A friend and I were commiserating about the fact that once you get past the age 50, it really kind of sucks to still keep on being a responsible human being. I think that is especially true for the Baby Boomers as we were brought up to believe that responsibility came right after cleanliness and Godliness in the great scheme of things. Not that I don’t think being a responsible person is important because it is. But does it have to be so incredibly relentless? When do we get to cut out and move to an island in the South Seas, drink margaritas and stop having to take out the recycling?
Oh, right. Never.
Let’s take a little look back over the typical Baby Boomer’s life history: first we had school responsibilities like being a crossing guard and doing our homework and selling Girl Scout cookies. Daunting but doable. Then we got married, had kids and discovered the true meaning of the word “responsibility.” Tiny people depended upon us to ensure that they not only had fresh diapers but also stayed alive. I, a candidate for Miss Wino of 1988, abstained for years and years and YEARS while our kids were small because I was convinced that one glass of red wine would render me useless as a mom and my children would suffer the emotional scars for eternity. (And yes, I’ve been making up for lost time ever since my kids were old enough to fend for themselves.)
I believe that this middle-aged malaise can be directly traced to two things: the lack of anything good on television and having to go to work every single weekday of your life. It’s a proven psychological fact that not having anything to look forward to is depressing and since most of the things I’ve ever looked forward to in my life happened during Prime Time on one of the major networks (think Rhoda’s Wedding, Who Shot J.R. and the series finale of Mad Men), it’s no wonder that I’m dragging.
And then there’s work. By the time you hit 50 you’ve been working for a loooong time and, frankly, I’m worn out. It’s not that I hate what I do for a living; I simply don’t want to do anything anymore. Anything productive, that is. Plus work is a thing where the longer you do it, the more responsibilities you get stuck with, a correlation that is about as much fun as the one where the more calories you ingest, the fatter you get.
I don’t think I’d mind work so much if I could have a job from my past with a salary from the present. One of my first flirtations with employment was working for a neighbor lady who made something called Ragg Baggs—purses that had flaps of fabric cut with pinking shears in a ragged fashion that were then sewn to the outside of purse. They weren’t very attractive but she made quite a lot of money off of them, money that she didn’t use to overpay her help. My job was to cut the flaps of fabric with pinking shears while listening to the Top 40 on the radio and watching the clock to see when I could escape. Even though my right index finger is deformed to this day from those damn pinking shears, making Ragg Baggs sounds like a nice way to spend a day now.
Another early job involved stuffing envelopes along with about ten of my high school pals for a local dress store. We were paid in cash and again got to listen to the Top 40 while we worked and talked about our crushes. Now that was my kind of a job–minimal responsibility paired with female bonding and work that required absolutely no thought whatsoever.
All of which makes me think that John Mellencamp had it almost right when he wrote, “Oh yeah, life goes on. Long after the thrill of living is gone…” It’s not the thrill of living that’s evaporated. It’s the thrill of being responsible for anything other than making vacation plans or a pot of coffee that seems to have vanished.