I bet you think writing for a high-level legal and business audience for Thomson Reuters was a pretty staid sort of gig. Not so. Granted, the megacorp wasn’t calling the shots when I wrote Obsessed with Sex. But they were firmly at the tiller by the time I filed the July 2008 Last Word, Waiting for the Funeral. It remains one of my favourite, sharpest pieces: I still re-read with joy (especially when some baby boomer or other ticks me off). It starts with, “So, I can’t wait for the baby boomers to start dying,” and just gets better.
Last Word: Waiting for the funeral
I can’t wait for the baby boomers to start dying.
Oh dear, did I say that out loud? Ok, my fall-back position is: retire already! And that death thing—I didn’t mean. It was meant to be one of those evil, private thoughts, you know, like “Holy cow, did you ever put on a lot of weight since the last time I saw you” or “Man, are your kids ever ugly.” But it’s out in the open now, so we might as well pick at it. Because it’s absolutely true. I cannot wait for the baby boomers to sing their last song, and every time StatsCanada releases info that shows the boomers’ life expectancy is increasing, I get thoroughly depressed.
It’s not that I hate baby boomers. Individually, I love dozens of them. Hundreds even. Lovely people. Great taste in music (less great taste in clothes, particularly as they abandoned the 1960s for the 1970s and 1980s). Um… did I already say lovely people? Great taste in music? (“The time to hesitate is through/ No time to wallow in the mire/ Try now we can only lose/ And our love become a funeral pyre…” Rhyming mire with pyre—genius. Pure genius.)
Anyway—individually, I’m full of love, peace and eternal groovieness, not to mention under considerable pecuniary obligation, toward many a boomer. As a demographically obese bulge that has dominated and dictated every aspect of our culture, economy and society since the moment their reluctance to toilet train inspired the discovery and marketing of disposable diapers, I’ve had it with them. Enough already! Retire! Die! Go away! Let us have the world for a while, okay?
Yes, there’s bitterness there. Oodles of it. Resentment, too. We who came after the boomers have spent our entire lives living in their shadow. It was bad enough when we were adolescents, knowing we would never have Woodstock or John Lennon (and that our Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger were really, really old and ugly—and also refusing to die and retire. I swear to God, if I have to live through another Rolling Stones tour, I will go berserk, in good old fashioned Viking style). It was frustrating when we entered workplaces designed by and for the boomers, and watched them crowd the upper rungs, dictate policy, sign cheques and dispense favour as they saw fit. It was frustrating but, we thought, our time will come. Eventually, they’ll retire. Eventually, they’ll die.
But no. No, not the boomers. Not for them the constraints of reality experienced by other generations (who knew the effects of dancing with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in one’s youth would be so far-reaching?). No, they abolished mandatory retirement as they started nearing the magical age of 65, at which point they were supposed to get the hell out of the workplace and let the younger cohort be CEOs, managing partners and what not for a while.
And now, they’re trying to abolish death. Every year, they’re living a little longer, getting a little healthier, with a little help from their friends—except now its not Lucy or Mary Jane but a perfectly legal product by Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline. I tell you, it’s enough to make one cry. Bloody boomers. Wasn’t their slogan “tune in, turn on, drop out”? So please… drop out, already!
They won’t, of course. Selflessness, sacrifice and even moderation haven’t been hallmarks of the Flower Children when they were young and they’re not now that they’re old. Sigh. But perhaps… we can appeal to your vanity? I mean, the really great icons of your youth—they all packed it in. John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin—irrevocably, completely gone. Dead. And remembered as truly forever young.
Are those images in any way deterring you from reaching for the newest heart-enhancing, cholestrol-lowering, life-prolonging medication? No? But at least you’re going to start smoking again, right? No?
Fine. Hang on to life and power with your aging talons. Justify it as necessary—cause there aren’t enough of us to fill your shoes (and honestly—given all the sex and free love supposedly going on in your misspent youth—shouldn’t there be more of us? And if there isn’t, whose fault is that?). Spend billions searching for the fountains of youth and eternal life (“Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about/ Strawberry Fields forever”).
And now you know what’s true. As you get older, losing your hair, not-so-many years from now, and when you whimper, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me/ When I’m sixty-four,” we will grit out teeth, watch you pop Viagra, Vioxx and whatever else is keeping you going, and say, “Do we have a choice?”
By the way—thanks for the music. It’s great. (And, you know, just because Health Canada and the FDA pulled Vioxx because of such potential side effects as, um, death, is no reason you shouldn’t finish your vial. And if it’s working for you, I’m sure we can arrange for a continuing supply. OK? Friends?)
Marzena Czarnecka listens to The Beatles and abuses the world’s most numerous generation from the relatively young Calgary.