Baby Boomers '52

Born a third the way into the 18-year Boom

we 1952-ers travel just ahead of the crest of the wave . . .

. . . we're the froth.

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Monday, April 4, 2011


I just got it. The radiation leak in Japan, the seeping into the ocean, the oddball weather flashing around the world ... IT'S ICE-NINE!!!

How many times did Kurt Vonnegut tell us?

Yet it wasn't until I realized that the oddball lightening, the thunder that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling without any lessening of volume and with a palpably increasing pressure was like the storms in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.

And then, of course, the skins peeling off airplanes and there is Doris Lessing's oft repeated tales of the falling apart of the infrastructure, the inability of governments or organizations to maintain safety or schedules.

So, of course, ice-nine was loosed so many decades ago. I had just forgotten.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I've been having flashbacks lately.

I don't think it is the result of drugs in the Sixties. But maybe this is what the adults back then meant when they tried to scare us straight.

My flashback occurred at a women's leadership conference -- designed to inspire toward success 800 women who paid a bundle for the insights. Flashback to the early Seventies, consciousness raising groups were reprogramming women to think of themselves as, well, women. Up to that point we had all been girls, regardless of our age. Back then the very word "woman" had sexual overtones.

Here I want to say, "We've come a long way, baby," but last month I discovered the joke was on me.

At the 2011 conference the bottom line turns out to be the same, huge success is the purview of those who are child-free.

I think Marlo Thomas coined that word, 'child-free' to lift the stigma that still existed in the Sixties and Seventies and still today upon woman without children. Child-free not merely softened the childless label but added a slight nobility to her sacrifice upon an overpopulated planet.
The term has evolved.

The only one of the highly successful half-dozen speakers who had children also had the wealth to hire a personal nurse for her seven-week-old infant while presumably other employees attended her two-year-old twins as she left town for a week. This style of mothering has become so commonplace, according to one of her inspirational anecdotes, that an intern under her charge didn't bat an eye when asked to ship pumped breast milk across country to an infant.

I don't know. Call me a fuddy-duddy old earth-mother if you must, but it just doesn't seem all that realistic to me -- given biology and economics are still stacked against us -- that these are the only steps to successful leadership.

Not unless, yet again, we are trying to trick ourselves into believing that wealth is the same as success.

Outsourcing Life

I know I'm old now. I'm shocked at what Successful Womanhood  looks like: spike heels, short skirts and family-free.

The only woman dressed dowdier than I among more than 800 at a recent Women's Leadership Conference was a retired military officer dressed in a blue polyester pant suit. Other women my age wore slacks if they'd remained lean or short sheaths cinched at the waist and topping the knee. They all wore spike heels.

This is amazing to me. Women my age watched their mothers navigate uneven sidewalks with grates and cracks that, if they caught one of those narrow heel tips could break their mothers' backs.

In rebellion we went barefoot and wore Birkenstock's and platform shoes. My platforms had room to raise goldfish in the heels and toes. They added four, six, maybe eight inches of height and sent us careening as off-balance as our spiked sisters, but at least with our weight still spread across our full foot instead of just the toes.

There is something reminiscent of a Mel Brooks movie watching 800 pairs of spike heels tiptoeing down crowded but thankfully carpeted stairwells.

This was not the visual I was supposed to take away from the conference. The visual and inspirational message presented was of empowerment and the steps required to get there. Powerful and inspirational women spoke. Their overpowering message was this: Outsource.

The most inspirational of them all left me with these two immutable laws of success: Determine and maximize others' perception of you and that even remembering your grandmother's birthday can be outsourced with a standing order at a dependable florist.

Remarkably this is what it boils down to: Look like what your bosses want and outsource the rest.

The brilliance of having your grandmother's thank-you call serve as the reminder to wish her a happy birthday is hard to trump and this super successful woman won appreciative guffaws at the anecdote. But dowdy old me, seeing all of these women back in bondage, felt defeated.

Yes, bondage, there goes that old feminist earth mother nag again, but what in the world are we saying when a woman's leadership conference is filled with short skirts and spike heels? Why is it inspiring to hear success includes slipping family-tending upon other family members?

It is retrograde, the same as my mother's spike heels. This is the success model where those without the wherewithal to outsource typically got a wife.

Back in those old days of Birkenstock's and platform shoes we thought women's success in the future would take the exact opposite direction. We thought it would involve equal standing, even that there would be fashionable sensible shoes by now. And we thought success in the future would mean that those family obligations (so many that turned out to be missed opportunities in retrospect), I guess we thought they'd be outsourced in a way. We thought we'd be sharing them with husbands.