You would think that by sheer factor of our critical mass, boomers could put an end to the needlessly annoying questions we regularly get asked. For one, we are not really the walking history books that some regard us. Yes, I do remember where I was when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon -- in a Catskills' summer bungalow huddled around a black and white TV -- but since half the time I can't remember which parking garage level I've left the car, I'd rather these little tests of my memory cells cease and desist already.
What other questions would I prefer not to be asked? Here are my top five:
1. Were you at Woodstock?
Yes, half a million of us were. That leaves approximately 9 katrillion who were not. Just for the record, I was one of the half million. Mostly what I remember about it was the rain, the mud and the inability for three days to find a sufficiently private place to pee.
Woodstock was one of those experiences that improves with age. The farther away in time I get from it, the more amazing it was. Speaking today, I can honestly say it was a watershed event in my life. I was part of something huge -- a city created in the spirit of love, music and harmony where people shared what they had, took care of each other, and just had faith that they would still be able to get home even after they closed the New York Thruway.
But the main thing about Woodstock was that forever after, it defined me to others. When I say I was there, people instantly think they know me, my values, my politics, my attitude toward using drugs. That's why I'm tired of hearing the question.
Let's just say: Not all of us there were comfortable peeing in public.
2. Do you know that Splenda is bad for you?
OK, I am speaking more broadly here than just Splenda. New products are introduced to the market one day and then the next day someone discovers they can kill us. I still can't figure out whether I should be getting mammograms and colonoscopies annually and whether drinking red wine is a life-saver or life-shortener. It keeps changing, and so does the rest of the "it's bad for you" list.
I grew up lathering baby oil on my body before laying out in the noonday sun. We believed that a sunburn would peel off and leave us sporting a golden tan for the rest of the summer. We also added food coloring to our sour cream and onion dip because we believed that made it more festive and all the best hostesses did it.
So yes, I know that Splenda is probably bad for me. And I also know that one day they'll likely "prove" that kale can cause glaucoma and drinking eight glasses of water a day strains your bladder. Actually I think they already proved that last one.
3. What's your workout?
This always reminds me of a 1970s-era guy slithering up to a young woman in a bar and asking what her astrological sign is. It's a pickup line. I'm Aquarius, by the way.
I don't have a workout. On good days, I get on the treadmill in the garage and try not to feel too much like a caged hamster on a wheel. I do it not for enjoyment but because I think I must. I see good health as the currency I most want to take with me into retirement. Without it, I'm flat broke.
4. Can you lower the air conditioning?
Many of us work in multi-generational offices where we are engaged in thermostat wars with our younger colleagues. While I would maternally suggest that adding a few pounds to their shivering frames might level the temperature playing field, even the thinnest among them has an option that is not available to me: They can adjust how many layers of clothing they are wearing; I cannot. Once I strip down to my underwear, I have no place else to go.
Fortunately for me, I sit right next to the thermostat and possession is 9/10th of the law in most states. Bring a sweater, girls.
5. Have you lived here your whole life?
I am guilty of once having asked this question of a docent at the Virginia, Minnesota museum. My husband was born in this small town and years ago, we went there to revisit his childhood haunts. I will always remember the docent's response.
"No, not yet." Me either.
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