Boomers to Gen X: Quit Your Whining

You can thank US for everything you love about Philadelphia

It was stifling in a way Gen Xers can’t possibly imagine; even the TV was black and white. Grown-ups were automatons, marching in circles: work home work home work home work home church work home work home, with two weeks in summer at the Shore. We weren’t sure what we wanted, but we knew it wasn’t that. So we fought with them, all the time, over everything: hair, jeans, war, God, pot, Nixon, rock-and-roll. We were dreamers. We thought big. We believed in a new age, the Age of Aquarius. “Imagine,” John Lennon exhorted us, and we did.


We were fighting more against than for, but as it turned out, Vietnam was bad; Nixon was a crook; how long our hair was didn’t matter. Numbers and righteousness were a dangerous combination, but we made it work for us. We were the Niagara Falls of generations, unstoppable, plunging ever onward, tumbling over ourselves in bubbling, churning enthusiasm. My younger coworkers would snigger at the idea of Harmonic Convergence, those three days in August 1987 when we hoped a new planetary alignment might change the Earth’s karma and, as Shirley MacLaine put it, open “a window of light.” (Shirley MacLaine!) But we honestly believed we were part of something big, something important and good.

Gen Xers don’t know what Philadelphia was like then. They don’t remember those other three days in August, in 1964, when rumors that cops had killed a pregnant black woman set the city on fire. They never saw downtown before we began to rebuild it, rescue its 19th-century ruins, rehab its vacant rowhomes and repopulate the empty streets. NoLibs? Fishtown? Hell, Center City was scary then, strewn with litter, pockmarked with peep shows, hookers strolling what are now the best addresses in town. You had to be brave to live at 17th and Delancey. We got robbed. We got mugged. We stuck it out.

We couldn’t stop voting for Ed Rendell, for anything; he was us, an optimistic bear determined to remake the city by sheer force of will. The Gallery was a bold urban experiment. South Street was where all the hippies met, not a chain store in sight. We ate at Little Pete’s and Day’s Deli, or we ventured to Chinatown. Penn wasn’t on anyone’s “Best Colleges” list. There were parking spots.

Willard Rouse III became our Dumbledore, waving the blue wand of Liberty Place at the offspring of suburbanites in Doylestown and Downingtown and Cherry Hill: Come back! Come home! And we did, to our parents’ horror: They’d worked so hard to get out of Philly! But the Inquirer was drowning in Pulitzers, Big Ed was scrubbing the City Hall toilets, and Neil Stein and Steve Poses were giving us places to hang that weren’t the bus terminal. We molded the city to our tastes: The Convention Center! The Kimmel! New stadiums! Then we took on the ’burbs, building our big-ass houses, putting in malls and restaurants, rejuvenating Main Streets, everything spiraling upward in blissful prosperity.

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  • no

    Thank goodness Boomers are also able to write pompous articles better than any other generation… younger people aren’t nearly delusional or cranky enough to write articles making excuses about how older generations do nothing but make excuses.

  • Julia

    Who is self-righteous? Boomers consistently try to pass off the civil rights movement as their own (how many boomers were on the Christian Coalition or were freedom riders anyway?). I guess Susan B. was doomed to fail since she wasn’t a boomer, huh? Thank goodness you fought your parents and their boring black & white world, they were too busy creating a middle class to be bothered with the really important stuff. If you want credit for the things your generation has accomplished perhaps you should lead by example. Without your parents, boomers would not have had the luxury to dream their dreams. Perhaps that is what is wrong with those kids you work with – a distinct awareness that such luxury is in short supply.

  • Julia

    Note to Neil Young, Benny Goodman and Muddy Waters, et al, might have thought the same thing …

  • alex

    “We’re not used to being resented, you know.”

    That’s because you haven’t been listening for the last 30+ years. Any shock you feel should be taken as an indication of how completely you ignored your own offspring for your total self-absorption. You might as well not even try at this point.

  • nadine

    –Still, my peers and I are trying to be gracious about handing over the reins.– Well, aren’t you full of yourself. To a delusional degree. You won’t have to condescend to give anything. We’ll take those reins, thanks so much. The question for you is how many bruises to you want to collect by being bothersome about it.

  • s

    I dunno. Looks like the Boomers are offended by the cover art and we’re offended by the content. Maybe if we don’t take it personally, there’s something for all of us to learn. Made me feel sympathetic for them – and how rough it must be to feel mortal and edged out.

  • Phil

    Love the line “we made it a rainbow of races and genders and candy-colored Spandex bike shorts.” Love hearing that from a hippie who had her butt kissed for the past 40 years because she was part of a group that was large and white. Their children will be minorities. Can’t wait until the new majorities push these relics aside.

  • Nancy

    My daughter is Gen X, she wouldn’t have written or condoned that particular front cover. We love each other. She respects me; I respect her.
    Apparently the Gen X have problems with their parents/upbringing. What was said is a generalization of both Gen X and the Baby Boomer generation. I feel so sorry for the poor Gen X who felt he/she had to write that. We didn’t ask to be born, but like the Color Purple, we’re here by God, we’re here.

  • Howard

    Do you think it wise to condemn and chastise the very group of people that will be making laws, that will be running retirement homes, that will be running the country tomorrow?

  • sid

    Boomers became exactly what they condemned. it was them who robbed the banks and it was them who keep robbing the banks. they became what they despised. Bush was a boomer,

  • Edie

    If you’re so sick of us, stop listening to our music and stop smoking our dope!

  • Anna

    If you don’t love this article, then you are more self-righteous than the author thinks you are. This will be our generation in a few decades, having our achievements overlooked and being the new scapegoat. We can do all we can with what we know, but that’s it. This article is deliciously cranky, like Carl from Up, but even grabbed some balloons and rolled out. The Boomers aren’t done yet. That goes for you too, Sandy.

  • Anna

    If you don’t love this article, then you are more self-righteous than the author thinks you are. This will be our generation in a few decades, having our achievements overlooked and being the new scapegoat. We can do all we can with what we know, but that’s it. This article is deliciously cranky, like Carl from Up, but even grabbed some balloons and rolled out. The Boomers aren’t done yet. That goes for you too, Sandy.

  • Grace

    To the aging hippies: Thank you. Your contributions are duly noted and appreciated. Some of us Xers and Yers are trying to better the world, too, continuing where your generation is leaving off. Thx (sorry, “thanks”) for helping to make cities livable. We’ll try to be patient with your generation on technology, and call older relatives who aren’t online 24/7.

    Generations aren’t uniform, though, they’re multifaceted constructs. While some of you were anti-Vietnam, pro-peace and happiness, others were pro-corporate greed and pro-military-industrial. While some of “us” are self-absorbed gym rats, others are focused on “new age” concepts like yoga, organic healthy eating, and promoting happiness of self AND others while addressing social problems like economic disparity, violence, dwindling natural resources, poverty, war, etc.

    Yeah, we like to do things our way. So did you. Eventually we all land in the same cycle of work-home-work-home trying to make ends meet and find extracurricular fun or hobbies for balance, hoping our work and activities in some way contribute to a greater whole.

    Thank you for what your generation did in the 60s and 70s to address civil rights and the environment, we’ll take it from here. Good luck finding a happy retirement.

    • Jhm813

      Their generation did squat for civil rights – It was the generation before them that fought for civil rights – They were suppose to pick up the torch in the 70s and 80s but became consumed with disco and drugs and making money. Don’t be fooled by the rewrite.

  • gretchen
  • gretchen

    A quote from an article written by Sandy Hingston telling her daughter about her abortion when she was 19. So I do it. I tell her that I had an abortion. It takes a long while. I start the conversatio

  • George

    Whatever. You’ll be dead soon.

  • Jack

    So we’re supposed to thank you for bringing PETA into existence? Great. And you wonder why we X-ers are tired of your self-important nonsense, not to mention the hideous music that you still hawk on “Time Life Presents…”
    We’re done with hearing how “the 60’s” was like so groovy man, how you stopped a war, and all the other amazing socially conscious stuff you want to credit yourselves for creating. Maybe if you would be a little more self-aware and recognize how your era’s self-absorbed, all-for-me, pseudo-radical posturing left a few not so great residue, we might take you seriously. Not to mention that all of your supposedly earth shattering steps toward liberation were pretty much the exclusive domain of privileged white people. Keep convincing yourself that you matter, hippie. The rest of us just roll our eyes and at least take solace in knowing that we don’t have to suffer from Grateful Dead shows anymore.

  • Mike

    The Baby Boomers remain America’s most narcissistic generation bar none. I recommend this reply here:

  • Dave

    Typical. I’ve met few boomers who aren’t convinced of their own greatness. Have fun on your lonely ride to the grave.

  • Lenore Kaibel

    I know this is old, but this person does not seem to know the difference between Gen X and Gen Y. Gen X is no longer super young, the oldest of us are middle aged. Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964, Gen X begins in 1965 (me!) and goes through 1975 or 1980 depending on who you ask. Gen Y is 75 or 80 through the early or mid 90’s. Leave it to a boomer to think everyone after them is one big generation blur. I don’t decorate office spaces with pillows and bean bags but I very much know how to update my browser. I do not remember when RFK was killed, but Hello Kitty has not been a fashion statement for me.The article is essentially flawed because it is lumping all non boomers into one mass.

  • Jhm813

    Boomers take credit for other peoples hard work and think they should be given the praise because they “collaborated” on the work. Go plan another social event or meeting – there’s real work to be done.