Sunday, December 11, 2016

Love, Love, Love

     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?


Wisewebwoman said...

Great post Tom. Has got me thinking about my middle-aged children. One pissed off without trace the other is out here on the Edge working in a quasi government job. Her wakeup call from academia took place about 25 years sooner than mine. She saw the toll a driven life had on me and for what? All those extra lessons for the kids are as dust now.
I do wonder what it all was about.

Jono said...

If I would have had kids I would have worked a lot harder for them than I did for myself. Just as my father did for us.

Stephen Hayes said...

The world is now too dangerous for us to let our children go outside to play.

retirementreflections said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Tom. I fully agree with your conclusion that much depends on the individual parents, and the individual children, involved.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I had trouble leaving a comment on this post. Someone wanted me to leave my real name on draft blogger, and would not let me bypass that message.

Anyway, my kids have successful careers and make more money than I ever did. I have good kids.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I don't have kids, but, even as a late Boomer, I can still hear my parents saying "Go out and play" to my brothers and me. All of us turned out great. Obviously, I don't know for sure what kind of parent I would have been, but I think I would have used my folk's parenting style as a good base to build on.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! Sounds like an interesting play (at least you made it sound that way!) But isn't it always easier to blame your parents if your life isn't turning out how you hoped. While I won't disagree that many baby boomers are indeed selfish and self-absorbed, I would also say that some baby boomers so lavished their children with everything that they didn't think they got when they were kids that the dissatisfaction that some of these children feel is because they were never brought up to be strong and resilient and are still waiting for someone to come save them. The playwright is 36 so that makes him a millennial and prime for blaming his baby boomer parents. So what did you think of the ending? You never did say. ~Kathy

Olga Hebert said...

Well, I know that my daughter would say the boomers left the world a poorer place for her generation.

Karen D. Austin said...

I'm one of the youngest boomers and an older parent, so my two kids are still teenagers. I'm not sure how they are going to find a place for themselves in the world. They are still observing and exploring options. And the economy might end up changing dramatically in the next four years as they launch. Too many factors are at play (and it's hard for me to be objective about my own parenting). I just have to take things one day at a time, making good choices in the moment, and then see how it all plays out. Thanks for the review. I don't see many plays these days (I'm paying marching band fees for one kid and college tuition / car insurance for the other.)

Tom Sightings said...

Good point, Kathy, the playwright may have his own ax to grind, joining the chorus of people who say "boomers left the world a poorer place for her generation." But one thing I know for sure, Karen, is that there is no better performance in the world than your own kid's performance, whether it's at the theater, on the sport's field, or in the band.

Anonymous said...

Everything appears to be in decline except the interest rate raised yesterday because we are supposedly at full employment. Try telling that to some outside the NYC stock market.

Anyway, great post. Regarding selfish Baby Boomers, Ive known a few having given birth to three, and advise that one can't make generalizations.

Anonymous said...

PS clarification. Read my comment. My kids are good and generous people. Some of the boomers they knew were not.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I would have to say the boomer generation worked hard but politics played a role in the way the economy was to move ahead, workes got ahead if willing.But an need for bigger profits chaneg everything. Mass production was poshed full speed ahead. Now that system is not functioning so well . Too much was created too fast. The youth workforce is not as needed.and ojder people keep jobs longer. We have set a tough course for the next generation. Play outside is not happening as tablets are the place to be with.
Thanks for this post.