Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
BABY BOOMERS FACE QUANDARY
Tens of millions of my fellow baby boomers are plagued by one crucial question: Do I still look good in jeans even though my butt is now the size of a Winnebago?
No, wait a minute! That’s not the right question. The real crucial question facing baby boomers is: Should I tell my teenage children what I did back in the 1960s and 70s?
This is a very difficult issue. In our younger days, many baby boomers were heavily involved with drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. (The drugs and alcohol were wild; the sex was decadent; but the etcetera, wow, that was out of control.)
When baby boomers became teenagers, we were the first generation in history who were allowed to do whatever we felt like doing. Apparently our parents were exhausted from the dual task of winning World War II and then producing 77 million offspring in less than two decades. They didn’t have enough energy left for discipline, and so those offspring went absolutely bananas.
But now many baby boomers are having second thoughts. The ones not having seconds thoughts smoked so much dope and took so much acid in the 60s and 70s they are barely able to have first thoughts anymore.
Today’s parents now understand that many of the practices of the Woodstock generation were actually very harmful. Back then no one realized the true danger of bacon cheeseburgers, tie-dyed shirts, or sleeping in the mud for three days. (The rampant promiscuity and daily drug usage weren’t exactly healthy either.)
Baby boomers usually take one of two positions on what to tell their kids. Some believe it is best to be totally honest: tell the kids every gruesome detail no matter how immoral or embarrassing. Others think it is best to admit nothing: talk to the kids in vague generalities but act as if you personally spent every moment of the 60s and 70s studying in the library.
Both options are fraught with danger. If you are completely honest with your kids, no matter how vehemently you implore them to avoid risky behavior, they will always rationalize, “Well, Mom and Dad did it when they were my age, and nothing bad happened to them, except, of course, they turned into dorky parents.”
On the other hand, if you deny your sordid past, presenting yourselves as the modern version of Saints Francis and Clare, to the point of implying that your children’s very existence is the result of additional Immaculate Conceptions, your kids will eventually discover the truth. Usually it happens when a smart-aleck uncle shows the teens a 25-year-old snapshot of you in a filthy dorm room, up to your knees in empty beer cans, posing with a scantily-clad coed under one arm (not Mom) and your favorite bong under the other arm.
I prefer a third approach: invent stories about how awful I was in the 60s and 70s.
“Yeah, I taught Elvis his lewd dance style,” I explained to my kids. “Then a few years later I sold dope to the Beatles. Their music got really weird after that. Oh, did I mention I caused the Cuban Missile Crisis? I was bored that week and I wanted some excitement.”
“But Dad,” they replied, “you were only in grade school back then.”
“Don’t talk back to your elders! Now where was I? Oh yeah…I ran an LSD concession stand at Woodstock. I told Larry Flynt he should go into the magazine business. I started all those inner-city riots in 1968. I introduced Ted Kennedy to scotch on the rocks. I was pals with Charlie Manson for a while. And my most notorious activity: when I was hitch-hiking through Arkansas one summer, I advised a fellow druggie that he should run for president someday.”
At this point you’re probably wondering why I would say such outrageous things to my children. The answer is simple. My kids think it’s totally uncool to do anything I do, or to like anything I like. So if I tell them I did all these awful things—and act as if I still think it’s OK—they will surely go in the opposite direction.
And the results have been great. My teenagers want to go to church each week, they think getting good grades in school is very important, and they both have joined the Young Republicans.
There’s only one thing I’m still worried about: do these jeans make my butt look big?
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