From The Midfield Marker
(from Summer 1996)
My temporary membership card in the AARP arrived in the mail the other day. This was probably a routine event for my mail carrier, but it was a special delivery for me. It felt as if perky ol' Gidget was being transformed into the "little old lady from Pasadena"! Or as if Beaver Cleaver might be ready for bifocals!!
You see, I really appreciate that the good folks at the AARP want to offer me some fine discounts -- but I'm simply not ready to consider my own mortality. As a leading-edge Baby Boomer, I'm turning 50 this year -- but in these days of home fitness equipment, nutritional supplements, and transplants of all flavors, that's not "middle age" -- that's just "midyouth"!
We Boomers are redefining the aging process in America, just as we've changed every other cultural stereotype we've encountered. In years past, it may have been necessary for Pa Cartwright to turn over the reins at the Ponderosa or for Tennessee Ernie Ford to put down his "sixteen tons" -- the physical requirements of most work literally wore people out. You bet your sweet bippy, that folks were ready to retire.
But today we let our fingers do the walking and we sweat for recreation. We "work out" 3 times a week, just to stay in shape. And at work, ours is much more of a service economy, much more cerebral than physical. The mental and emotional stress might be far greater, but our society has acted to minimize the physical strains. We Boomers expect to live longer, to stay healthier, and to have far greater disposable income than any generation that has come before us.
And on top of that, we've always fancied ourselves as people who know how to have a good time. We might have trimmed our long hair by now. And we might have decided that the frug and the shag are mere relics of the past. But let's face it: If we Boomers want to do something, then by definition, it's "cool". We and everybody else still wear blue jeans. Mustangs and Harley-Davidsons are still "in". And everybody still listens to our music. It's hard to believe, but the Beatles will probably earn more in 1996 than they did in 1966!
As Boomers enter their significant earning years -- and as we can afford all of the big screen TV's, the satellite dishes, and all of the other "toys" that we might want -- this truly is "midyouth". What we define as "cool" might be constantly changing, but we maintain that same sense of fun and adventure that we took to that big bowl game or to Disneyland or to Woodstock. We've learned to draft beer and not students, and we're proud of it!
We Boomers -- especially the older ones like me -- grew up in an age when America was invincible. We conquered that new frontier. We walked on the moon. And we expected a higher standard of living, a better education, and even more incredible prosperity. We believed in the magical age of Camelot. We really did ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. We believed in our generation and we knew we could make a difference. Sure, we know by now that we've made some mistakes along the way and suffered some setbacks, but we still know that we are in the vanguard.
Bob Dylan wrote more than 30 years ago that "the times, they are a-changing" -- and we all agreed. We felt the need to change how our country viewed its people, its government, and how public policy should be shaped. And whether we sang along in coffee houses, on the march to Washington, or in a bar in DaNang, we all just knew that we were important -- and that we could change the world. Well, some things change and some remain the same. Whether our earlier "uniform" was government-issue or a surplus-store special, we've reconciled our past differences and moved forward. And we still know that we're the "leaders of the pack" -- that the world will follow our lead.
Even as we begin to struggle with the difference between "king of the hill" and "over the hill", we are still changing the world around us in our own image. We are nowhere near ready to move to the sidelines and to simply watch the rest of the game. Even if we expect to have the financial ability to "retire", we feel the need to continue contributing. Many of us have come to believe that we are the work that we do -- I work, therefore I am. The physical requirements to end that heavy workload have been minimized -- and the mental and emotional ones to continue changing the world around us are as strong as ever. The times will continue to be a-changing and we'll still be the ones leading the way.
Oh, and the AARP? Well, that's not for me...not just yet. Peter, Paul and Mary may be singing about being on the cover of MODERN MATURITY, but I'm not ready for that yet. I mean, after all, I haven't even figured out what I want to be when I grow up!
This article was the most-read feature on the original BOOMERNET website when it was originally published in 1996. The author may have aged a bit (like fine wine, I hope), but the basic concept can still ring true for our younger readers :-)
In addition, to show that you're quite happy to be at midfield, just go to the BOOMERNET Apparel and Gift Shop and grab one of the new midfield shirts -- there are 3 different styles. Show the world that you are happy to be viewing the world "At the Midfield Marker" . . .