Confessions of an Aging Hippy Chick
BY NIGEY LENNON
Lately the media has been inundating us with "First Baby Boomers To Turn 50 This Year" stories. And, as might be expected, at least one suburban columnist has taken all the brouhaha as a cue to bewail her own rocky passage into the treacherous straits of the Big 4-0.
Now I myself occupy a peculiar cul-de-sac in the boomer chronology. I was born in 1954 a little too early for the drugs-and-rock 'n roll era, but a bit too old and crotchety to understand what's the big deal about Hootie and the Blowfish.
I always was out of step with my generation. When other girls my age were swooning over the Beatles, I was sequestered in my bedroom, trying to learn licks off Edison shellac 78s. By the time I got to high school, the Summer of Love was in the past tense, but the only drugs on my campus were the little tins of No-Doz in the boys' vice principal's desk drawer.
I finally tried muggles (that is the hep term for marijuana, isn't it?) when I was 16, and promptly decided that there wasn't much percentage in developing an insatiable appetite for Twinkies, rapidly followed by narcolepsy mingled with an inexplicable desire to rush out and buy the entire recorded output of Blue Cheer.
Bemused by the swirling paisley Gestalt of the late '60s and early '70s, after high school I abandoned civilization for Arizona, where I became involved in rodeo. I next ventured to Europe, spending a lot of time mooning around libraries reading Mark Twain and William Blake. Somehow I just never could get with the program.
When I finally returned to this country, it was 1973. There were long lines at the gas pumps, a permanent downturn in the economy, Carly Simon on the radio. The party was over. I was pushing 20, and things looked grim. What did I want to be when I grew up?
By default, I became a writer. Being a musician was too economically precarious.
Cut to the winter of 1993, 20 years later. Longer in the tooth, perhaps, but not much wiser, I began working on a book about Frank Zappa, whom I'd known in the '70s. It was called Being Frank: My Time with Frank Zappa. He had died in December of that year, leaving me rather shaken. It was all right, maybe, for Stephen Hawking to airily dismiss time as a human construct. At that moment, the 'construct' seemed dismally businesslike to me.
The book was published in 1995, and I hit the road to flog er, promote it. And a strange thing happened. I began to encounter a younger generation. Suddenly I was speaking before groups of kids for whom 1971 was ancient history in fact, some of them hadn't even been born then.
I had, up to that time, not considered myself "a groovy older chick." I prided myself on the fact that supermarket box boys called me "Miss," not the dreaded "Ma'am." I had a private view of myself as the world's oldest 12-year-old a 12-year-old who no longer had to be home by 10 p.m.
So when one day I discovered that a detractor in a Zappa-related Usenet group on the Internet had described me in a "flame" as an ugly old bag, it not only wounded my vanity, it forced me to accept the fact that there not only is a generation gap, there really are generations.
The "ugly" part I could accept, maybe, but the "old" clause hurt. (Actually, I'd received another hint a few months earlier, when I'd gone to Guitar Center to buy a tuner and a couple sets of strings, and the kid behind the counter had innocently asked, "Is this stuff for your son?" But I'd written that off as a fluke, attributable, probably, to too much caf in the young addict's super tall grande bald mocha from the Starbuck's across the street.)
Maybe because I never identified with my own generation, I consequently felt that it was impossible for me to be tarred with the same brush, so to speak. But now, here I was being handily and insolently dismissed as a psychedelic Diplodocus by a gang of callow sub-Generation X'ers. Ironic, isn't it?
Following these eye-opening experiences, I began to notice a disquieting change in my personality. When catalogues arrived from quaint little towns in New Hampshire, full of knotty pine knickknacks, I found that I no longer pitched them into the trash; I actually read the things, and looked at the pictures.
Before long I had graduated to a subscription to Trailer Life. And now, this weekend as a matter of fact, I'm going out to have a look at that new retirement community I've been reading about it's really affordable, because it's all manufactured housing. I know I'm not quite old enough to apply for membership but, hey, time marches on. If things keep going like they have been, one morning I'll wake up and discover that 23 years have passed in the night.
Yes, kids, take it from this superannuated 12-year-old you'll be 40-something yourself one day, believe it or not. And when that time does come, young twits are going to sneer at you, incredible as that may seem. Whether you deserve it or not.
Yep, poetic justice is timeless. Isn't that what makes life worth living?
Writer/musician Nigey Lennon's most recent book is Being Frank: My Time With Frank Zappa. She also is the author of The Sagebrush Bohemian: Mark Twain in California and Alfred Jarry: The Man with the Axe.
Yes, kids, you'll be 40-something yourself one day, believe it or not. And when that time does come, young twits are going to sneer at you, incredible as that may seem. Whether you deserve it or not.