I watched the movie West Side Story when I was fifteen (I think) and there was a short scene between an old man and one of the Jets that always stuck with me when it comes to generation gaps and it’s always rung true.
Doc: Why, when I was your age…
Action: When *you* was my age? When my old man was my age, when my brother was my age… You was never my age, none of ya! And the sooner you creeps get hip to that, the sooner you’ll dig us!
Doc: I’ll dig you an early grave, that’s what I’ll dig.
A-Rab:[snaps his fingers] Dig, dig, dig…
And that’s the way every older generation feels and every younger generation feels. The older generation is always, “When I was your age.” and the younger is always, “You were never my age” because times change, circumstances change, and the world changes. We can’t imagine what the younger generation has to deal with because we’re not dealing with it. And they can’t imagine what we had to deal with because they will never have to go through what we went through to get where we are. It’s really as simple as that. The kids of today may have it “easier” than we do (and I use quotes because I don’t think they actually do have it easier) but the stresses of being a kid today are different than when I was a kid. Just because life isn’t as physically taxing as it was when I was a kid doesn’t mean life is any easier for kids nowadays. The world is still a big, confusing place, and it’s still sink or swim for every person who goes out into it. No matter what generation one was raised in.
So, the question that prompted this was: Think about the generation immediately younger or older than you. What do you understand least about them — and what can you learn from them? And my answer is simple, there isn’t one thing that I understand least about either generation and the thing I learn most from both is that time does change, and that one quote I learned so long ago really cemented for me. I will never be their age, and they will never be mine. The sooner I got that, the sooner I understood them… the older and the younger.
But, this question ties into something else that I was thinking about not too long ago. I kinda feel sorry for people who were born in and around the year I was born (1966). Why? Well let me explain. When I turned 17, I kinda looked forward to turning 18 because back then, that was the legal drinking age, and as I may have mentioned before, I like to stay on the sunny side of legal. Well, wouldn’t you know it, that was the year they raised the drinking age to 21, and I was just under the grandfather dates. Well, damn. And yes, I waited until I was 21 to drink (mostly… I did… I know…). If I remember correctly, it’s also the year they raised the legal smoking age to 18, but I didn’t care about that because I really didn’t feel like smoking.
I dunno about other people born in my year, but I also feel like we tend to be just behind the “Big whatever-O” dates too. Whenever I was younger, it was the “Big 3-O” I distinctly remember my mom getting upset when she turned 30, then 40. I also remember in my 20’s people having “Over the hill” parties for their 40th birthday. I’m about to turn 50 in a year or two and I’m pretty sure that’s about middle age nowadays. Could be. I’ve lost track anymore. Maybe it’s sixty. Who knows? People are living longer and longer these days. All I know is I’ve never had an “Over the Hill” party because I’m not sure when I’m about to go “over the hill” because the age keeps changing on me. I was gonna have one when I turned 45 (coincided with my graduation too) but… nah. Maybe when I’m fifty. We’ll see. I know that 50, then 55, used to be the retirement age, but that’s not true anymore. It’s 65… I think. I’m disabled, so I’m not working, but my husband is. I betcha when he turns 60 (he’s two years younger than me), that’ll have gone up to 70. Who knows? Maybe things will turn around and people will stop living as long. But I do know that people aren’t retiring at 50 anymore. And I do remember that they used to.
And maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really feel like a part of any “generation”. Not really. I don’t consider myself a Gen-X’er, and I’m too young to be a part of the Baby Boomers. I feel like people born in and around the year I was born are on the cusp of two generations and not really a member of either. I know, I know, there’s no distinct line that delineates where one generation ends and the other begins, but I dunno, I just often look around at people my age and I either see people like me who are square pegs or others who are desperately trying to fit into one generation or the other. Could be confirmation bias. I admit that. I’m only calling it like I see it.
So I have no difficulties with any generation, really. I’m mostly an outsider looking in when it comes to “generations” on all levels. And I’m okay with that. It helps me fit in with people both younger and older than me, and that’s kinda cool. So long as I keep in mind what Action said, “You creeps will never be my age…” it really works. I’ll never be “their” age, and they will never be mine. And you know what, dear readers, that’s okay too.
Edited to add. I’d forgotten that I’ve answered this prompt before. Huh.