He said I said

June 14, 2007

Ran has a quote from me on his site about how my generation dislikes the baby boomers. Along with correcting several spelling mistakes he’s also edited the quote which  has changed the original meaning a little. I’m not complaining though because a) there is obviously something in Ran’s edit  that makes sense to his discussion and b) it was a fairly incoherent throwaway comment in the first place and frankly I’m not sure even I was aware of what I was trying to say. 

Here’s the entire quote with the deleted portion highlighted; 

I think the reason boomers think the following generation will hate them is because their children’s generation does hate them for being so selfish as well as being such awful parents. Most wouldn’t articulate is that way but I always have this lingering feeling that I’m not doing enough whenever I hang round older people – that I might be lazy. 

So what was my subconscious pushing up to the surface? Apart from the fact that the baby-boom generation thinks they will be hated in the future because they sense how much they are hated now I also think my generation is expecting them to be hated for the same reason. 

It’s about what’s been repressed and the key thing there is what bad parents this generation has made. Doubtless their poor performance has been highlighted by their own lack of maturity but basically we hate them for way they have treated us. 

We tend to make excuses for them like ‘they did their best’ and ‘it wasn’t easy for them’ and while it’s true our generation isn’t doing any better the fact remains that we’re disconnected from our elders and that there is good reason for the current rapid growth in retirement villages. 

Our relationship with our parents is always complicated but there is definitely a part of us that doesn’t want to know these people. Here’s a quote from a book I’m going to buy as soon as possible, Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Nuefield. 

“…tools of behaviour modification are recycled forms of shunning…they help create conditions that increase children’s susceptibility to peer orientation.  The withdrawal of closeness (or threatening its loss) is such an effective means of behaviour control because it triggers the child’s worst fear–that of being abandoned.”
…”In effect, we are inducing the child to seek his attachment needs elsewhere…we are effectively throwing our children to their peers.” 

The quote is addressing the issue of peer-pressure but from it we can see how western parents end up shunning their children and breaking the bonds of attachment at an early age – and it stands to reason that we might not like our parents much or care for them when our experience (as small children) is of them not caring for us. 

I think most of us are not fully aware of this and tend to project other issues like how the boomer’s voracious consumerism is bad for the environment, onto our hate. Admittedly it’s a good reason to dislike them but not the main one I think. 

The other part of my quote that needs looking at is the “lingering feeling that I’m not doing enough whenever I hang round older people – that I might be lazy”. 

All this is on my mind at the moment because of an experience of ours during the trip. We visited relatives of mine down south where I got to spend a lot of time with a favourite uncle of mine. During the trip my respect for him rose even more than it had been as I started to figure out what was different about him. Essentially he’s not judgmental and he’s listens.  

How many over 50 year olds (men especially) do you know like that? 

Normally around the older generation (and I’m not just talking about my parents here) I’m getting vibes that I’m not quite measuring up, that I’m a bit lazy and need to try harder. Or perhaps I’m getting actual words to that effect. Around this particular uncle however there are no heavy vibes and no ‘you shoulds’, only a ready set of ears. It was this vibe-void, like silence after a loud engine has stopped, that made me sit up and think. 

Around him I am able to feel entirely comfortable and accepted, it’s an unusual situation but an extremely pleasant one. It was great to be able to bask in his company and sad to have to leave. 

He’s also the sort of person you feel sure you can rely on. Maybe it’s because having listened to me I felt confident he would actually have some idea of what my needs might be. 

These days I feel like there is no one around who I can really, really rely on, and that while I might be support for a lot of people there is no around who can take over when I need a rest – and man am I tired. I feel like I’m the last port of call except when he’s in the room – at which point I can relax because there is finally a proper elder in the house. It’s the only time in my life when I’ve really felt like this and now that I’ve had it I realise it’s not only something I need but in fact is something I am supposed to have. 

The only thing now is how I turn him into a role model for myself. Aside from his mother being a great woman a major advantage he has over me is that he was the last of 4 children and was probably left to his own devices as a child. This effect has been mirrored in his own 4th child who is possibly the maturest 18 year old I have ever met. On the surface it seems odd, she grew up in a very loving family with 5 people older than her for support but her mother says she can barely remember this child’s childhood. 

It seems to me that the less we try do for our kids the better off they might be and I don’t like to think what this implies for me as a first born child having received the full force of my parent’s good intentions. 


It’s funny how writing these posts helps clarify issues for me, having written all of this it’s pretty plain to see the deep unmet need for unconditional love that is lurking in me, and for that matter, everyone else in our society. It’s no wonder it’s such a fight to do the right thing for my kids.



  1. FWIW, I’m almost 60, and the dynamic you describe could have easily applied in my case, and for many of my contemporaries. As a kid, I was not happy about hiding under my desk and being threatened with atomic holocaust. It seems like there is a little too much stereotyping going on between the generations. The 60’s was not a monolithic phenomenon, and there are boomers (and younger folks) of all stripes.

    Posted by: the elder | 06/14/2007

    This has given me some insight into my childhood, and why my adolescence came so late. My parents did hold on to me; conflict would bring discussion and engagement, not “time out”. A college friend convinced me that I was idealizing my parents a little too much, but I didn’t really misbehave until I moved much farther away from them.

    I still don’t, much…

    Posted by: Joel | 06/14/2007

    Re: men over 50 who are judgmental. Oh man, that is SO my experience. I’ve had more trouble with over 50 men on message boards and listservs than any other age-gender combination.

    I found this post fascinating, as I’ve been doing some thinking about my childhood. I always blamed my apparent dislike of my family on a traumatic event that happened at birth. I was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and a collapsed lung and was rushed to the children’s hospital (this was in ’69). This is a type of surgery that babies even now might not survive. Back then, the current thinking was that you could be away from your mother for up to 3 months before you would be “scarred for life.” They got me back to her one day before the 3 months were up. Of course, nowadays, they know that 3 months is waaaay too long. And there’s a possibility that I may have bonded with a nurse, but then I was ripped out of her arms and given to relative strangers.

    I always assumed that was why I didn’t feel particularly bonded to my parents. In fact, I moved across the country, and I think that being 2500 miles from them is a not insignificant reason why I am much happier.

    But after reading this post, I wonder if it’s not simply that I was experiencing what everyone in my generation did…being shunned. And I think civilization is set up to make it so. I can remember back on the first day of kindergarten. There were so many kids crying. I remember thinking I was so brave for not crying, but I was terribly upset.

    Also, I was shunned way more actively. I was an only child until I was 8. Then my sister came along. I think it was the psychologist Alfred Adler who coined the term “dethronement.” I would be inclined to think it was all in my perception of things if it wasn’t for the fact that my parents actually sat me down one holiday season and explained that since I got them to myself for 8 years before my sister came along, that they were going to focus on her this year and that I wasn’t to expect too many presents.

    Gawd, can you believe that shit? And it wasn’t just THAT particular Christmas. It was every Christmas thereafter. Man, my folks really dropped the ball.

    Oh, another point you made in your post, about feeling lazy around older people. I have that problem all the time, too.

    Posted by: Marcy | 06/16/2007

    Marcy, it makes sense that the earliest events in your life have the greatest effect on who you become but what you describe sounds pretty heavy too. They didn’t so much drop the ball as deliberately kick it out of the park

    Posted by: Aaron | 06/18/2007

  2. […] away from my extended family to whom I am also greatly attached. I have already mentioned my uncle who is important to me but I also have become very attached to my cousins now that they are all […]

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