Privilege Blog

On The Edge Of A Boom


Where do you sit – on the edge of a wave, on the crest, sliding down the back as the height passes, or down in the trough? What on earth am I talking about? Your relationship to population booms and busts. Where do you sit?

Just recently I read The Girls, by Emma Cline. It’s a story of a teenager who becomes part of a group that resembles the cult led by Charles Manson. Very well written, well enough that I wished it had told a longer story. I was brought back quite sharply to my teenage years.

And yet not quite.

In 1969 the protagonist is 14. I was 13 then. Above, I’ve posted a picture I drew in 1970 of me and some friends . When asked to dress up, I still chose Alice in Wonderland. No hot pants, no flag tees. Far too young in attitude to hop in someone’s bus and join a cult.

I had a similar experience watching Mad Men. Sally Draper, people have calculated, was  born in 1954. Your humble writer, who is talking an awful lot about herself we must admit, was born in 1956.

Let’s move to the second person.

The baby boom began in 1946 and lasted until 1964. We, the second half, are occasionally called “Generation Jones.” When one is born in the later stages of a boom, one watches. One sees history but does not actually join in. Sure, one visits Haight Ashbury in 1971, but only to say hi to someone’s older brother. One notices that nobody seems to be tidying up the way our mom does. That there don’t seem to be enough places to sit and one cannot understand why. Because we’re 15, not 20.

America had another population boom since the 1950s, the “Baby Boomlet” of the late 80s and 90s. I wonder what this wave will bring, and what artists will do with its thrashings in retrospect? And I wonder about the experience of those born just after, or just before.

The future makes more of us than lessons. We boil down into excellent entertainment. I’ve just watched an Amazon series called Good Girls Revolt. So commercial, as opposed to artistic, that you do wonder why any of the actresses agreed to take their clothes off. Oh well. I digress. It was fun enough.

We have all seen our youth lacquered by television productions, right? Sure, our hair was long in the 60s and early 70s. But it didn’t hang that precisely. Women with waves were tying weights to the end of their ringlets, we lacked styling tools. TV does not celebrate our mistakes.

Or, for the most part, the experience of us younger or older than the interesting wave. That’s OK. Sitting on the observation deck does allow us to keep some secrets.

So, not to belabor the question, where do you sit in relation to population booms? And does that position affect you?

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55 Responses

  1. Born at the end of 1957 into a small family below the poverty level, I watched as my revered, older-by-9-years brother made mistakes with drugs. I managed to not make the same mistakes.

  2. Born in 1955….the Leave it to Beaver era!
    Children ran freely in the neighbourhood and felt safe….our Mothers all knew each other and looked out for us.

    Mom stayed home, dad went to work…the Fuller Brush man and an Avon Lady regularly rang the door bell and groceries were delivered by a teenage boy after we got home from school!

    It was quite a lovely time to grow up!

  3. I was born in 1976 which is considered the last year of Generation X. I have always felt like Gen X’s younger sister, and the millennials’ older sister. I don’t really identify with either one. However, because I am single and childless, I find that this moment in my life is full of younger friends.

  4. B. 1960, officially a boomer but more of of an early Xer in attitude. My older friends were hippies, but I was a punk, lol. The 60s always seemed like a huge mystery everyone else knew abut but me.

    1. @joannawnyc, ?”The 60s always seemed like a huge mystery everyone else knew abut but me.” Ain’t that the truth. And if you were a punk, heck, you were way ahead of the curve.

  5. I was born in 1952. In 1969, I was 17–such a great age. I really like my position among boomers as I was old enough to experience some of the classic 1960s (which I believe really extended, at least in spirit, into the early 1970s.

    1. I still have the big silver earrings I bought from a young artisan “on the drag” in Austin in the fall of 1970. While they are not peace symbols, when you first see them, they give that feeling. There was a lot of excitement in the air during that autumn. I can still feel it when I think back to that time.

  6. Right in the middle of the boom, born in 1951. Graduated from high school in 1969, a Catholic school in the middle of Berkeley, so if I leaned toward anything hippie it was weekends only, and not far to lean. But the music of my memories has not been equaled, in my opinion (and apparently in the opinion of all canned-music suppliers, who include practically nothing beyond 1975). My position has most recently affected me when I gently corrected someone born in 1984 who posted that Sarah Palin was the first woman to run for vice-president. That made me feel really, really old.

  7. I was born in 1970 and I identify with the GenX generation. My childhood was very adult-centred and we were left to our own devices. Latch-key kids and all that entailed. The cold war was a big part of our world-view, and I remember computer classes beginning at age 14… I didn’t get it!
    When I went to University I really felt that I would have my 20’s to get my career and life sorted but at age 22 I had an unplanned pregnancy (my son). I got married, had the baby, had another, VERY uncool for my age group. And funny because most of my friends are older, some as much as 15 years. I think it’s due to my early motherhood (for my generation).
    Great post Lisa and I love reading about the generational experiences. XOX

    1. @DaniBP, That is another way to find oneself just outside the mainstream of your age. Take a step sooner or later than everyone else!

    2. @DaniBP, that is such an interesting observation. I (born in ’67) had the experience of moving from a career in academe back to our family farm about a year before my husband and I had our first child. Our children are mostly a bit older than our peers’ children at the university, but when my husband and I attended our first kindergarten back to school night here in rural California, we were by far (save another family of academics who worked at the local university) the oldest parents there, by at least 7-10 years. Change comes slowly to this valley I grew up in — though I never really fit in with gen X when that zeitgeist did land here. My world outlook was shaped by working at a sierra summer camp throughout high school and college. The (older) young adults there seemed sort of “hippie” to this farm kid, but what I realize now is that they were really the first environmentalists and I ever got to know, the first people who I ever met who thought of social justice outside of a white, Christian protestant context.

  8. Born in 1968 my husband and I both. We rarely meet anyone our exact age, either slightly older or younger. This makes us sad for some strange reason to know that there are less of us.
    My mom worked until pregnant with me at the Milwaukee Railroad in downtown Chicago. She returned to work in the burbs when I went off to kindergarten.
    Latchkey at 4th grade so my parents got a dog to keep me company. Dogs are still my best friends today.
    MTV at the start of my teens. Was a wonderful ride with music. Tapes, vinyl, radio…the best of it all. Played outside till the streetlights came on.
    No complaints here. No cell phone dependency. Not even now. I would rather be IN life.
    Wish every kid today could have had this.

    1. @Tracy Elizabeth, The screens have crept into all kinds of spaces:(. And that’s interesting, what it feels like to be in a population trough – thank you for sharing your perspective.

  9. Born in 1978 and feel in-between Gen X and Millennial. It’s weird how much media attention Millennials receive; I can’t really relate to that group in most ways (grew up typing my high school papers on a typewriter, for example) but due to other life factors I’m not firmly Gen X either. Sometimes I think these labels are an oversimplification of the challenges every generation faces, in slightly different ways.

    1. @Meg, Trying to stay away from that right now. Everyone is overloaded and frayed. But I should have thought about my title!

  10. December 1957. One of five kids with a stay-at-home mom. I remember the summer of 1969 or 70 when we were living in the Bay Area and Jean Dixon predicted that California would break off from the continental US during the next big quake and sink into the ocean. Scary, but exciting, too.

  11. 1961-sliding off the boom. Relate mostly to boomers. Parents decided to become hippies, so we spent a lot of time at anti-war protests and at the beach making peace symbol shaped sand candles. Only working mom in the neighborhood. Police cars following our school bus because the zodiac killer had threatened to attack a school bus. Watergate. An interesting time to grow up but not very idyllic. The present always seems best to me. I guess I’m not very nostalgic!

  12. I’m a second half baby boomer (1957) married to an early boomer (1949). There are some significant differences in our experiences and memories, just enough for interesting conversations but not enough for completely different outlooks.

    1. @Cathy, I can imagine some very interesting conversations. I wish I knew someone who had been born in the early baby boom. I’d be so curious to hear what it was like in the thick of things, rather than the pre-teen periphery.

  13. So glad you are posting more often.

    I love your blog. It fascinates me. A new post is my morning treat, in the garden, with a fresh coffee and the dog at my feet and the jasmine blooming. :)

    Thank you again.

    1. @Jess, Thank you!

      I want to ask, and truly not in search of compliments, what fascinates you? My blog seems so regular to me, so every day. So I am so curious what about it is interesting, if it is, above and beyond a tralala kind of chat.

    2. @Jess, Hi Lisa! I missed your reply until now – so sorry! Thanks for following up. :) Well, what do I love about your blog?

      1. The writing. I’m a sucker for good writing of all kinds. Your voice is unique, in a sea of so many blogs which sound similar.

      2. Your style: not just personal aesthetics (although that too), but a way of ‘being’ in the world, and experiencing the everyday, that infiltrates your posts.

      3. A glimpse into another lifestyle. I’m a 41-year-old woman, never married, no children, Australian. Our lives are so different, yet your voice seems somehow familiar. You are like nobody I know IRL, and I enjoy that.

      4. A quiet intelligence and sense of restraint that underlies your words.

      5. Your appreciation of nature, children, fabrics, nuances – the everyday but sublime details that pass most people by.

      I probably have not explained it well, but those are my thoughts. :) Thank you again for writing.

    3. @Jess, Thank you so much. As I understand you, you aren’t fascinated because I am Other, which is one kind of interest, but more because we are kindred spirits. That is absolutely so nice to hear. Thank you. It sounds as though you, like me, are susceptible. Experiencing the world at an intense pitch, maybe. Me too. Again, thank you.

  14. I’d need far too much space to answer this question, and I don’t want to hijack space here ;-) This is something I’ve thought about quite a bit, squirming uncomfortably when anyone tries to push me into that Baby Boomer box. Because yes, technically. But the solely age-based approach ignores all those important distinctions your questions are trying to bring out — Brava!
    Briefly, if I can:
    born ’53, eldest child in large Catholic family, mother taught before staying home with us, father rose to supervisor of a large-ish department, tradesman (cook in large institution) — so upper working class??
    I married at 21, had first of four children at 23 — Husband’s background not so dissimilar but much smaller family (4) and definitely not Catholic (an important identifier at the time). We bought our first home (a house) at 24, 26 respectively.
    I went back to school part-time while raising my kids, finally finishing Phd at 50+, so many younger friends throughout those years.
    Aargh, i’m getting tempted to say so much more (the constant references of younger colleagues or friends to the easy times I’ve had as a Boomer, ignoring all the possible challenges to that narrative that might have resulted from Real Life!), but I’ll stop here. Such a fascinating array of responses. Thank you!

    1. Came back to try to delete this — it doesn’t really answer your question properly, does it, nor does it get to what bothers me about the demographic approach in general — but that doesn’t seem to be an option. So let it rest as is, but know that I know it’s a wonky response. Sorry. . .

    2. @Frances/Materfamilias, Oh I love this thoughtful commenting. Not wonky at all. Just because my reaction is to want to be in the thick of baby booming, your experience of the issues with exactly that is so valuable to hear.

  15. 1984. I’m on the older end of that dreaded generation… gasp!… millennials. I’m in my early 30s, married, have a child, and a mortgage, and I’ve been in the workforce for a decade. I’m a tax accountant. I think people have been bashing millennials for so long that they don’t even know what the word means anymore. They are picturing naive 20 year olds who expect everything while working for nothing. Millennials aren’t so young or naive anymore, and I always cringe during one of those workplace soft skills trainings where they make sweeping generalizations about each age group. No, as a millennial, I don’t want an open concept workspace, and no I don’t want a foosball table, I just want to do my job, make money, and go about my life. Just like basically every person in every generation.

    For some reason, I find myself getting along very well with Boomer women and Gen X men. And most people in my general age group, male or female.

    1. @Sarah, I think it’s really important that people like you are recognized. Not every Millennial wants to move to Portland and make things. I’m all for making things, but I’m also all for tax accountants. Especially woman tax accountants, because numbers are power.

  16. I am from 1952 in the deep south.Atlanta. I remember our TV with tubes in it watching Zorro with Daddy, I remember the kkk walking up our street in robes to beat someone up, I remember segregated bathrooms, I remember Martin Luther King, I remember James Brown. I remember my mamas cooking….. I tried to be a hippie but failed cause I dont smoke. The horrors of my past (see above) are much worse things (IMO) than my kids have faced or lived through, although 9/11 was a real blow for us all. But I love life and try everyday to erase the bad past. It made me more determined to do good in my life to be the opposite of things I hated growing up. On the good side, I gained so many cool Cuban classmates when they fled Cuba. BTW, my parents vacationed there instead of Florida!! So they could gamble!!!

    1. @susie, Wow. You really lived through it. And these are the stories that form the foundation for my belief that things are getting better.

  17. I’m Gen X, such a liminal generation. We’re the stutter-step between the boomers & millennials.

    There are relatively few pop culture references that speak directly to things I was doing or using. The Netflix show Stranger Things tasted and felt like my tween years – it was set in ’83, when I was 12. I was desperate to have a Benetton sweater, a Swatch – it was a trip to see a Swatch store in DC earlier this year!

    I’ve always had friends of every age – I think it helps that we don’t have kids, so we can hang out with whoever, whenever – but the best friends I’ve made as an adult have been women who are my age. There is something really meaningful in finding someone who shared experiences in the same context you did, even if you weren’t in the same place.

    1. @Andrea, I think you may see more cultural references that make sense to you, like Stranger Things, in the next several years. I like that era too – was a young woman working, had my first child, etc.

  18. Dear Lisa,

    Looks like I am older than anyone posting here because I was born in January 1949. That makes me an early Baby Boomer. Both of my parents were children of immigrants. Both worked their way through school and attained college degrees. My father was a Physicist and my mother a Biology / Special Education teacher. I had 5 siblings. All 5 of us were expected to attend college and to attain marketable degrees in the sciences. We did.

    I attended public schools in the LA area which were actually very good at the time. We had 5 languages taught at my high school – French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Latin. Our school was “mixed racial” although we never talked or even thought about it at the time. Our parents were an assortment of workers at the GM Plant, Illustrators for Disney Studios, Aerospace engineers, College Profs, studio musicians, movie and TV stars. We said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and had prayers to open and close school functions.

    The clique to which you belonged was determined by what you did not what color skin you had. We had Surfers (most of whom did surf), Greasers (the guys who used Rose’s Pomade or Brylcreem in excess and girls who wore Beehives hair sprayed to last a week), Socs (pronounced soshes) who wore pressed shirts, sometimes ties while the girls wore gathered skirts and hair in “flips” ala Patty Duke. Everyone else was just everyone else.

    I never heard the “N” word uttered by anyone I knew until I got into college. Even then it was not a friend but a classmate.

    Most of my childhood was idyllic, at least until around 1965. Prior to then I could ride my bike anywhere, visit our local park which had tennis courts, ball fields, and a swimming pool that “everyone” used. The park and surround street were clean because everyone used trash cans to deposit their trash. Never even had to lock your bike.

    No segregated bathrooms, water fountains or restaurants. When I learned that my grandmother’s town in Missouri wouldn’t let “certain people” use the public pools or water fountains, I was shocked and disgusted. Must admit that gave me a life-long bad opinion of my grandmother because she supported it.

    We had a local “bumm” who everyone knew. He would mow your lawn, paint your fence, wash your car, rake leaves or pull weeds for a free lunch or dinner. If he showed up at a neighborhood cookout, we fed him. When it was cold, people would give him blankets and let him sleep in their garage. Most the year,(we lived in southern California) he preferred to sleep under a large California Pepper tree in a field on the other side of the wash. Around 1965, he disappeared and we never saw him again.

    1965 to 1968 were pivotal years in this country. I will leave you to review history to see why.

    This creed guides my life, may it inspire you:

    We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul — We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.


  19. Born in 1958, and I have to protest the idea that Betty Draper would be born in 1954!

    Wasn’t she already a wife and mother in the 1960s?

    She would have been 10 years old in 1964.

    She would have been 20 years old in 1974.

    I relate more to her daughter!

  20. So enjoyed this post. This turned out to be pretty long. Just skim…
    I, too, am a boomer-1954. Grew up in suburban Boston. Mom was stay-at-home but quite brilliant (read 5 books a week) & frustrated not to be able to do more outside of the home. She did become involved in local politics when I was in high school (annoyed my dad that dinner was not always on the table when he got home) but that was an exciting time for me as well. She would pick me up from school & take me to “headquarters” where I would meet the most interesting people. Their influence is still with me decades later.

    Dad was in college administration, first a professor, then a dean. He tended toward a ’60s Republican mindset, but eventually that changed. Both my parents were active in tutoring African-American kids from a nearby poor community, for which they were ostracized by our church so we stopped going. Because of my mom was in politics & my dad was a professor, our phone was tapped by the local police-apparently we were a threat to the democracy!

    I remember my young childhood being quite magical, but the politics & world crisis of the late ’60s & early ’70s did trouble me. I, too, remember MLK, Jr-a classmate’s father was a minister & MLK, Jr had been to her house several times. She had a breakdown in gym class a week after he was murdered. I remember Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the riots at the DNC convention, Kent State, and the ever present Cold War…I moved to Vermont after college to live a simpler life than I would have had in suburbia. I love my life and I don’t want to live anywhere else. (But I’m willing to have an extended visit!)

    Presently, I am in awe of my children and their millennial friends and my millennial colleagues at work. Unlike the Gen Xers I know, they want to learn, to grow, to shake up the status quo but not leave anyone out of the process. They are generous, supportive, inclusive, ask “What if?” and “Why not?” and are hard-working. When anyone starts with, “Kids these days…” I stop them immediately because I think kids (young adults) these days, for the most part, are going to do great things.

    1. @Carol, Sounds as though your parents survived and evolved. Good for them. And I too believe that the young ones can do great things.

  21. It is so interesting post,idea and questions-as well as comments.
    I was born in 1958,my father is a doctor and my mother (with economics degree,now like Master of economics) worked in (developing)IT department of our biggest oil company. Almost all of our mothers have worked and it was kept private/secret if you had a help in a house or a nanny-they were “aunts” :-)
    I had to check on a lot of demographic and socio economic theories (thank you,it was interesting),because it was quite different in my country and a lot of things are not so strictly labeled.
    I might be something like Generation Jones.
    When I was born,communism started to be more melting,not so strict. We had a lot opportunities and things, more than previous generation,but when I was 32-33 years old , the Croation War for Independence has started. A lot of people lost their homes,lost members of their family or friends.
    As I had my son as 33 years old-it was a time when care for my parents and end of his education overlaped during a couple of last years
    Just have read first breaking news from US-so I’ll stop here.

  22. This thread is so good! I’m the Gen Xers Gen Xer. Born in 1970 in Queens. My mother was 21 when she had me – first generation born in US of Puerto Rican parents. She didn’t work. My father excelled at school (per first generation Italian-American expectations) and it allowed us to live around the world and see many cultures. My parents felt that education, and the privilege it brings, are the coin of the realm. While it has never been said, I feel that they raised me to assimilate in the WASPiest place on earth. It doesn’t hurt that I’m fair :-) One might say I’ve spent my life passing but, really, I was removed from my entire extended family and raised amongst the TO elite. I really have no people. And in that respect, everyone is one of my people. My parents concession to their cultures was Catholicism. I was required to go to church every weekend, every high holiday, no matter what, till I was 18. My father told me when I turned 18 I could choose for myself. My 18th birthday fell on a Saturday. I’ve never attended mass (save weddings and funerals) since. He has never brought it up again.

    When I moved to Toronto, at age 7, I was beside myself with grief. I hated it. My extended family was good and gone. Canadian television was horrendous. Nothing was open on Sunday. It was the most vanilla place I’d ever seen. (It’s come a long way since the 70s.) It takes a long time to assimilate here, despite today’s tremendous diversity. You might live here happily but you’re not a native till you’ve paid your dues and you know how it works. As a child, I was derided for being American. (American-bashing as sport declined over the years, though I sense it may be about to reappear in force.) By the time I was 12 I’d adjusted. By the time I was 20 I identified as Torontonian. By the time I was 30 I identified as Canadian.

    On rereading, it appears I’m still having an identity crisis! These things take time…

    1. @K-Line, These things take a lifetime;). And thanks for your comment, I didn’t know you had the Puerto Rican family, I can only imagine how it feels to live in Canada if there’s anything to remembered genetic memories…

  23. Born in the 1970s..during the bust..feel like my generation is overlooked because there are so few of us – eclipsed by boomers before us and milennials after us in attention from the media, advertisers, etc.

    Also makes it hard to make friends in my age group when there aren’t that many of us!

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