Fifty and Counting

09/30/2011 12:00 am ET | Updated Nov 29, 2011

A Dandy in Formaldehyde

I thought turning forty was big but then I got to fifty and it hit me like a ton of bricks. A fifty-year-old woman? What's that? I knew some people who were already into their fifties but I thought nothing of it -- as long as it was they who breached that milestone. As far as I was concerned, once I reached it myself. I was not going to add one more year to that number. Fifty would be it. Permanently.

But then it started to feel as though time was accelerating and compressing. A year flew by, then another. I couldn't keep up with it. Fifty-something was ahead of me, one by one slipping into the distant past. Then all of a sudden, ten years are gone and whammy -- sixty! Are you serious? Is that really late middle age? Is Mick Jagger really almost seventy?

Look at all those energized geriatric people in the audience at the PBS Doo-Wop or Tom Jones concerts and think the Stones audience in a couple of years. If Mr. Jagger (the almost 70-year old sex bomb with the embalmed wrinkled face) can just hang in there, still get into those skin-tight pants and jump around every night like a monkey, he could set a record for the largest baby boomer audience on the planet. And his drug-addled cohorts could set another record: The oldest living, performing, smoking, drinking, ****ing rockers of our generation. God bless them. Not that we should emulate their drug, smoking, drinking or ****ing habits, but there is something to be learned here.

When my parents hit their sixties (albeit almost ten years apart), they embraced "senior" status like all their friends did -- they upped the golfing, increased the card playing, bulked up on the Tums, and above all, began their annual Haj pilgrimage to Florida (for dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon), settling into 'oldhood' early.

But I regret to say, none of it resonates with me -- or my friends.

It was not because they were old or old looking, but they experienced aging very differently from those of us who grew up after World War II. They grew up during the Depression (while we seem to be aging into one) and watched their own parents age much sooner rather than later because they grew up before the turn of the last century and lived in countries hostile to them. My mother became a grandmother for the first time at forty-five. She had been married at twenty.

What a difference a generation makes. When the children of baby boomers arrive at the gates of 'late middle age' (probably 70-75 by the time they get there), I cannot imagine what that will look like, but I'll give it a shot: Mick Jagger and Tom Jones will probably be dead, replaced by aging and edgy Ukranian, Chinese, Indian, African, Brazilian, Russian, German and perhaps even Martian music icons whose sex appeal and fame are unsurpassed by any fifty-plus rocker in the history of the world. Who knows if they will even be humans?

The sixties generation (aka the "me generation") will seem a quaint footnote in the history of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. In other words, nothing will be the same because it never is for each successive generation.

While most of us will probably miss out on this new wave, I nevertheless consider myself lucky to have been born just in time for the birth and evolution of the music that defined our generation and for all the crazy lunatic (now almost geriatric) artists who have inhabited our real and imagined lives and our bedroom walls. We were and still are rich with the sounds of what was definitively the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, when we segued from our teens into our twenties, then thirties, then forties, when the world was a place of infinite possibilities.

Ours is the generation that sang about what it changed via the civil rights movement, the Equal Rights Amendment and more. We sang about sex, age, color and gender issues all the way to the Supreme Court. We made a difference and still do. So, don't count us out just yet because we are not finished. Our work is not done, even if one of us turns sixty every seven seconds. We will lead the way to change about in whose political hands our lives will be held, on working life after fifty, on medical care, end-of-life issues, and much, much more. We will lobby and fight just like we did to end the Vietnam War and racial and sexual discrimination. Our children and grandchildren will not have to sing about those issues, but for them, thankfully, the music will play on and on.

We may not be the "Greatest Generation" but there sure is a lot of greatness to ours.