The first time I noticed it was in the 1970s. The Generation Gap had arrived at my college. The manager was in his 60s and he was the personification of the term “old school”.
When some of the young male teachers started letting their hair hang down, we knew change was in the air. They sported long sideburns, mod clothes and openly denounced the Vietnam War and military conscription. Overnight, it seems, our crewcut and pigtail world has turned into Us versus Them. Mick Jagger swore he wouldn’t sing rock and roll at 40. In fact, we were told never to trust anyone over 30. At the car radio, parents and children were fighting over the dial. Please, no more Bing Crosby. We want to hear Crosby, Stills and Nash!
Fifty years later, a similar gap has opened up, and it’s never been more evident than during the recent Super Bowl halftime show with Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Dr. Dre. Many people over the age of 45 called it an “assault on my ears” and an “abomination”, complaining: “I don’t understand a word they say”. A lady called my TV station (affiliated with NBC, which aired the game) and complained about the “obscene gyrations and obscene gestures”.
Down the gap, kids of the ’90s generation, mostly 45 and under, said, “Finally, a halftime show we can relate to!” One said, “Love these oldies!” (Unbelievable but true. Most of these Super Bowl halftime stars haven’t had a hit in 15-20 years.)
You see the gap in advertising too. To my friends who were born before 1977: I hate to tell you this, but you have “overrun” the target audience of many advertisers. They believe you are old, tired, and set in your ways. Why should they try to convince you to buy a bag of Doritos? They think, perhaps correctly, that if you like their product, you’ve already made that decision. And if you don’t, there’s no way they can change their minds in thirty seconds. To put it bluntly, those who liked to be called baby boomers, the generation of sexual liberation and unlimited energy, are now fragile geezers.
So how do you know if you have crossed the northern demographic border, the one that advertisers have no interest in approaching? Here are some caveats that should settle the matter once and for all.
If you refer to “Matlock” as Andy Griffith’s new TV show, you might be getting old.
If you consider Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren fresh presidential alternatives in 2024, you might be getting old.
If you’re convinced that the postman is mistakenly delivering those AARP and Medicare ads to you, you may be getting old.
If your longtime doctors and dentists have retired and you are now caring for their baby-faced sons and daughters, you may be getting old.
If you’re a football fan who once thought the quarterback was cute…and later thought the head coach was hot…and now you think the team owner is tough and handsome…maybe you’re getting old -to be.
If you get mad at restaurant cashiers for giving you the senior discount, until you find out you can get a free glass of sweet tea, you might be getting old.
If you’re convinced there’s something wrong with your driver’s seat upholstery because you can’t see over the steering wheel, you may be getting old.
If a friend points to your watch and yells, “What kind is that? and you reply: “It’s ten past four!” you may be getting old.
If you’re trying to say a family member’s name and you get a roll call from your kids, grandkids, and pastor before you’ve found the right name, you may be getting old.
If your friends think a tree branch has snapped every time you get up from your chair, you may be getting old.
As for me, I refuse to indulge in this nonsense of the generation gap. I stay young and trendy. I actually had written a few other observations about aging gracefully, but it seems I misplaced them. And where are my glasses?
(David Carroll is a Chattanooga newscaster, and his new book “Hello Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You can contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at [email protected])