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The Boomer Strikes Back

This week, I ran across an unsolicited self-help article clearly designed for the remaining Baby Boomers who want to be led “into a successful 21st century!”  It was written by a Gen-Xer clearly striving to be as “cool” and “relevant” as a millennial.  I’m going to mind the generation gap here, although jumping into it might be fun, too.

There’s always been some sort of generation gap between the older and younger folks.  Cole Porter’s lyrics to “Anything Goes,” introduced in 1934, implies as much with lines like, “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows, anything goes…”  Times have changed, and a glimpse of stocking might be shocking today, but only because so many women choose to go bare-legged.

It seems the yellow brick road to success in this not so new century isn’t about keeping up-to-date with changing laws and regulations or economic shifts that drive consumer behavior as it was back in the old 20th century.  I now understand that the road to an abundance of joy is about phones, email addresses, technology and lighting.  This should be extremely good news to the shrinking number of Baby Boomers who give a damn.

First of all, we’re told to get rid of our home phones, if we still have one.  Never mind that no one can validly claim to have lost contact with you since you’ve had the same number for 34 years, or 20, or whatever the number might be.  Never mind that anyone you’re talking to using a cell phone knows that, if the call drops, it’s not on your end.  Landlines don’t drop calls.

A dear friend of mine recently had occasion to put someone in touch with me on a personal matter.  I didn’t get a call from the third party, and my friend was quite irritated to hear that.  When I said that maybe I had just missed the call, my friend said, “You can’t miss a call.  You have a landline.  And an answering machine!”  I couldn’t argue with that.

Next up, any email address with AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo has got to go.  It doesn’t matter that email is a fairly basic service—you send ‘em, you receive ‘em.  Using old providers identify you as not having “bothered to keep up with fashions.”  Fashions in emails?  Is this a thing?

If there is any one thing that defines boomers to the younger generations it is our resistance to technological changes, both at home and in the workplace.  I totally own this one.  But what to do?

The answer is to make a standing appointment with yourself to spend one to two hours each week confronting technology applications that frustrate you.  “Dig into the online documentation” with the outcome of getting marginally less frustrated and marginally more efficient.  If “I’d rather eat dirt” is your response, I’m right behind you whispering in your ear that you can eat anything you can fry.  Especially with ketchup.

Disappearing lines between work life and home life have led to good things and bad things.  The latter list includes responding to the boss at 11:00 on a Saturday night, which might be fixed by ignoring the boss at 11:00 on a Saturday night.  That would take some guts, so everyone may not be able to do that.    

On the list of good things is the ability to answer work emails while attending little Johnny’s soccer game.  Being present in the bleachers while not paying attention to the game makes one more engaged with your youngsters than not being there at all.  But it won’t make sense to little Johnny when he scores and looks up into the bleachers to find your head bowed (in supplication?) over your cell phone.

There’s one last thing that is needed to finish this journey, and I’m with this one.  To paraphrase Elizabeth Taylor in an all but forgotten TV movie, “The thing about real life it’s all bad lighting and no soundtrack.”  But now it’s not just your vanity that is assaulted by that bad lighting, it’s your Zoom presentation.  And that is a threat to success in the 21st century.  Or, so they say.  

Truth be told, the whole thing sounds like an update to the 1975 book Dress for Success.  It smacks of a “fake it till you make it” approach to a one-size-fits-all definition of success.  If perception is reality works well, we can alter our perception to change our reality.  But whether we perceive it or not, there is a real reality that can crash in on our perceived reality at any given moment. 

I’m not making all these changes.  I’m keeping my landline, my separate dining room and Mother’s china until I leave this house, hopefully feet first.  

OK boomer, some might say, and I’ll embrace it.  Because it is OK, boomer, it really is.