People my age are described as baby boomers, but our experiences call for a different label altogether.
By Bruce Handy, March 2, 2023
It has long been fashionable to hate baby boomers, “America’s noisiest if no longer largest living generation,” as the Times critic Alexandra Jacobs wrote recently. But I remain on the fence.
I believe that you can appreciate the late David Crosby’s music, for instance, while not endorsing buckskin jackets, walrus mustaches, and lyrics that address women as “milady.”
What I most resent about baby boomers is that, technically, I am one. The baby boom is most often defined as encompassing everyone born from 1946 to 1964, but those nineteen years make for an awfully wide and experientially diverse cohort. I was born in 1958, three years past the generational midpoint of 1955. I graduated from high school in 1976, which means I came of age in a very different world from the earliest boomers, most of whom graduated in 1964.
When the first boomers were toddlers, TV was a novelty. We, the late boomers, were weaned on “Captain Kangaroo” and “Romper Room.” They were old enough to freak out over the Sputnik; we were young enough to grow bored by moon landings. The soundtrack of their senior year in high school was the early Beatles and Motown; ours was “Frampton Comes Alive!” Rather than Freedom Summer, peace marches, and Woodstock, we second-half baby boomers enjoyed an adolescence of inflation, gas lines, and Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech. We grew up to the background noise of the previous decade, when being young was allegedly more thrilling in every way: the music, the drugs, the clothes, the sense of discovery and the possibility of change, the sense that being young mattered.