The Boomer bust

The seniors of this generation were born in the late 1940s. The author is of that ilk. The seniors were on the bow wave of the baby boom’s voyage of exploration. But they were also closely tethered in the wake of preceding generations. In effect the seniors were keelhauled by the baby-boom experience and left a bit soggy and shaken. If we wound up as financial advisers trying to wear tongue studs or Trotskyites trying to organize Tea Party protests, or both, we are to be forgiven. Hillary Clinton and Cheech Marin are seniors.

The juniors were born in the early 1950s. They were often younger siblings of the seniors and came of age when parents were throwing in the towel during the “What’s the Matter with Kids These Days” feature match. The juniors pursued the notions, whims and fancies of the baby boom with a greater intensity. For them, drugs were no longer experimental; drugs were proven. From the juniors we got the teeny-boppers, the groupies and the more ragamuffin barefoot urchins of Haight-Ashbury. They hunted up some shoes when they eventually made their way to Silicon Valley. ( Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both born in 1955.) But they never did find their neckties.

The sophomores were born in the late 1950s. By the time they reached adolescence, the baby-boom ethos had permeated society. Sophomores gladly accepted sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and the deep philosophical underpinning thereof. But they’d seen enough of the baby boom in action to realize that what works in general terms doesn’t always work when the bong sets fire to the beanbag chair. Circumstances had changed. In college, many of the sophomores attended classes. Some even sneaked off and got M.B.A.s.

The freshmen were born in the early 1960s. They felt no visceral effects from the events that formed the baby boom. To freshmen, the Vietnam War was just something that was inexplicably on TV all the time, like Ed McMahon. Feminism had gone from a pressing social issue to a Bea Arthur comedy show that their parents liked, and, by the time the freshmen were in college, feminism was an essay topic for the “Reading Shakespeare in Cultural Context” course. Hint: Lady Macbeth hit that glass ceiling hard.