Maggie Gallagher
Recommend this article
Maybe you have noticed the same things I have: The credit card ad featuring two grandparents in an RV, bragging they have better things to do than "baby sit" the grandchildren. The phone company that features a mom weighing $800 for tickets to visit the kids in college versus an additional wireless phone line. "We took the phone line, and this Jacuzzi," she purrs, self-satisfied. The triumphant proclamations that just because you're old doesn't mean you have to stop acting like an adolescent.

Debby Pike told Gannett News Service she fretted for months about turning 50. "Then about three weeks before my birthday, I realized 'Who cares?'" When her twin daughters got tattoos, she got one too. Now she's dying to get her nose pierced, but worried about how that would go over in her day job in the neurosurgeon's office.

"Do not go gently into that good night," the poet says, and a huge swath of aging baby boomers (t-t-talking about my generation) are determined to be rebels to the end, moving with the same mass-nonconformity into a graceless old age. Analysts at Zandl Group, a trends research firm in New York, call it "generational blur."

"Many of the traditional markers of adult development -- financial independence, marriage, parenthood, professional advancement, retirement -- are changing or disappearing, and the concepts of youth and adulthood have become very fluid," says Zandl VP Richard Leonard. Baby boomers (those between the ages of 39 and 57) are a "supremely narcissistic generation," he says.

For someone on the tail end of the boomer generation (I'm 43), this is not so much immoral as deeply depressing. In Harper's Bazaar, Carrie Fisher (46 years old) writes about the joys of a fling with a man half her age, which she heartily recommends as "providing you with the swirling illusion that something of charm and consequence is taking place in your life." How sad.

Having braved the storms of adolescence, moved into productive midlife, and raised children long enough that the end of this phase is in sight, I would like to think there is something to look forward to other than an endless repeat of what came before, only older, creakier and more wrinkled. I would like to think that the last half of life could offer more than the mere illusion of charm and consequence.

Recommend this article

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.