Monday, January 28, 2008

Ironies


Sitting at the Black River Cafe today, by the window, the sunlight streaming in on a surprisingly warm and slushy winter day. At the table across from me, two women are chatting. Well, one woman is, really, as her friend listens, and occasionally gets to nod in reply. And the one woman is not chatting or talking so much as pontificating, at loud volume, about everything from art history to departmental politics to the bad habits of "young people" to Shelby Steele's take on Barack Obama. She's very, very earnest; she's very, very boomer in her absolute moral certainty and dismissal of those younger than her ("I'm 60!," she crows with a laugh at one point); and worst of all, she's very, very, very loud, apparently unaware that she's in a restaurant where other people might want to chat, read, or just eat quietly. I feel like Alvy Singer standing in the movie line in Annie Hall: "Of course you're entitled to your opinion, but do you have to be so loud about it? I mean, a-aren't you a-a-ashamed to pontificate like that?" But my favorite moment comes when, after discoursing for several minutes in a voice that rings throughout the increasingly empty restaurant (boy, wonder why that is), she makes the following declaration, about contemporary life: "I've just never seen people so selfish, so wrapped up in their own rudeness."

3 comments:

abby said...

Wow. The lack of self-awareness is almost delicious! I bet she's really put out by eavesdroppers, too.

Too bad Pee Wee Herman didn't happen by after the "wrapped up in their rudeness" comment and holler, "I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I? I bet you can't talk louder than MEEE-EEEEEEE!"

I hope she's so indignant about all that RUDENESS that she never goes back to the BRC. That'll show 'em!

Jonathan Lapper said...

My wife and I have a ... um... uh... how should I put this? A problem with Boomer selfishness. There's a great Onion piece in their twentieth century retrospective book about the new babies being born in the late forties. Scientists are alarmed to discover their cells are consuming and expanding themselves. They have, as the piece then says, an alarming amount of self-absorption that cannot be explained. I think the headline was, "Doctors worried about high levels of self-absorption in new generation."

Andrew Sullivan has even been chastised in hilarious e-mails from readers who are boomers and who are mad at him (a boomer himself) for constantly pointing out the great maturity and self-awareness of the following generation (us)! Hooray!

We have several Boomer friends, all a good 15 to 20 years older than us and yes, they're great people and they did many great things as a generation, but our friends are poster-boomers and sometimes you just want to scream, "MY GOD Look at yourselves in the mirror!" They complain about money but shop only at Whole Foods, buy their coffee from Starbucks every morning and buy nothing but expensive designer items of every imaginable kind. The boomers may have done some great things but they also breathed newfound life into rampant consumerism and found a way to make things like coffee and water expensive. What is so laughably ironic is that they still talk to us like they have utopian ideals. I of course point this out and we laugh but I know they secretly get pissed off at me every time (I theorize there are many people who get secretly pissed off at me).

I'll wrap this up but not before this one last observation: Another boomer we know, though not a friend, wears tye-dye t-shirts, has an embarrassing long grey ponytail and of course does everything earthy and organic. Oh yeah, and he lives in million dollar house and has two cars: A jag and a black mercedes. Oh my, what a fool.

Cinephile said...

Abby-- oh, I think her not-so-quiet rage was directed less at the BRC than, well, the world in genera, and its inability to live up to her and Denis Kucinich's standards. I'm not even sure I disagreed with some of what she was saying. I just wish she would've been quieter about it, you know?

Jonathan-- bless you and your bitter anti-boomer heart. (: I have a lot good friends, relatives and mentors that fit that age group, too, so my criticisms are very tongue-in-cheek, but i do love that Onion story you cite, and think there's some truth in it. Interetestingly, the angle of the Obama-HRC flap that doesn't seem to be getting as much coverage as the race and gender splits is the generational split: I think a great deal of the anger and resentment comes from the implied threat to boomer hegemony that Obama represents-- the idea that this earlier generation won't be eternally young and at the center of culture. I think it's the smug certainty you cite that drives me crazy more than anything. We're gonna have to pry the blogosphere from their cold, dead hands! (: (Of course, as this very moralistic comment of mine suggests, I would've excuse myself from this smug failing, either. But at least I have the passive-agressive decency to take it out quietly on my blog, instead of yelling about it in a restaurant).