B and I made the trip into New York City over the weekend to see Love, Love, Love, billed as an "intricate, funny and deeply intelligent play." I'm not sure I quite agree with that, but anyway, it's a play about Baby Boomers, taking its name from the opening line of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
And it brings up the question: Do Baby Boomers love themselves, at the expense of everyone else?
Act one takes place in the summer of 1967. Kenneth is a freewheeling college student spending the summer loafing around his older brother's apartment in London. The earnest older brother, Henry, has a job, his own flat, and is hoping to have a girlfriend in Sandra, who is coming over to his place tonight.
Henry is trying to get rid of Kenneth, but Kenneth outwits his dour brother at every turn. Sandra arrives and soon falls for Kenneth, throwing over Henry for his more playful younger brother. She excuses her move, saying everyone needs to be free, to follow their own desires -- "Young people, our age, we're in the moment," she coos -- and besides, Henry will get over it soon enough.
In act two it is 20 years later and the two kids who believed in free love have now grown up. Sandra and Kenneth are married with two teenage children of their own -- who they evidently neglect in pursuit of their own dreams. It's the daughter's birthday. But Kenneth doesn't even know how old she is, and Sandra, with her high-powered job in London, is too busy to attend her daughter's violin concert. Nevertheless, Sandra insists that everyone have birthday cake, whether they want it or not.
In act three it's 2010 and the daughter, now 37, bitterly complains that she has nothing in her life -- no career, no boyfriend, no home -- and blames it all on her parents. I won't tell you anymore, in case you ever want to go see the
play. Suffice it to say that things work out just fine for Kenneth and
Sandra. Not so much for everyone else.
Of course, B and I thought the play presented a pretty broad indictment of Baby Boomers as selfish, narcissistic people who don't care who they hurt so long as they fulfill their own desires. Boomers are bad parents who were lucky to enjoy an economic boom, and who don't care, or even acknowledge, that their children are struggling to even approach their parents' lavish standard of living.
Afterward, B and I decided that we, as Baby Boomers, actually sacrificed more for our children than our parents ever did for us. We paid more attention, spent more money, did more for them. Our parents just told us to go outside and play. We signed up our kids for piano lessons and swimming lessons, for summer camp and SAT courses. But . . . maybe we're just fooling ourselves? Or, maybe that's part of problem?
Today CNN reported that in international student rankings, Americans scored 22nd in reading skills, and 39th in math, the lowest in years.
And an article in the New York Times "The American Dream, Quantified at Last" cited a report from Stanford showing that the chances of someone earning as much as their parents have been declining for over half a century -- from 92% for people born in 1940 to 79% for people born in 1950 to barely 50% for those born in 1980.
In other words, achieving the so-called American Dream, of doing better than our parents, was virtually guaranteed for those of us lucky enough to be born in the 1940s. But for our children, born in the 1980s, the road to prosperity has been filled with many more potholes.
Of course, so much depends on the individual children, and the parents. But a rising tide lifts all boats, and presumably we enjoyed a rising tide, while our children do not. Or . . . maybe we should have just told our children to go outside and play?