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Debra Ollivier Headshot

The Spirit of a Generation

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The other day I was sitting at the kitchen table with my fifteen-year-old son, who's in the throes of teen love. The conversation went something like this:

Me: How's your girlfriend?
Him: Check my relationship status on Facebook.
Me: Excuse me? I'm sitting right in front of you. You can just tell me. In person. It's called talking.
Him (rolling his eyes): Mom, you are so twentieth century.

Of course I was born in the twentieth century -- 1960, to be precise, when roughly half the population of the United States was under eighteen. Back then you could get a live person on the line simply by dialing "O" on a rotary phone, and it was impossible to imagine, except in some episode of Star Trek, that we might one day beam each others' faces onto screens and speak in real-time on iPhones or Skype, or feverishly ichat in long threads of electronic dialogue.

Now many of us are parenting eighteen-year-olds and parenting our parents, while we straddle a complicated new generational subdivision called the "sandwich generation" (a topic we will regularly cover on Huff/Post50). My kids can barely imagine the challenges that being part of this "sandwich generation" represent, just as they can barely imagine what their 50-plus parents have lived through. Everything about us is so painfully retro, even though what goes around comes around. (What are flares, anyhow, other than streamlined bellbottoms?) And so it's hard for my kids to imagine that when I was their age, the public school I attended had only recently allowed girls to wear pants. I remember carrying my pants to school in a paper bag, certain that not one girl would dare wear anything but a dress. (Happily, that was not the case.) This was a mini fashion revolution rooted in the burgeoning heydays of feminism. Back then, my (single) mother had a black boyfriend. It's equally hard for my kids to imagine the intensity of social outrage that this provoked.

My mother was shocked by this outrage at the time. She simply could not comprehend it. In retrospect, her idealism (or naivete) was stunning, yet it underscored a certain innocent and courageous spirit that was the hallmark of those years. We were still living in the era of Woodstock, Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. Tough but extraordinary decades loomed ahead.

There are now roughly 78 million Baby Boomers. We invented the Information Age and inherited the Digital Age -- but these days even that has slightly dusty overtones to it. Who knows what our children's lives will be like, or what our lives will be like when we've reached our parents' age. Which brings me full circle.

We don't choose the decade we're born into. We can only hope that the collective entrepreneurial spirit of our generation can mobilize itself to create a better future not only for our kids, but for our parents and for ourselves. We can hope that as technology progresses, certain quintessentially human values will prevail, like sitting at the kitchen table and actually talking. Or reading a book from start to finish. Or enjoying the analog over the digital life. At Huff/Post50, we plan to bring you some of the best and brightest minds behind these crusades, along with intelligent musings on life and culture. Lest we forget, one of the best things about being a grownup is that we've usually accrued enough life experience to enjoy simple pleasures and understand the value of essential things in life. What seemed like platitudes before take on a sense of immediacy and significance -- like life is short. Carpe Diem.

We hope you enjoy Huff/Post50 and look forward to many discussions about life then, now, and in the future.