The Baby Boomers. The Rock and Roll Generation. The biggest and most photographically documented generation to date, if only because we’ve been around since the day the technology became affordable to the masses (later generations will catch up).
And we’re going gray.
Like any youth, we thought we’d live and be young forever. Like no other youth before us, our heroes were frozen in time by the lens of the camera. In our mind’s (and the camera’s) eye, Mick Jagger will always be a skinny, tousle-headed kid with huge but normal shaped lips, no matter that he just turned a dissolute 64 and has a mouth that droops nearly down to his sunken chest. 60 year-old David Bowie (who’s held up much better) will always be that gender bending almost elfin fellow with the sly look and the oddly captivating voice we first saw on television 40 years ago.
What inspired me to reflect on this phenomenon? I attended a rock concert featuring three of my favorite bands from MTV’s heyday in the 1980’s. I expected the rockers to be older than I mentally picture them from their iconic music videos. What really stunned me was the age of the audience. Going in, I thought that my husband, (“the D-man”) ,would be among the older looking of the men there. He’s 52, with a very heavy dose of silver in his hair. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were men there that made Johnny Carson look young! Where did our youth go?
Intellectually, I know age is relative. Health, state of mind, and enjoyment of life are the key to living well regardless of your chronological age. But still…we look through our photo albums and see ourselves frozen in time, forever young, forever vibrant, forever beautiful (or not). Why, I wondered as we drove home, was there a sick feeling in my stomach? After all, I should be pleased that my husband was not one of the older looking members of my gener…oh…shit. My generation. My generation?
My generation is (or at the very least is getting) old. Which means I am getting old. This made me think. (Dangerous, I know). We can’t really be all that old, can we? Brain whirs with some quick mental calculations. That’s when I realized that ol’ liver lips is 64, Bowie is 60, if Elvis were alive he would have just turned a whopping 72, Tina Turner is 68, Deborah Harry is 62, the Wilson sisters from Heart are 53 and 57, Chrissie Hynde is 56, and all of the guys in ZZ Top are 57. Damn.
Where does this leave us? But more importantly, where does this leave ME? Well over the proverbial hill with little or nothing to show for it…at first glance. Okay, I am over “the hill”, but I do have something to show for it. No, I don’t have a fancy education. I dropped out of college to care for my parents when they became ill during my freshman year and continued with that task for nearly 20 years. I don’t have a lot of money or possessions. Because of the expenses of those 20 years as a primary caregiver, I was massively in debt, and finally gave up trying to pay it off two years ago when our lovely elected representatives passed the draconian changes in the bankruptcy laws. I don’t have a permanent job, thanks again to our lovely government’s hardline agenda to first and foremost serve corporate America regardless of the disastrous results. So, what do I have?
True friends. Love. Honesty. Trust. Joy. All of those intangible things that make getting gray not only bearable, but worthwhile. Each one of my carefully dyed gray hairs represents an experience. One that made me the person I am today. A person that is loved for who she is, and what she feels and what she does for others. If you are a member of my generation and can claim nearly as much, then your gray hairs are worth it, too. AND, you are a success.
So be proud as you’re driving in your car - gray head boppin’ to the geezer rock blasting from your stereo. In just a few more years, you’ll have that left turn blinker going non-stop, and it’ll just be clear sailing until the Giant Nuclear Fireball comes to take us all home.
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