“I'm starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don't have the broader trends like you used to.” Douglas Coupland
Last week was my husband’s 60th birthday. We decided to celebrate it by going out to dinner with our best friends. We are about the same age and the conversation was about anything and everything. What struck me was that because we are the same age, we all remember the same things. Because of that, we didn’t have to explain a particular television show or band. We knew it just by mentioning the name and the story went from there. What fun it is to spend an evening with people who get you – just because you grew up at the same time.
My generation lived the life of the kids on That 70’s Show. Houses were decorated with avocado and mustard. Unless the house had original hardwood floors, linoleum and shag carpet covered the floors. Honestly, it was hideous. The four of us grew up and raised our families in different areas of the country, but the backdrop of television, music, news events, and the overall parenting strategy that our parents had brought us together.
I call my generation (and likely those before can say the same thing), the “you’ll live generation.”
Meaning that no matter what happened to you, you were told: “you’ll live- go out and play.” I kid you not, I was visiting relatives in Kentucky with my Dad when I was six and broke my leg in three places and they didn’t take me to the doctor for two days. We all have stories like that. We were certainly not a coddled generation.
We all remembered the oil embargo in the 1970's. Our friend’s father owned an ice rink that held on financially, but it was tough. We all got our driver’s license just after gas doubled. We all grew up watching the Twilight Zone. We remembered when Burgess Meredith stepped on his glasses thinking that he had “All the time in the World” to read and how crushing it was when we watched it the first time. We all remembered Laugh In but may have been too young to completely get it. We remembered Lilly Tomlin as Ernestine as the telephone operator and Edith Ann in her huge rocking chair. We remembered the constant references to the Vietnam War. We were too young to understand, but it was always out there – hanging over our heads as a worry.
We all grew up with Gilligan’s Island reruns, The Brady Bunch, The Carol Burnett Show, All in the Family, MASH, Barney Miller, and the Sonny and Cher Show. All those late 60’s and 70’s songs that you hear in the grocery store were the soundtrack of our lives. We were in our teens when Disco took over and I am sure we still remember the steps to a dance called the Hustle. We all wore bell-bottom jeans in the 70’s and thought we were cool. We ladies parted our hair in the middle in the 70’s and wished for Farrah Fawcett’s hair. We spent a lot of time at roller rinks.
I wonder what kids who are growing up today will remember when they sit in a restaurant in 40 years with friends their own age. We only had four television channels - not streaming entertainment or 24/7 news. We had the radio and record players and had to buy either a 45 or the entire album. We couldn’t pick and choose and create playlists. We had to go the theatre (often the drive-in) to see movies. I do wonder if kids growing up today who have so many choices will have those same touchstones. I wonder if they too will have a shared soundtrack in the background as they too just tried to grow up.
By Theressa Harrigan