Stay Home, Boomer
As I spoke to my peers, I realized that I wasn’t alone. A lot of us have spent the past week pleading with our baby-boomer parents to cook at home, rip up the cruise tickets, and step away from the grandchildren. My in-laws, who live in Puerto Rico, needed all three of their adult children to persuade them over a group text not to go to Macy’s (or at least to skip communion at church). One friend writes, “My dad is a retired doctor. My mom is a retired nurse. They are both in their early seventies. When I called home to check in on them, no answer. Turns out my mom was ‘at the mall having coffee’ (?!) and my dad was golfing. I yelled at them to stop being rebellious children of the 1960s and to please grow up.” Another says, of his parents, “They just won’t f*cking listen to me. I’m going to kill them before covid does. I’m really upset. They are telling me I’m overreacting by telling them to stop eating out, and my mom keeps going to the office. I won’t let them come here to see the boys (who both have mild fevers and coughs right now, which could be nothing, but obviously a bad idea). They get mad at me when I call them to tell them to just stay the fuck home. My dad is a seventy-one-year-old diabetic.”
I told my mom about what seemed like a trend. “All my friends are saying the same thing,” she texted back, no doubt on her way to a farmers’ market, “that their kids are crazy and treating us like elderly people.”
There have been plenty of reports of thirtysomethings going out to brunch or twentysomethings crowding in bars on their now indefinite spring breaks. But twentysomethings—who, let’s be clear, should also take this extremely seriously and stay home—are supposed to feel immortal. Seventysomethings, less so. It’s a normal part of the life cycle for adult children to start parenting their parents. This generational role reversal may be a prelude to the demographic shift to come, as baby boomers age out of late-late “middle age” and are forced to relinquish their invincibility, while their children take on the burdens of caring for elderly—yes, elderly—parents.
Schulman quotes a writer whose theory is that Boomers were raised to think that the Big Bad Thing was going to happen, but it never did. The Bomb didn’t fall, did it?
I think that might be part of it, but it is also the case that that generation believed that it should be able to do what it damn well pleases, consequences shmonsequences. Yes, I’m painting with a broad brush. But look, is it only that generation? Doesn’t this seem like it’s how Americans of all generations live now?
Maybe. As Schulman says, though, it’s just weird that we younger people ought to be in a position of having to convince our parents to quit being so reckless with their health. It’s not just Fox News geezers either (though as the son of a hardcore Fox watcher in her seventies, I want to thank the Murdochs for telling the network’s hosts to quit being virus denialists). I had to be a pest to a dear Boomer friend, aged 70, an old hippie who thinks Trump is the source of evil in the modern world, but who did not want to be told what she could do. She is now, much to my relief, cocooning at home.
How about you? Have you had trouble getting the beloved Boomers in your life to grow the hell up about coronavirus? Talk to me.
UPDATE: Zoomers, man:
“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not gonna let it stop me from partying”: Spring breakers are still flocking to Miami, despite coronavirus warnings. https://t.co/KoYKI8zNDHpic.twitter.com/rfPfea1LrC
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 18, 2020