When will the Baby Boomers grow up? Sadly probably never. It was therefore amusing to sample the mildly outraged tones in reports last week, that Exodus, a tour firm which runs overland African expeditions lasting five to thirteen weeks, has banned the over-forties from selected trips. "We are being ageist," a company spokesman admitted. "We just find it works better."
That such a ban should be considered newsworthy, underlines the huge audacity of the Baby Boomer generation, that is, anyone born between 1946 and 1964. We feel that we are young and trendy in perpetuity, as if by divine right. We are the majority generation, we shall not be ignored. The term midyouth, first coined by an article in American Demographics in 1995 has caught on and boy, we intend to fight on the beaches and in the African scrub over every wrinkle. There are just so many of us you see; in the US alone there are 76 million. Yet who would have us as a generation on top? How we must squash down on the younger Generation X-ers with our buying might and our absurd pretensions.
Sir Chris Bonington was quoted in the press as suggesting that the Exodus ban was 'rather sad', that mixing up generation gave different a perspective. But though a wise man with his eyes habitually fixed on the high peaks of life, he is missing the point. There is nothing more irritating than having to make conversation with older people who, while trying to recapture their lost youth, constantly pull economic rank. If I were 28 with a huge mortgage, would I really want to trudge through the African bush with some paunchy plonker, boasting that his house which he bought for ?75k in 1983 is now worth ?500K ? more, if he put in a conservatory.
We are the selfish generation driving the stock market and the huge hikes in property prices in certain parts of the country. "We?ve never had it so good," said property expert John Wrigglesworth, quoted in The Times last week while predicting house price inflation of 10% this year. "Lenders are falling over themselves to give away mortgages . Baby Boomers are buying like crazy, and there?s an acute shortage of family accommodation." Try spending five to thirteen weeks with someone like that, while you and your wife and baby are wondering how to trade up from your two bedroom flat without taking out a 100% mortgage.
Of course, we Baby Boomers have our own nemesis. Get a group of us together over a designer beer and listen to us moan about having to be nice to our parents? generation born pre-War, who now sit on hugely valuable assets, blown up by years of bull markets and inflation. What a cushion of superiority these crinklies have! ?We did without in the War, so its double cream and cruises for us. "If we are imaginative, we must realise what it is like for those coming up behind. Recently I was chatting to a twenty-three year old at the hairdresser?s. ? Oh, I never read the money pages," she said. "Nor do my friends. Because it?s for people of your age who have money to invest, who can afford houses. How can I afford a mortgage when I?ve got ?8,000 student loan to pay off?"
The generation gap is of course most noticeably about music, memories and fashion. Why do the young not wear jeans any more? Just watch those sixty year olds waddling around Princes Street in them. And OK, you went to Notting Hill and came out singing all the lyrics of She, but admit it, you learned them not from the recent Elvis Costello hit but from the Charles Aznavour 1974 original. Yet the real aching generational chasm between Us and Them, is not style, but Money; the unfair carving up of the economic cake. Which generation has the most and which would like some. You know Baby Boomers are calling the shots on the news agenda, when you read all our celebratory copy over house price rises. Who ever heard of anyone celebrating a price rise? Unless of course you hold the supply.
For hard-line Baby Boomers who like to flaunt it, may I recommend the American Association of Baby Boomers, a US not-for-profit lobby group . Their tasteful logo is a baby banging a drum decorated with stars and stripes. Check out their right-on website! Their Home Page offers Nostalgia, Advocacy, Benefits and Bonding. Pay just $12.50 and you too could receive their quarterly magazine Boomtime ? strapline Boomers Just Want To Have Fun! Packed with advice on DIY investment plans ? ("are you the type of person who dives into the business section of the paper before your coffee fix?") to wealth strategies on real estate and pension planning. It ?s cute, it?s hip, it?s ? so groovy!
Baby Boomers, we have now realised, are the Market! It is our buying decisions which call the shots, whatever the youth worshipping marketing men might think. We?re the Have A Nice Day generation, who have gone from LSD to lattes, from Hula-Hoops to cellphones. We like to pretend that business is fun, a bit of a game ? he who gets the most toys wins the prize. What fun! we are a generation of Edinas, while those in their twenties and early thirties , look on, like Saffy, unsmiling and overgeared.
So, ask yourself: would you have a five week holiday with us?
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