Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Boomers Will Pay Anything To Be Cool

Another husband's hit the dust. It just keeps happening in our neighborhood of over-fifty couples. My friend's kitchen was the crime scene where another married girlfriend of ours recounted that her husband's gone loco, bought the sports car, the guitar, gotten some silly girl to fall for him, is leaving her, the wife. She says, "She makes him feel cool." Oh shit, big trouble. My friend and I call it a bad case of acute Boomercoolitis.

Boomers want to be cool. Nah, let's not say "want" ... let's say need to be cool. Nope, that won't work either. Try MUST be cool. In fact, will pay anything to be cool. Will do anything to be cool. Why? Well, do the math. If you're 60 ... really how many more years do you have? It might be called a classic mid-life crisis, but there's more going on here. Marketers are all over it. They know that boomers are hopelessly addicted to hair coloring, midriff trimming, doing just about anything to seem cool -- girl boomers AND guy boomers.

An interesting piece by Michael Kinsley in The New Yorker about boomers flaunting their longevity called Mine is Longer Than Yours: The Last Boomer Game in April 2008, suggested that the there's a year where you start noticing someone close to you is dying on a regular basis.
We are born thinking that we’ll live forever. Then death becomes an intermittent reality, as grandparents and parents die, and tragedy of some kind removes one or two from our own age cohort. And then, at some point, death becomes a normal part of life—a faint dirge in the background that gradually gets louder. What is that point? One crude measure would be when you can expect, on average, one person of roughly your age in your family or social circle to die every year. At that point, any given death can still be a terrible and unexpected blow, but the fact that people your age die is no longer a legitimate surprise, and the related fact that you will, too, is no longer avoidable.

With some heroic assumptions, we can come up with an age when death starts to be in-your-face. We will merge all sexual and racial categories into a single composite American. We will assume that there are a hundred people your age who are close enough to be invited to your funeral. Your funeral chapel won’t fit a hundred people? No problem. On average, half of them will be too busy decomposing to attend. As Max Beerbohm noted in his novel “Zuleika Dobson,” “Death cancels all engagements.” And why a hundred? Because it’s easy, and also because it’s two-thirds of “Dunbar’s number,” of a hundred and fifty, which is supposedly the most relationships that any one set of human neurons can handle. We’re crudely assuming that two-thirds of those are about your age.
Anyway, the answer is sixty-three.

Of course, we hate the badly-behaving husband, because honestly girls ... how many over-50 women can pull a Demi Moore manoeuvre and get away with it? Men have always been able to play the May-December romance card, but for most women it's a bit tawdry and embarrassing.

[Picture Credit: Note: I think Pierce Brosnan is wonderful and loved him in Mama Mia. I'm not saying he's got a case of BoomerCoolitis -- hell, he's always been cool. Love this picture.]