As a 20-something, I remember working with an older man who struggled with technology.
I used to snicker with superiority whenever I watched him struggle with e-mail (it was hyphenated back then), jam up the printer or try to operate his computer mouse by holding it in the air and swirling it around like a toy airplane. He was a very nice, brilliant man, but I just couldn’t imagine why someone couldn’t figure out how to search things on Yahoo. (Kids: You’ll have to ask your parents about that one.)
Scroll forward a few decades, and I suddenly have great empathy for that man. Although I’m proud of what I’ve taught myself to keep up tech-wise, I still sometimes fear that I’m doing “Insta” wrong or that I’m not tweeting to my full potential. In fact, my 50s have made me feel more like a data punch key operator than ever (Kids: Another one for the parents).
I feel like I think and move more slowly. I used to speed habitually; I now creep along on ice like an arthritic turtle. I used to leap up and down stairs two at a time; I now walk down them gingerly — remembering all too well the meniscus tear of 2017.
Most recently, I accidentally zipped my lip into my parka. It’s true. I was hurriedly trying to get bundled up to help my friend dig out her car and, in my haste, I caught my upper lip in the zipper. Although painful, it was also sort of funny, so I posted it on Facebook. Among the many responses, my friend Laurel, who has two high school sons, commented: “OK, Boomer.”
At first, I was a little miffed (realizing here that “miffed” is totally a boomer word). Did I really belong among the countless baby boomers who complained about millennials, flexible work schedules and people who don’t use proper sentence structure when texting? This could not be me.
Although raised to eschew the exclamation point, I now understand that it’s infinitely friendlier than the cold-blooded “period” in text messages. Heck (another boomer word), I even praised the fiscal conservatism and work ethics of millennials in a column a few weeks ago.
But then I realized that pretty much everything I do is boomer. Heck (that word again), I am writing a lengthy column (boomer move) about my boomerosity (OK, Boomer) for a newspaper (OK, Boomer), which is just so 1997.
Here’s the deal. Technically, I am not even a boomer. Born in (brace yourselves, Kayla and Matthew) 1965, I am technically Generation X, although I never felt like a bona fide member of that cool cat club. After all, I worked in a newsroom alongside Chuck Klosterman, whose picture might actually be featured in Webster’s Unabridged under “Gen-X.” Chuck could spontaneously recite 100 reasons why Coldplay was a terrible band and KISS was brilliant — all while flicking his long, blond Thurston Moore bangs away from his black chunky spectacles and brushing Cocoa Puffs dust off his artfully pilled acrylic sweater.
I could never compete with that. I listened to Boss Hog and pretended to like Kevin Smith movies because my uber-cool deskmate Ross Raihala told me to.
But all the while, I felt like I belonged in a much older generation — like Sue Ann Nivens (see fourth bulleted item below) trying to hang out with the Ramones. But I digress, partly because my advancing age means my brain wanders and I occasionally find my car keys in the celery crisper.
The fact is that I am temperamentally less of a Gen Xer and more of a boomer, except for my bad knees — which belong to the Greatest Generation. Almost everything I do and say is kind of cautious and old. I can text “Yaas Bruh” as much as I want, but it won’t stop me from compulsively talking about menopause and subscribing to cable.
Just a few examples of my blatant boomerism:
- Unabashedly eating carbs and non-organic vegetables (because they’re cheaper and I pay enough for food, shelter and taxes these days, people!).
- Harboring a stodgy distrust of most “for hire” services. Rent some stranger’s house in another city? What if he’s a lunatic? Use a Lyft? Apparently, I’m the only one who read the story in the newspaper (BOOMER!) about those questionable drivers out East who were charging false vomit clean-up fees.
- My very “basic” need to drive my car (the one I own) through the Starbucks drive-thru at least twice a week for a Cinnamon Dulce Latte (and no, I don’t want goat milk, thank you. Oh, you actually said oat milk? Kids these days. They need to speak up.).
- Using pop-culture references — like “Solid Gold Dancers,” Don Knotts, Sue Ann Nivens — that no one under 30 understands.
- Devoting an entire cupboard to medication and anti-aging supplements.
- Not knowing my Tik from my Tok and considering Facebook to be my favorite social media platform.
- Commenting on groups of young people who are all sitting at the same table, ignoring each other while they stare at their phones.
- Watching the Grammys and only recognizing 4 percent of the music.
- Complaining about how badly I sleep. Using lots of old-timey horse analogies: “a horse apiece”; “You’re putting the cart before the horse”; or “Hold your horses.”
- Preferring to read things that are printed out versus on a screen.
Of course, that last item requires operating a printer — preferably from my mobile device. Which I will do the minute that Kayla comes over here to help me.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.