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"Happy Days" was our lie - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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"Happy Days" was our lie [Mar. 3rd, 2004|10:13 pm]
[Current Mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

We are a society that worships youth, reveres flawless skin and smooth, unblemished limbs.

And yet I have spent my entire life wishing I was just a little bit older.

I grew up at the very tail of the Baby Boom. I am old enough to remember Kennedy's assassination - just barely. I was four at the time, and remember mostly my mother's wracking sobs when she told us the president was dead, then as we watched the funeral on TV. I remember Martin Luther King's assassination, and Bobby Kennedy's, and wishing furiously that I had been old enough to carry a sign at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

I wanted to be a hippie. And a peace activist. At age 12 I mustered my younger brother and sisters to stage a sit-in on the kitchen floor, protesting against an unfair summer bedtime that had us tossing and turning in our humid rooms while we could still hear our friends playing outside.

Alas, the rest of them abandoned the effort at the first parental threat and I alone learned the price of civil disobedience.

In junior high school I wore my "POWs never have a nice day" button and my POW bracelet religiously. I added a one-eyed smilie face with the slogan "Mutants for Nuclear Power" and, when teachers made us stop wearing them on our clothes (we played with the pins) shifted those buttons to the strap of a denim purse, along with "Save the Seals" and an Earth Day button. Even by then the era of "Flower Power" and "Groovy" were waning, and I had to remove those buttons in the face of peer ridicule.

At 12 I was on the cusp of old enough to matter. I had watched with envy as my older cousins had twined flowers in their hair, worn wild clothing, lived in communes. I could almost taste the days to come.

And then the National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State University and ripped holes in the fabric of an era. By the time I was 14 the Vietnam War was over, Nixon had resigned, and Haight Ashbury was legend devolving to myth.

I watched it happen, from the vantage of the stairway, a child in flannel jammies stealing a glimpse at the grownup world, waiting for my turn to dance. When my turn came, though, it wasn't psychedaelia. It was bad polyester pantsuits, disco music, and afro perms on white guys. It was colored rust and avocado and "harvest gold."

I retreated into the environmental movement, where things were at least green and brown, plaid shirts and wafflestompers. By the time I got to college I was involved with the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group, and spent a year as the chair of the University of Oregon branch of OSPIRG. I hung out with granola-heads and we all tried to pretend it was the same.

But it wasn't. The faith that the youth of America could do anything had evaporated, and it was all about being Green enough, all a status symbol power trip - I'm more organic than you.

Maybe it always was. Maybe the hippie scene was just as much of a power trip. I'll never really know. But I'll always know that I grew up at the worst time, fashion-wise and music-wise, in recent memory. We flocked to nostalgia radio because it was so much better than what was being offered. We raided our mother's closets for clothes they'd abandoned before we were born.

We were the lost generation. We hated the 70s even while we were living through them. We all wanted to belong to a time before our own. And even now, looking back at it all on nostalgia shows, it sucks. So pardon us as we hog in on today's pop and even rap. We have nothing of our own worth touting.

[User Picture]From: ysabel
2004-03-04 03:56 am (UTC)
If you haven't, read 13th Gen. You're right at the very beginning of that, it sounds like -- the Boomer/13er cusp -- and I suspect you'd appreciate the book. (I'm smack in the middle of the 13ers, for reference.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-05 01:09 am (UTC)
I'm gonna remember this for when I have some time to read - thanks!
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From: klig
2004-03-04 04:00 am (UTC)
If it's any comfort, my parents were at the other end of the boomer age, perfectly placed to be hippies, countercultural types, and (in my dad's case) be conscripted for Vietnam. So what did they do? They studied really hard, married young, moved to the country, and became teachers of various types. You needn't feel bad that you missed some opportunities, because some people who had them used them for entirely different things. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 11:07 am (UTC)
At least they got to make the choice. But you have a point - they were probably the more common story of the era.
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From: erisreg
2004-03-04 04:13 am (UTC)

We have nothing of our own worth touting.

seems every generation buys the nostalgia thing to some respect,..the era seems a lot shinier if your not the one polishing it,...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 11:09 am (UTC)

Re: We have nothing of our own worth touting.

Could be. I just remember thinking the clothes were ugly even then. [g]
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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2004-03-04 04:25 am (UTC)

Right there with ya, sistah

Funny, I am your contemporary, and I remember loathing the clothes, hair, and disco music even as I lived through the era. But I was blissfully ignorant of anything political. I was caught up in church music, and at the same age I was touring the South singing in a gospel quartet. Piano lessons, band, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine took up my spare time. I lived in a log house behind which you could walk for 50 miles without so much as crossing a road, and my enemies were not warmongers or loggers but rattlesnakes, bears, and the occasional cougar. Were you a city kid? I wonder if it made a difference in how you perceived current events.

It could be that my perspective was so different because my family were all people with top secret government clearances, working as spies, weapons developers, and some things about which even now we cannot speak. I learned how to shoot just about every kind of weapon as a kid, and I knew all the patriotic songs by heart. War wasn't something to be sneered at; it was an honorable yet horrible necessity. Instead of wearing a POW shirt, I actually had uncles who were POWs. My family pretty much looked upon the war protesters as a bunch of ignoramuses who knew nothing about real sacrifice or the true price of freedom. You still can't say the name "Jane Fonda" around my family (or my husband's -- his father was a Marine who served in WWII) without seeing veins bulging and spit flying. But as a kid, I was completely unaware that the protesters even existed. We were sheltered from the news.

I'm not saying any of this to dis your childhood ambitions, just to juxtapose a different perspective on the era. It fascinates me in the same way I love to hear my brother's take on a childhood event and realize we experienced the same thing in such totally different ways it's as if we are not on the same planet.

Who knows how much of our attitudes are formed because of indoctrination? I know I can't separate my family's values from my own, not completely. What was it that made you into a bleedin' heart [g] and me into an NRA supporter, even though I dare say both of us are quite intelligent, thoughtful people?

Hmm ...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 11:16 am (UTC)

Re: Right there with ya, sistah

We bounced from suburbia to small-town to the edges-of-poverty "townhouse" living through my growing up. Never settled, never had anything much. My parents were Democrats by birth but otherwise completely a-political, though they did watch the evening news. My mom, who is at the very beginning of the baby boom generation, loved rock and roll, so I grew up on the music of the era. My cousins were married to guys who went to Vietnam and came back disaffected by the experience.

Two very different experiences growing up. Nature, nurture? Probably some of each.
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From: williaej
2004-03-04 04:31 am (UTC)

At Least You Aren't My Generation

I was born in 1981, just missing Gen X. I grew up in the shadow of the Eighties' Corporate Greed Culture, surrounded by the single biggest fashion mistake of the Twentieth Century. We can't even be nostalgic for the Eighties (and anyone who is should be assaulted with a shoulder pad and then hanged with a denim jacket) because thanks to those bastards at VH1 Gen X took it from us and decided they Love The Eighties. We were the teens of the Nineties, barely, and that was only four years ago. By the time my generation was Old Enough To Matter no one cared. Marketing was aimed alterately at Gen X, the Aging Boomers, and the teens of today (then called Tweens).

We were the generation change left behind. We are too old to claim 9/11, too young for everything else. The Sixties were the stuff of history to us; the Seventies were Our Parents' Era, the Eighties were Elementary School.

We got video games. And possibly computers if you strech it. We're old enough to remember life Before The Internet, but young enough to have had Internet in school. Change missed us. We had no great issue to rally behind, no contribution to pop culture (unless you count the Boy Band craze, and if your generation wants something we'll gladly let you have them).

The only thing we really have is cynicism.

And liquor. Lots of liquor. *grin*
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[User Picture]From: finding_helena
2004-03-04 04:47 am (UTC)

Re: At Least You Aren't My Generation

*shrug*. I'm your contemporary (born 1982) and honestly, none of this stuff bothered me. I'm glad to have missed the fashion disasters of the 80s and come of age with the Internet available. Granted, a lot of our pop culture is, well, crap, but then I tend to ignore it anyway.
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[User Picture]From: elf_inside
2004-03-04 05:29 am (UTC)
As a late X-Er (born 1975, and *some* people claim that soon after that was the Generation Next or Y or whatever you call it), I happy have very vague memories of the 70s. That is, I'm happy they're vague ;)... I remember Carter losing to Reagan, but that's about the only political thing I remember from the era. Gads, I remember the clothes though. Horrific memory there. I wouldn't go so far as one other poster did to say that the 80s was a fashion disaster, but the 70s definitely were.

There was a lot of music in the 80s actually born of the 70s that wasn't disco or punk. And the 70s had some pretty darn good music of its own. Look at Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin for example. The 80s wouldn't have been possible without them, but neither one belonged to the 80s.

I just wish I'd been a little bit more up on what happened during my generation culturally. I grew up in a rural area, so I missed a lot. No cable TV, and while I did get saturday morning cartoons, I wasn't babysat by the TV. I did have an Atari 2600, but I wasn't from a "Corporate Greed" family. (I find that characterization funny - don't the late 90s exhibit a heckuva lot of corporate greed?)

And I do feel a bit out of place in this current era politically. I don't belong in this Police State. I want to speak out - and try - but it seems as if my voice is unheard because so few people really care about the atrocities going on these days. The activism of the 60s would be welcome now. Maybe we're seeing it a little in the gay marriage movements, but it seems like even here, many of the supporters are afraid to actually come out and support the issue. The peer pressure is against activism these days - not for it.

Or maybe it's just because I hit the big Three-Oh this year and can't trust myself anymore.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 11:22 am (UTC)
Ah, heck, you have to be 30 before I even start taking you seriously. ;-)

UI think the gay marriage activism is what got me all nostalgic here. It's good to see people standing up for something.

But the 80s were a massive improvement in fashion, believe me.
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From: thetisra
2004-03-04 05:44 am (UTC)


I was born in '75 also, and somehow I turn 29 this year... That's a neat trick you got there.

The people in Douglas Coupland's books I think crystalize my generation better than anything else. That vauge discontent, lack of any vision or purpose, lack of faith in anything. Drifting.

Sucks really, but I'm not complaining. I don't need a Movement or a Cause to be happy.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 11:25 am (UTC)

Re: Hmm...

Neat trick? I'm confussled.

Content is good. Better than this vague always-itchy.
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[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2004-03-04 02:09 pm (UTC)
That's why a lot of people of our got into punk. To escape the bloody disco.

I have friends now who think disco music is kitsch and funny. They are all too young to have lived through it.

I added a one-eyed smilie face with the slogan "Mutants for Nuclear Power"

Heh. I had one of those.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-04 02:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, my kids think "That 70s Show" is a hoot. It just makes me twitch.
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[User Picture]From: thewhitedragon
2004-03-04 02:39 pm (UTC)
I was born in '71 and am a proud child of the 80's. I refuse to use the terminology "Gen-X'er". For me, however, I refused to leave the 80's in the most part. My style still reflects the nostalgia that I have for that period, my musical tastes mostly include things from "back then" and are often referred to as "classics" now.

I can appreciate much of the 90's and 2k, but I find it regrettable to see 14 year olds wearing jet black clothing and massive amounts of eyeliner and assuming that Bauhaus is a new band because they haven't heard of them. The 80's were the so-called "me" generation, but this current one seems to be the "disposable" generation filled with far too many people who seem to suffer from ADD. Kinda sad.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-05 01:13 am (UTC)
Every generation believes the one behind them to be vastly worse than they.

We're generally right.

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[User Picture]From: inner_linbo
2004-03-04 04:33 pm (UTC)

Generations Lost and Gained

I was born in '68 and so got to be dressed up during the 70s (I have some wonderful pictures of me in tight multicolored striped jeans, not to mention the joy that was Tough-skins) and go to high school in the 80s.

I look back on how these generations are presented and notice how disconected the presentations are from the real history. Just as Happy Days showed a 1950s that wasn't a kettle on low heat that would soon whistle with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, we never see the 70s as the me-me-me decade of self indulgence that lead to the corporate scandals and AIDS crisis of the 1980s (Not to mention the rise of Ronald Reagan).

Music is the big thing for me. We've seen a massive rewriting of the musical history of the 1980s. If you listen to stations playing 80s music you hear The Smiths and the Replacements and Husker Du and the Blake Babies. These artists didn't get any real airplay in the 1980s. As soon as a station starts playing Michael Bolton, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi (lots of Bon Jovi) with a few dollops of Mr. Mister, The Outfield, and Glass Tiger, plus a dash of Tiffany, then I'll call it a 1980s station.

It's tough when my teenage daughter bounds up the stairs to watch "I Love the 80s" on VH1, while I remember Ronnie and AIDS and a crummy job market and too many pastels.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-05 01:20 am (UTC)

Re: Generations Lost and Gained

There was a book once that a friend loved. It was titled: "The Good Olde Days--They Were Rotten!" and it pointed out all the really bad parts of era after fondly-remembered era, starting in the Renaissance and down through the 50s. I wish I could find a copy!

The other day, though, I was home alone and lonely and turned on the TV and on VH1 William Shatner was hosting a show called "One Hit Wonders." Lots of 70s music. SCAAAAAry.
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[User Picture]From: lysana
2004-03-04 05:08 pm (UTC)
You may have missed out on the politics, but as a Gen Xer (early stage, born 1968), I have one thing to say. At least your generation got to have sex without worrying whether you'd die from it, at least for a while. I was hitting adolescence full-force (or better put, it was hitting me) when Rock Hudson died. I hold to this day that the slasher flick genre's popularity when I was a teenager was in no small part because all us teenagers got a fast lesson that sex and death can be too closely entwined and needed a safe means of exorcising that demon from our heads.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2004-03-04 07:11 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear.

Though that didn't stop me from being a slut anyway, I wish I'd known what it was like to live in a world where your worst diseases could be cured by a shot to the arm.
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[User Picture]From: lothie
2004-03-04 09:17 pm (UTC)
Me too.
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[User Picture]From: tygher
2004-03-05 06:38 am (UTC)
I wanted to be a hippie. And a peace activist. At age 12 I mustered my younger brother and sisters to stage a sit-in on the kitchen floor, protesting against an unfair summer bedtime that had us tossing and turning in our humid rooms while we could still hear our friends playing outside.

This made me giggle.

I'm not quite old enough for any of that, myself. The first thing I really remember is the Challenger explosion that killed Christa McCauliffe. (Lord and lady, I can't even remember if I've spelled that correctly.) Later, the Gulf war was my big war .. I had family there. And now this one, where I have friends there. I am, through and through, an 80's child. The MTV generation.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-03-05 11:17 am (UTC)
I remember that I was pregnant when the Challenger exploded.

But I've always liked MTV...
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