Sunday, December 28, 2008

Let them wear lipstick!

I predict that 2009 will consolidate the baby-boomer-bashing that has been creeping in, virtually unnoticed by us oldies.

We, who never in our hearts believed that we'd grow old. Certainly we never saw ourselves as growing old like our parents had - being perceived by the younger generations as "past it". But fellow boomers, we are - perceived to be, that is.

I suppose I could hack that. But as well as us being past it, everything is apparently ALL OUR FAULT. ASIF!

Seduction in one click
Reproduced with permission © 2006 ebonWeb
And the worse a problem is, the more our fault it is. There is a positive correlation between the severity of a world problem and the culpability of the boomers.

Global warming, the global economy, the global recession, President George W Bush. It's not our fault about Obama though, not yet ... It's not to our credit either that he's elected. The dividing line between our culpability and the achievement of the younger generations must lie between November 4th 2004 and November 8th 2004.

Look at the Spooner cartoon below. Baby Boomers, the privileged children of the late forties and early fifties. I wish! I was in Australia then. Women received less wages than me for the same jobs. Thousands of refugees from war-torn Europe were settling in Australia, in most cases arriving with nothing.
Here are some family friends of the time, newly arrived in Broome, Australia. The corrugated dwelling behind them was their accommodation.

How quickly did the post-war boom happen? Certainly I was not aware of it till the seventies. When I think of the toys that I and my friends had, I think of perhaps one doll and ball, a Scrabble set and cowboy outfit for my brother, maybe a wire pram for the girl. Oh yes there were also Hula Hoops. The fact that these were popular at all is a sure indicator that our toy selection was meagre. Television was not available in Australia until the first boomers were turning ten. I think my family bought a set when I was 15.

Perhaps the boom years started earlier in the United States, though I have not met any American boomers who had an affluent childhood.

In the seventies some of us started making money. Others started making families. A few did both. We tried to provide for our X-generation babies in a way that our parents had wanted to provide for us, but rarely could.

My own children grew up with more than a ball and hula hoop. Four of us lived on a teacher's salary in the late seventies, early eighties. It was sufficient but in no way affluent. Vacations were camping trips or visiting friends. A typical family had one car.

In the eighties as our children became more self-sufficient and women found it easier to get decent jobs - even as in my own case - careers. There'd be the occasional overseas trip to Bali. We were paying off our homes, paying school fees, renovating.

For baby boomers I think that the nineties was "our time". Except for a brief period in the late sixties and very early eighties when we were young and free and poor, this was the time for ourselves. A brief respite before coping with caring for our elderly parents.

And now? Most of our children are launched though some of us still support a straggler. Most of us are still working, our savings crushed with the economic crisis of 2008.

Yes, life is good. We SHOULD see the cup as half full, though I expect Woody is right when he says it's "half full of poison".

Seriously though, I don't get the Spooners of this world who blame the post-war boomers for the worlds economic ills. When I see a professional, a lawyer, banker, dentist ... they all look about twelve! The people holding up societies infrastructure now are mere babies.

I hope the new year brings more joy economically. It certainly won't hurt us to use less petrol. I remember reading somewhere that when people stop buying, when times are hard, lipstick sales go up. This is seen to be because women want a little luxury, and if they can't afford a new dress or a trip overseas, they'll settle for a new lipstick. At the same time, lipstick fashion colours become brighter and darker. It happened in the Great Depression and its happening now.

So, to the new people coming along, I'm very sorry for what we boomers did - fighting against racial segregation, political and religious persecution, the war in Vietnam, women's rights ...

But you still have your lipstick ... Just make sure that it is eco-friendly and that the tube is bio-degradable and that no animals were harmed during its production.

Perhaps you can use it to paint a few slogans on banners .... after all, it's your world now.

Spooner Cartoon

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finding Felicity

About one hundred years ago when I was a teenager in Melbourne Australia, my life changed course. Encouraged by my mother, I applied for a place at Mac.Robertson Girls' High School.

I was successful. MacRob was, and still is I think, the main public academic school for girls in Melbourne. Going from a suburban 'feeder' school to MacRob with its uniforms, prestige and location (inner city) was a big thing for a working-class kid from a single parent (albeit left-wing) family. I only knew one other girl starting there and we didn't really know what to expect.

It was strange but exciting. Suddenly I was surrounded by girls from the then Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. We had teachers with names like Mrs Raschka and Madame Lewellis. Life was about learning. There was something more to life after all, something better than post-war, white-bread, black and white, protestant Australia.

I didn't like everything about the school, but I did appreciate the exposure it gave me to a wider world; a world beyond a bigoted Australia grudgingly emerging from the 1950s.

I was a quiet girl, mostly on the sidelines. I'd listen and watch girls whose parents came from war-torn Europe, girls who knew what to read, who actually had a religion - and opinions. How I envied them. I wished I had the confidence to speak to them. They seemed so confident and all-knowing. They excelled.

There was one girl in particular, relatively quiet like myself, whose extraordinary intelligence, attitude to work, and perseverance, struck me. I hardly dared speak to her. I'd listen to her essays and her opinions. I poured over her contributions to the school magazine, Pallas. I saw what a person could achieve. And I never forgot her.

After MacRob and university, we all went our different ways. I traveled. Married. Had two children. Changed careers. Ended up living in New York. The friend I started at MacRob with, now lives in England. We are still in touch. But I've always wondered what became of that girl at MacRob who inspired me - I've always remembered Felicity.

Since growing up, every few years I've made an effort to find her. To no avail. Once the husband of a friend told me he'd been her neighbour as a child, but had lost touch. Other ex MacRob girls I'd meet would draw a blank.

And then last night I found her. She's in Melbourne. I called her from New York. I think she was dumbfounded when I told her why I'd been seeking her.

Me, I wasn't disappointed. She was just as I remembered her. Gracious, intelligent, sensitive and kind.

I'm glad I took the plunge. I'm even proud of myself for being so brave, as it was a bit daunting ... more in the anticipation than the happening.

So I'm writing this to have it sit amongst my Letters from New York, to encourage others - if there's someone you want to acknowledge - DO IT!

And thank you, Felicity.