As baby boomers we’ve all gone through the same thing … or we’re about to: coming to terms with coming of age. That’s what Washington DC freelance writer Mary Ellin Lerner talks about in her story about A Child of the Sixties Looking At Sixty.
When I was a teenager in the late 1960s, I loved to pore over old yearbooks and marvel at the matronly appearance of girls from the 1940s and 1950s. They looked like grannies, with their white blouses, pearls, and sensible coifs. As a budding hippie, I felt outraged that these women were forced to become grownups so early in life. They never had a chance to be young and wild and free.
Like many children of the sixties, I believed that I should not trust anyone over 30 — and could not possibly imagine ever being over 30 myself, let alone 50 or 60. Old people were squares. They were on the other side of the Generation Gap … and they looked terrible with their clothes off. As a flower child, I was determined to never age.
All my free-spirited Baby Boomer life, I have avoided and denied my impending senior citizenship by convincing myself that I was young or at least youngish. Now I am undeniably oldish — and beset with a painful identity crisis: how can I be me at 60?
What should I wear? What should I eat? Can I date? Can I apply for jobs? Can I still drive around with my windows down and my music cranked up? Should I cut my hair? Do I need to find senior activities? What are senior activities?
Society offers plenty of age-related guidelines for kids. You have to be four-feet-tall to ride a roller coaster, sixteen to get married, and twenty-one to vote and drink. There are child guidelines for books, movies, and video games. Clothing stores have special sections for children.
But no signs or hints for me as I enter my seventh decade. When I log onto a dating site, there is no fine print stating that dating is not dignified for people over 50. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s don’t have middle-aged and geriatric labels on their clothes.
And there’s definitely no one to give me guidance on whether or not to take advantage of the myriad offerings in plastic surgery and non-invasive skin enhancements to restore my appearance from oldish to youngish.
Looks like I am going to have to figure out how to be 60 on my own — with a little help from my Boomer friends who are thriving in maturity.
Baby Boomers are known for our optimism and courage. We believe that change for the better is always possible, whether it is improving our bodies, our souls, or the society in which we live. Already Boomers appear to be enjoying the healthiest and liveliest retirement in memory. As historic boundary crashers blessed with a generational tendency toward self-confidence, my fellow Children of the Sixties are refusing to put any limits on what they can say and do or look like in their dotage.
I’m with them. To heck with the pearls and coif. I’m gonna dance to the beat of my own weathered drum. I trusted my fellow Boomers in the sixties and I trust them now.