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The Boomers' Latest Tantrum

I noticed in yesterday's "Sunday Styles" that the NYT has launched a new column wholly devoted to Baby Boomers, adorably titled "Generation B." If the inaugural offering is any indication, the column will be precisely as self-indulgent and navel-gazing as the cohort whose twilight years it intends to explore.

In his introduction to readers, boomer Michael Winerip doesn't bother explaining the reasoning behind or the aims of "Generation B," other than that his generation is "entering late middle age and finding it nowhere near as welcoming as expected." (How heartbreaking is that?) Instead, he spends several hundred words defensively and offensively arguing that Boomers aren't the uniquely selfish, self-indulgent, underachieving brats they have long been portrayed--or if they are, it's not really their fault. We are told how unfair it was for boomers to be so studied so early and caricatured so viciously. Winerip even points out that the moniker "Baby Boomers" lends itself too perfectly to ironic word play. ("The baby's now on statins, the boomer's gone bust.") To counter the insulting charge (leveled nearly 30 years ago) that the generation failed to produce great leaders and individualists, Winerip gives us a list of a dozen and a half boomer notables, including President Obama, Bill Gates, Spike Lee, Gary Trudeau, Paul Krugman, and Al Gore. (Can't you just see him thumbing furiously through the latest edition of Who's Who as he types?)

But by far my favorite part is Winerip's attempts to elevate his cohort's relative stature by going on at length about how not-so-great their Greatest Generation forebears were. (In your face, Tom Brokaw!) In addition to Winerip's pointing out the broad-based shortcomings of the boomer generation's parents--especially in the area of sexism, Winerip's principal preoccupation--he also shares with us what an asshole his dad in particular could be. (He had such a vicious temper that Winerip's mother claimed not to miss him after he died.) How like a boomer to turn his personal daddy issues into a cultural commentary. Indeed, with every self-pitying, self-justifying line of the column, Winerip serves only to confirm all those whiny, entitled, narcissistic stereotypes he seeks to dispel.

I realize how hard it must be for boomers to confront the reality that they no longer occupy the demographic sweet spot that makes advertisers and TV execs hang on their every word--or to accept the fact that all the Botox, Viagra, and Rogaine in the planet will not halt their steady march into the category of "senior." But do they really need their own weekly column in the paper of record detailing how very, very difficult and disappointing it is to no longer be the center of the universe? Can't they just vent their frustrations on individual Facebook pages like all the hip kids do?

--Michelle Cottle