Embracing The Generation Gap

It feels right that there are differences between generations.  I like the gap.  It’s enjoyable being with younger people and then it’s sometimes a relief  being with people  who begin sentences with “I remember when.”

When I was in my teens, we didn’t call the progression from child to adult anything at all.  We weren’t “teenagers” or “adolescents.”  We were sometimes “youth” (how’s that for an impersonal label?) but mostly we were somebody’s kid.  Since our generation didn’t have its own name, we didn’t call the spaces between generations anything special either.  We had no “gap” as such.  That term began to be tossed around more during the blooming season of flower children when we cautioned the world not to trust anyone over 30.

By then it was too late to distrust my elders.  I was already looking forward to being older.  I admired women in their 30’s – thought they had all the answers.  I couldn’t wait to look like them, dress like them, and somehow achieve their mysterious sophistication.  It seemed to me then that they owned something I needed.

Now adolescence is prolonged so that sometimes a new generation doesn’t get started at all.  We’re chipping away at what I always considered a natural distance between kids and parents.  Terms like “re-juvenile” and “boomerang babies” describe some in their 30’s and 40’s who either never quite launched from the nest, or because of various factors end up living back with their parents for a time.

The sticky part is that while these grown children were away, some of their parents were taking good care of themselves, eating right, exercising, developing new interests, trying on different things and closing the gap even more, making it tough to tell who’s who in a household.

I embrace the concept of generations helping each other, and during these tough times, we see some families deciding to stay together, returning to an earlier model of more than one generation living in the same house. 

But I’d hate to see the differences between generations obliterated completely.   Nature acknowledges distinct seasons, and it feels natural that we should too.  It is a comfort, especially during trying times, to check in with the generations that came before us and realize that this too shall pass.     

Ó By Anita Garner

Is Fifty The New Forever?

That table of students having coffee over there – all of them are dressed identically, all of them sound alike when they talk. Same clothes.  Same speech patterns.  Nothing odd about that, right? 

Except two of them just stood up to leave and someone at the table addressed one of them as “Mister” somebody and the other one indicated that they’d better hurry or they’ll be late for his class.

It’s official.  I can no longer tell high school and college students from the teachers and professors.  Not when they all look like they could be anywhere from 15 to 35. 

It’s not just because I’m getting old.  (I am, but that’s not the point.) The ageless look of this group is partly due to the fact that no one is wearing adult clothing anymore.  Some of the boys-to-men are wearing today’s iconic cap.  Some are in hoodies.  Everyone’s in soft shoes.  Everyone’s in jeans.  

And now my doctor has moved his practice to a huge group where no one wears doctor coats anymore and it’s nearly impossible to tell the young patients from the young doctors. 

Clothes used to be labels unto themselves – not the inside label, but the statements we made by what we put on. How we look offered clues about other things.  We did that on purpose.  Used our clothes to make a statement. Our statements probably offered comfort to some and consternation to others.  Genius or goof-off?  Can’t tell by the clothes anymore.

Here comes the back-in-the-day part:  When we were in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be adults.  Adolescence held no great appeal.  It was pre-Summer of Love, before the culture switched to worshipping youth.  It wasn’t a lot of fun to be a teenager.  In fact, nobody even called us anything except maybe “young people.” 

 

So we copied older people.  We dressed like them as soon as we could.  For my girlfriends, and me it was high heels all the time, tight skirts (think of the Office Manager, Joan, on Mad Men) with loads of makeup and hairspray.  Since there was no glory in staying young, the natural progression was to dress like adults soon. We didn’t hate it. 

 

I must have missed the memo about it not being okay to dress my real age.  Not that getting old is a picnic, but it’s also not awful and doesn’t need to be a secret. 

 

We can’t blame the 60’s and free love for everything.  We all bought into this whole switch from natural aging to forever young.  How come we ever thought it was okay to say “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” 

 

Fifty seems to be the outside age that my friends are comfortable with.  Some of them have already been in their fifties for quite a while and now staying fifty forever doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  Heck, it might even be medically possible one day soon.

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008