rumblings about the Social Security system running out of money. Estimates are that, unless the government makes the necessary reforms, Social Security will not be able to meet its obligations beyond 2034. We Late Baby Boomers will be in our 70s by then and can still expect to receive the bulk of our benefits. Besides, according to research at Berkeley, the average life expectancy for people born between 1957 and 1964 is between 72 and 73 years old. This will probably not come as good news to most of you in that age group, but I find it strangely comforting.
Which brings me to my final thought on the subject. In each generation, it seems that most older people see their world as falling apart or going to hell in a handbasket or whatever apocalyptic metaphor they choose to put on the times they are living in. That being said, it certainly does seem like that now.
In addition to the problems we have always lived with — racial injustice, never-ending wars in the Middle East and increasing nuclear proliferation — we are now faced with an ever increasing list of seemingly insurmountable troubles. There are more homeless Americans since the Great Depression. Life expectancies are going backwards for the first time since the AIDS epidemic. Our government and our populace are more divided than any time since the Civil War. Budgetary cutbacks are being made on environmental causes. Millennials are the first generation to statistically earn less money and to be less likely to own homes than their parents. And (this one blows my mind the most) the number one cause of death for people under fifty in America is opioid abuse. So, as a 60-year-old man with no children, I often take comfort in the thought that this is a good time to be old and childless.
We Late Baby Boomers, like every generation, are members of our own exclusive club — much like religious and ethnic groups, celebrities, athletes, soldiers and cops. We share a unique history and common experiences that bind us together. None of us should ever feel truly alone, because there are so many of us who have lived through the same things. We should have a special handshake or a secret signal or at least a knowing look that we share whenever we meet.
After all, each of us is just a product of our times and I am grateful that I was produced when I was and that I got to live through everything I did. I truly believe, it was the best of times.