Saturday, January 1, 2011

The myth of Boomer self-absorption

The New York Times leads off with a lazy New Year's story about how Baby Boomers are turning 65 this year, and gives an overview of the landscape thusly: 

Though other generations, from the Greatest to the Millennial, may mutter that it’s time to get over yourselves, this birthday actually matters. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people “will cross that threshold” every day — and many of them, whether through exercise or Botox, have no intention of ceding to others what they consider rightfully theirs: youth.

There are other hints throughout the story that Boomers are uncommonly shallow and narcissistic, but the problem is that the photo leading the story is of this guy, Aloysius Nachreiner, a 65-year-old who made his career at a folding box company and, by the looks of things, has had nothing to do with Botox at any point in his life.

Point being, sweeping generalizations about whole generational cohorts are kind of stupid. The kind of shallow narcissism that the Times describes as being typical of Baby Boomers is a more accurate description of upper- and upper-middle-class Americans who happen to be demographically similar to, ahem, the Times' editors and writers. But such critiques would be doubtless just as accurate for any generation of upper- and upper-middle-class Americans. Nobody likes to get old. Only some of us have the power to spend time and money fighting it, and those happen to be the same people inclined to document it. 


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