I like the gap. Differences between generations feel right to me. I enjoy being with our children and then I enjoy being with people closer to my own age, who begin sentences with “Remember when?”
Remember when we danced to Motown? And sang Doo Wop together? Remember that first Bob Newhart album? Remember when Richard Burton appeared on Broadway and all the women fell in love with him but Elizabeth Taylor got him? Remember how our parents weren’t interested in Elvis, but then they were? Remember when Ray Charles had his first big hit? Remember our favorite kids’ shows on radio that turned into television shows? It’s comfortable having history together.
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 weren’t known as anything except somebody’s kid. Since our generation didn’t have a name, we also didn’t call the spaces between us and others a gap. The term “generation gap” began to be tossed around during the blooming season of the flower children when we were cautioned not to trust anyone over 30.
Too late. I was already looking forward to being an adult. In my teens I admired women who were 20 and 30. I wanted to look like them, dress like them, and somehow achieve the mysterious sophistication those women seemed to own.
Today, adolescence is so prolonged that sometimes the new generation doesn’t seem to get started at all, and it’s eaten away at what I consider a natural distance between kids and parents. Terms like “rejuvenile” and “boomerang babies” describe people in their 30’s and 40’s going back to live with their parents. But while their grown children were away, some of the older folks were taking care of themselves, eating right, exercising, developing new interests, buying new clothes, and generally making it harder to tell who’s who.
I’d hate to see us close the gap completely. What have we got to look forward to, if kids don’t want to grow up and parents don’t want to be their own age either? Just a long, blurry couple of decades where each generation waits out the other to see who’ll blink first?
Ó By Anita Garner