Suzanne Fields

The baby boomers who wouldn't trust anyone over 30 now must rely on young clerks to get their Social Security and Medicare checks in the mail. This is the year the first of millions of boomers turn 65, and their younger brothers and sisters will follow them into the next two decades at the rate of 10,000 a day.

The boomers, like everyone before them, never believed that old age would afflict them "when they're 64," as the Beatles put it. Maybe for some of them, it hasn't. The hale and hardy claim they're "the new 50," with new knees, new hips, new ankles, new arteries and even the occasional new heart.

Jane Fonda, age 73, who got a jump on the boomers, has moved from sitting on an anti-aircraft battery in North Vietnam to sitting on stage with "Oprah," celebrating her cosmetic surgery. She says her nips and tucks were the kindest cuts of all, enabling feelings to be radiantly reflected in a smooth unlined face and taut body. She's got a new beau to prove it.

Rocky Bleier, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back who turns 65 in March, won four Super Bowl rings despite wounds he earned in Vietnam. He came home with grenade shrapnel in his leg, and tells his story in a book appropriately called "Fighting Back." For him, the Vietnam War was the touchstone for the boomers, whether they fought in it or protested against it.

This is the generation raised on Dr. Spock, a war protester, who published "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" in 1945, just as the first of the boomers was more than a gleam in his father's eye. The '60s, the decade bulging with adolescent boomers who demanded their way in everything from pot to peace, was noted for its paradoxes. Historian Todd Gitlin describes them as "years of hope, days of rage." Allen Ginsberg howled that the Beats, who preceded the boomers, watched the best minds of their generation "destroyed by madness," but the boomers by contrast rocked with the Rolling Stones and gathered no moss.

No generation can foresee its future (though they all try), and the boomers inherited the hopes of fathers who bought with great sacrifice a hard-earned peace with pride.

Daddies who had seen war up close on the beaches of Normandy, Guadalcanal and Okinawa sired ungrateful grown-up children who mocked Daddy's yearning for the conventional middle-class life in a detached house in the suburbs with a lawn to mow, a grill for barbecue and a good public school for their kids. Moms who were there to take them to music lessons, basketball practice and after-school play rehearsals were accused of living in a "comfortable concentration camp."


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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