Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gray What?

You know it’s trouble when they have a catchy name for it. I’m talking about “gray divorce” and that means over-50 marital splits. Apparently, divorce among the 50 and over crowd has doubled from 1990 to 2010. Must have been a rough decade. But the trend continues.

What accounts for this development? Get in line to spout your own theory: boomer self-centeredness? Sick and tired of your spouse? Endured a bad marriage long enough? Hanging on to your youthfulness? Whatever the reason, divorced boomers face an upside and a downside. The upside is the opportunity to stake out a new life, create new friendships, pursue new hobbies and interests, etc. The downside is when you split all the assets, someone gets the short end of the stick and both have less retirement income that can be shared. Being partnerless can make health issues more challenging as well.

And despite the fact that they often come out on the short end of the stick asset-wise, boomer women are more apt to initiate divorce than boomer men. The easy assumption there is that the men don’t want to give up an arrangement where someone cooks and cleans for them. But the truth may be that women are much less tolerant of an unfulfilling/bad relationship.

Some have speculated that boomers are divorce prone because we continue to invent ourselves and thus reinvent the institution of marriage. We changed premarital sex, we changed birth control, we expanded our sexual repertoire, and we made divorce acceptable, so it stands to reason we’re reinventing late-life marital options, and divorce is on top of that list.

It has also been said that our sense of duty (in sickness and in health, til death do us part?) and confidence in the sanctity of marriage is just not the same as what our parents expectations were. To that we say, whatever!

So in the end, the choice is self-fulfillment or loyalty. Tough choice. Especially when you were raised to think anything is possible and when you see something you want, go for it. If I were a demographer, I would be betting that we will be seeing a lot more single baby boomers in our future.

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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Easy Marks

A number of TV critics have recently lamented how dreadful the portrayals of over-50 characters are in current television fare. These boomer characters dwell on flatulence, use vulgar language, share TMI about their digestive tract functions, and seem helpless when it comes to being able to use contemporary technology.

The saddest aspect of this trend is that these are some very fine actors who have been compromised into playing roles that make any sane baby boomer wince at the awfulness of the characters. Beau Bridges, Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin, Kathy Bates, Ed Asner, Stacy Keach and Robin Williams, to name a few.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to the day when every older character was the wise oracle (e.g. Marcus Welby or Father Knows Best), but I think the writers (some of whom may be baby boomers as well – traitors!) could scale back a bit on the cringe worthiness of these current characters.

Do I have any hope that this trend will fade? Nope. Quite the contrary. I think it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Face it…we’re easy marks. Bumbling idiots who share too much information about how our bodies are failing us and that we don’t know what a Tweet is or what Snapchat does.

As baby boomers mature, TV show writers seem determined to make us look immature. Some critics think that this trend is some sort of karmic payback by millennials tired of listening to baby boomer crap about our music, movies and cultural dominance. Honestly, I don’t think it’s that malevolent. As always, it comes down to the fact that we’re such a massive demographic that it’s easy to take us down a notch or two, or three or four.

In any case, we should get used to being the butt of the joke. Remember how we laughed at our parents when they didn’t know what marijuana was or that we were smoking it? How we were so with it and they were so out of it? How we knew who Jimi Hendrix was while they were stuck on Lawrence Welk? How we knew that the Vietnam war was a foolish quagmire when they were still on the fence about it?

Talk about karmic payback. If we thought our parents were such dummies, what do you think boomer offspring make of their parents? If you don’t want to be insulted by the portrayals of boomers on current TV, your best bet may be to use that Netflix streaming thingie (more proof that we know nothing) to watch All in the Family, MASH, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy and Taxi. That would be the same head-in-the-sand thinking that our parents used when they were clinging to their entertainment icons.

And we thought we could do better?

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.