Yesterday’s post of the top 10 things of being a middle-aged woman got me thinking about the time period in which my contemporaries and I grew up. Born in the late 60’s, we became aware of the world in the 70’s and came of age in the 80’s. We are a downbeat generation, nestled in between the baby boomers and gen x-ers. I don’t even think our generation has a name.
We were the first to be extensively babysat by the TV. We learned our ABC’s from Sesame Street, forming our perceptions of inclusion (people and monsters of all colors lived together fairly harmoniously) and exclusion (“which of these things doesn’t belong”). We learned that it was ok for a man like Mr. Rogers to be obsessed with changing clothes. Sweaters and sneakers rotated with regularity in his little house. Later, we wanted to cruise on the Love Boat, look for de Plane with Tattoo on Fantasy Island, and drive a Ferrari with a ball cap like Magnum PI. Is it any wonder that we became so materialistic and built McMansions to live in?
People had already walked on the moon by the time we came along, so we missed the wonder of that moment, but we did witness on live TV the space shuttle blowing up. Similarly Kennedy was assassinated before we arrived, but we were in middle school when Reagan was shot.
We did some pretty cheesy, if fun, summer projects with Grandma: Macrame plant hangers; hook rugs; painting by number. We bought Rinky Dinks once and then Grandma figured out you could have almost as much fun shrinking down her prescription bottles in the oven, so that was pretty toxic, I’m sure.
The Vietnam War came to an end in our early childhood, and our young eyes soaked up the anti-war protests, free love and rock and roll on our black and white TV’s. Flower power, Baby! From this, we picked up a willingness to rebel, but only when it suited us and wasn’t too painful, as disco roller skated us into the 80’s and Gordon Gecko taught us that “Greed is Good.”
HIV/Aids became an epidemic and we watched men shrivel away in front of our eyes. Fear and homophobia were at an all-time high, but we decided that this sickness was not a punishment from God and we educated ourselves and our neighbors and funded research to find treatments that extend the quality of life. We made memorial quilts and hung them in exhibits to show that these people had lived and had worth. And Magic Johnson came back and played basketball even with HIV.
We have first-hand experience with bad fashion, beginning with 70’s bell bottoms, leisure suits, and turtle neck sweaters all the way through the 80’s parachute pants, neon everything, jelly bracelets, moon boots, Member’s Only jackets, Michael Jackson gloves and mom jeans. This baseline of bad taste set us up well for better fashion choices in the 2000’s. We look relatively good now.
We grew up on Big Macs, Mountain Dew, and Dominoes pizza, Twizzlers, Pop Rocks (didn’t some kid die from eating Pop Rocks with a Coke?), Freshen Up Gum and candy cigarettes. And now we are paying it forward with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer . . . Sorry, kids.
Our first video game entertained us for hours with a white blip moving across a black screen. It is the ancestor of the life-like war games our children now play day after day. I wonder what years of Call of Duty will do to the psyches of our offspring, if Pong helped make us whatever it is we are.
We became adults and had children before 9/11, and we mourned not just the loss of souls that day, but also the loss of the naive cocoon we lived in and that our children would never know. This world will never be the same and we must never forget.
The soundtrack to our lives has been incredibly rich, filled with soul, rock and roll, new wave, disco, pop and reggae. We heard the Carpenters croon Muskrat Susie in our parent’s car, Queen, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC blared from our brother’s room, we were leaving on a jet plane with John Denver and summer lovin’ with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. The Beach Boys, John Melencamp, Hewey Lewis, all things Motown, U2, The Cure, INXS, the Talking Heads — “Watch out, you might get what you’re after!” Sweet Home, Alabama. Just makes me want to create that perfect Pandora station with an ambrosia of throwback music.
The movies. I just can’t do them justice: the Pink Panther and Young Frankenstein and the Princess Bride and the Holy Grail. <sigh> Trading Places, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future. Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and everything else John Hughes ever did.
To steal a line from the cotton coalition, this is all the Fabric of Our Lives.
Now, members of the no-name generation, let’s get Prince into those high heeled boots and party like it’s 1999! (Because pretty soon, social security is going to run out and we’ll have to figure out how those of us in the trough are supposed to cover the costs of the giant waves of people around us . . . ) Cheers!
Sarah, this is wonderful! For some reason the song “Paranoid Eyes”, by Pink Floyd comes to mind with such lyric’s as, “Now you’re lost in a haze of alcohol soft middle age. The pie in the sky turned out
to be miles too high. And you hide, hide, hide. Behind brown and mild eyes”.
Thanks, Matt. Perfect quote. I’m certainly in the middle of that haze!
Wow, this post is so right on and encapsulates well your generation – great details! I’ve never thought about those born just after the boomers like you (I am a boomer smack dab in the middle statistically) as being a no-name generation, but I suppose Baby Boom Gen takes all the attention from you. Your childhood/youth experiences were probably similar to mine in that I, too, heard all that music and lived the 70s trends, but also had a touch of the sixties thrown in. Being older, I’ve been able to put life and all those times into perspective to help define my life. I wrote a memoir about it, Maybe Boomer. From the title you might sense I didn’t feel like I fit into my generation, and you’d be right. My generation had a name and an identity, but I did not fit in. You can check it out, along with my weekly blogs about nostalgia and BB living, on my website at mikeandberg.com. Meanwhile, I will Follow you now and look forward to reading up on your observations about life!
Thanks so much for your comments and your Follow, Mike. I will check out your blog and website. I don’t know why we feel the need to categorize ourselves, whether generationally, genetically, phonetically or biologically. However, it is fun to consider how our collective viewpoint has been shaped by our growing up years.