Friday, May 22, 2009

Messengers of Bad Tidings

Guess what? If you’re an out of work boomer or can’t afford to be retired anymore, you can find work as a handholder/bearer of bad tidings. Of course the work is only temporary, but come on, you can’t have it all.

Michael Winerip of the New York Times writes a great column called Generation B and he recently highlighted the work of an employment agency in Denver called the Boomer Group.

Boomers are particularly in demand for the empathy skills. Got lots of bad news about your product or service and need to set up a phone bank to handle the irate callers? Boomers are your guys.

That’s right. If it’s a shoot-the-messenger type of situation, you’re going to want baby boomers to be your cannon fodder. Why? We have experience. We have values. We have a work ethic. We are good under pressure.

Crikey, if we have all that going for us, can’t we do any better than temp jobs? It sounds like those are the qualities every employer dreams of having throughout their workforce.

Somehow, our primary skill set has become the ability to deliver bad news or commiserate with angry people who have already gotten the bad news. It’s nice to be valued for your talents, but what effect does all this empathy distribution have on us?

Several temps mentioned that they may have over-empathized at first or that it was hard to listen to people vent all day long, even swear at them. Yeah, that would be hard to do all day, even as a temp. But when the Gen Xs and Ys stay in bed on the day of the snowstorm, you can count on the boomers to come through. We’re too mature to be ducking out for a mental health day, though God knows we need one as much as the next worker.

If boomers have all these great qualities and if Woody Allen was right that 90% of life is showing up, we should be on top of heap, but more often than not, we’re being heaped with scorn. What’s up with that? You love us as worker bees, you just hate what we’ve done with the planet, we were rotten parents, and we’re too selfish.

It’s okay. We’ll just take those temporary jobs and try to rebuild the 401-k. Remember, we work while you sleep in.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Boomers Hot for Tats

Maybe it’s because they’re not working for “the man” anymore, or they’re not working at all, or they just don’t care. Whatever the reason, more and more boomers are getting their first tattoo.

When we were in our 20’s only military veterans and bikers had tattoos and who was going to give them a hard time about it. If you were going into a profession (teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, whatever), a tattoo was taboo. So even though we were born to be wild, we were doomed to be mild.

Now everyone has tattoos so no one worries about the job interview anymore. The guy doing the interviewing has as many tattoos as the applicant. They probably end up comparing their tats before the interview is over.

What accounts for the renewed interest in tats by boomers? We’re all free to speculate here. Some think it’s a Bucket List phenomenon – get it now before you die. Maybe it’s a reflection of the greater acceptance that tattoo art now has. Angelina Jolie’s career has not suffered and she’s up to about sixteen tats and counting. Many boomers choose to commemorate important life events – grandchildren’s names are a reoccurring theme.

They’re not getting tramp stamps (those big tattoos that run just above the butt crack of a lot of young ladies – you figure out where the name came from). Boomer women will still go for the less ostentatious butterfly, heart or flower in a place or size that won’t catch too much attention in the light of day. Men go for the barbed wire around the biceps. And of course, lots of tat seekers are checking out Asian, Arabic and Hebrew letter characters, despite the fact that most of the time they have no idea what they mean.

The reality shows about tattoo artists (Miami Ink) either hurts or helps the cause, depending upon your opinion of reality shows. In any case, you can’t go anywhere without seeing mainstream tattoos. Your waitperson in the restaurant has some, so does the mail carrier, the barista and the produce manager. If your priest or rabbi has one you probably would not know it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

You missed Woodstock, so why not catch this wave before it goes back out. Just don’t tell your mother.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Love the Attitude, But Are They All Wearing Thongs?

We’ve all seen the Red Hat Society ladies when they storm the mall or whatever attraction they have targeted for the day. It’s like a swarm of red and purple locusts devouring all in its path. I admire their enthusiasm but their crustiness scares me. In the end, I think it’s great that they get together and have fun as opposed to sitting around alone and feeling sorry for themselves.

So the good news is that baby boomers now have their own social networking group. The bad news is they are calling themselves the Blue Thong
Society. Their website is quick to point out that just because they call themselves the Blue Thong Society does not mean they have to wear a blue thong all the time (phew, I say to myself). But they do prefer that you have no visible panty lines.

Co-founder Kelly Golden says "It is really not about being able to wear a thong. It is about the mentality that goes along with a thong." Add to that their mantra, Fight Frump Forever, and you get the idea.

The weird thing is that their logo looks more like a flip flopthong than underwear, but they say that was intentional.

So what is the mentality that goes along with a thong? Is it an uncomfortable pain in your butt crack? I don’t think so. According to the website:

We really felt and knew there was a HUGE need for a cool and fun group of women to connect from our unique generation. A group to encourage and educate all of our girlfriends, not only from our generation, but all our younger sister generations on the benefits of staying hip, beautiful and chic forever. We will never give in or stop fighting for what we believe in, and above all, we will Fight Frump Forever, and one way to do that is to never stop wearing Hip-Huggers and Bell Bottoms!

So there you have it – hip, beautiful and chic forever. Well, the group did start in Southern California. And it’s a lot better than sitting home with blue hair. So maybe they are right. The best thing to do is relax and have another blue martini.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Some last words of wisdom. They say 50 is the new 30 but tell that to your ass.

Kidless Communities: The Next Ghetto?

There seems to be no shortage of communities for the 55 and over cohort, and given the huge demographic shift of boomers moving into retirement over the next 20 years, the number will soon skyrocket. With increased life spans, and not withstanding our current economic fix that will inevitably delay some retirements, it’s expected that we may spend one-third of our lives retired. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will. By 2014, there will be 85 million retirees out there (and 40 million of them may be driving golfcarts!).

I have no problem with the basic concept, though I’m not getting in line to join the trend. Personally, I need more diversity. I want to see kids being kids and young parents raising families. I want to know what twenty-somethings are listening to on their iPods and watching on TV.

Leisureville by Andrew Blechman may exaggerate the pitfalls of the over-55 communities, but there can be a dark side to a monocultural environment. Blechman calls it geritopia but beyond all the terrific amenities there may often be a sense of isolation and a penchant for rigidity that may rub baby boomers the wrong way fast. Some of these communities limit the stays of children to no more than 30 days a year. Anecdotes about arbitrary rules abound. Dogs have to be weighed periodically to make sure they do not exceed the thirty-pound limitation. The height of your lawn grass is prescribed. Some communities have their own newspaper and security force – both supplied by the developer.

While other countries encourage extended families to stay together, here we put retirees out to pasture in idyllic, albeit isolated splendor. And it’s not like we make them go there under the gun. There are plenty of retirees who can’t wait to get to the retirement village --- like eternal spring break for geezers. More power to them. Why not live somewhere where there’s less friction and you feel safe?

My answer to that question would be that segregation, even when self-imposed, has the effect of creating alienation and intolerance. Every assisted living facility goes out of its way to promote programs that bring in children and pets. Why? Because every human needs that stimulation to create a happy medium between being overstressed and living in a bubble.

I’m looking for more than a cocoon when my time comes, and I can only hope that as a society we figure out a way to mainstream our retirees. If I can put a bumper sticker on my golf cart it will be the one that says Geezers Just Want to Have Fun.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Pillage and Plunder

Whether you’re over 50 or over 60, you must have noticed that pills are more in your life now than at any other time you can remember. When we were kids, it was just vitamins. As we got older, there were cold and sinus pills for when you were sick, but in general, we sailed along without popping much of anything other than extracurricular drugs (you know who you are).

Now look at us. We have Centrum Silver vitamins to start the day, statin blockers for cholesterol, Pepcid for heartburn, motrin for muscle aches, enough kinds of antidepressants to float a ship, Viagra for ED, hormone therapy, and the list goes on and on.

There was a time when the term “stash” meant the place where you kept your illegal drugs. Now it’s the place in the house where you keep all your legally prescribed drugs. And who would have thought medical marijuana would be legal in so many states by now? With the economy in the crapper, legalized drugs that are taxed may be just around the corner.

The fact is, there’s a pill for everything, and no shortage of doctors to write the scrip and drug companies to keep inventing the pills. It wasn’t that long ago that you only learned of a new drug from your doctor. Now you can watch TV and see one commercial after another exhorting you to “ask your doctor” about the new drug, tachanotherpillicine. Do they have it backwards? Do you invent a drug and then find some ill that it cures, or are they supposed to be researching new drugs for society’s most problematic health problems?

The U.S. may be the only industrialized nation where drug companies are allowed to hawk drugs on TV. You see depressed people who are dragging down their mates and families make 30-second recoveries to enjoy a life of happiness and contentment. I still don’t know what is the significance of the man and wife who sit in side by side bathtubs after he has taken an ED pill, but they will be very clean by the time they get around to making sure the pill worked. If I were directing the ad, I would have put them in the same spa tub, but maybe there’s a prohibition on featuring naked couples in the same tub (even if they are married).

You can even watch these ads in your doctor’s office while you are waiting 45 minutes past your appointment time (which does not include the extra 15 minutes they request that you arrive before your appointment time). I’ll give you three guesses who paid for the TV and the presentation, but the first two don’t count.

I’m doing my best to not get too worked up over this pillage, because I know that the real danger is that my stressing over this is just going to require another prescription. I’d rather spend the money on a vacation.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.