I will be the first to say my fellow baby boomers have gone kicking and screaming through most every phase of life.
In case you missed the memos to people ages 52 to 70 we have been sending, our generation is uniquely unique, and under strong delusion that we are the pioneers of every human experience from puberty to palliative care.
We were first to deal with: the angst of adolescence; rebelling against parents and authority; war and peace; impatience; creating music, culture and counterculture; marriage; childbearing and child-rearing; getting divorced; single parenting; confronting life’s unfairness; menopause and midlife crisis; plastic surgery as a necessity rather than elective surgery; caring for sickly and elderly parents; relying more on Google than our memories; and facing the insidious signs of our own aging.
That’s us. We got our first glimpse and taste of mortality watching “The Big Chill” in 1983. In fact, there was a movie, song, play or TV sitcom about every new phase of our lives, from Woodstock to “Seinfeld” to “Parenthood.” That’s because we were the cultural creators of our time.
And now death, that final stop, confronts us in a way we can no longer ignore. The passing of our celebrity icons saddens us, and reminds us. The 2016 deaths of Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Alan Thicke, George Michael and so many others are beginning to shake our live-forever fantasies (if you overlook Keith Richards and Dennis Rodman.)
I can’t tell you how many times in the last few days and weeks I have heard this in response to the latest celebrity death: “They were so young!”
Well, not really. Though some didn’t reach that Seventysomething life expectancy, they are the canaries in the mine of boomerism’s ultimate demise. The estimated 78.8 million baby boomers counted at the peak — including those who later immigrated to the U.S. — are beginning to face death in larger numbers and at a more frequent pace. A Pew Research Center report in April stated that the number of boomers had decreased to 74.9 million in 2015, and that “by midcentury, the boomer population will dwindle to 16.6 million.” In the same report, it was noted that millennials — those born between 1981 and 1998 — have replaced boomers as the largest generation. They now number 75.4 million.
As we head into 2017 facing our personal and collective ends, I don’t feel cheated. We lived. We loved. We left some huge self-indulgent footprints in the sands of time that now are being filled with the high-tech high tides of the next generations.
“The Onion,” which for years has satirically looked forward to the beginning of “The Baby Boomer Die-Off,” has been pining for an era when “we will live in a glorious new world in which no one will ever again have to endure tales of Joan Baez’s performance at Woodstock.”
I have news for those Onion upstarts. We may have lost our position as the most populous generation, but it is not as easy as we made it look to stay on top for five to seven decades.
We won’t be going quietly into the disco/Bob Dylan/Neil Diamond night (just ask our kids). No matter what anyone says or does, we are going to live forever in our own minds.