Generational Hopscotch

Beyond the generalizations.


April 26, 2016

No matter where you alight on the political spectrum, you have likely read or heard that “older” women like Hillary and “young” women like Bernie. We middle-aged mothers frequently carry the label of the “sandwich generation,” because we offer simultaneous care to elders and progeny.  =This election cycle demands a new metaphor.  I think we are the skipped square in a game of generational hopscotch. As a group, we are less wedded to the notion of the “first woman president” than our mothers and less susceptible to the “Bern” spreading among our daughters.

I have the same feeling when I watch cosmetic commercials. I spent little time dolled up for the night life in my twenties.  In my forties, my idea of a great night out involves sitting on someone else’s sofa with a nice glass of wine - no mascara required.  However, I have a few years yet before I require the products hawked by silver foxes for glamorous retirees on exotic cruises.

In the workplace, we neither count as exciting “bright young things” nor do we command the respect and deference wrought through decades of experience.  The young nip at our heels, while the old keep us under their thumbs.  I feel a sort of existential claustrophobia just thinking about it.

​Financially, we simultaneously pay down mortgages and save for retirement.  Those of us with children sock any pennies left into accounts to cover college.  The life sequences in financial planning advertisements tend to follow a pat timeline: couple marries, birth of child, child graduates college, child gets married, couple retires.  My friends and I sit in the unexplored two plus decades between stages two and three.

I recognize the inattention as an odd byproduct of our normative status.  We are in our figurative “prime.”  Surely, then, we have “the world on a string” and can control our environment without help from specially targeted outreach of whatever ilk.  I can decide for whom I will vote based upon research into policy statements.  I don’t need a special rally just for folks like me.  I don’t need special make up, because I have the maturity to accept my own skin.  I don’t need my colleagues’ attention, because I am competent to get the job done.  I don’t need a financial company to tell me what to do with my money, because my money goes into a numerical soup of 401Ks, 403Bs, and 529s, which the government created to encourage saving.

Nonetheless, I sometimes feel like a diligent student in an unruly classroom. The teacher knows I will sit quietly and finish my assignment while she copes with misbehavior and misunderstanding.  I know I don’t need her help, but every once in awhile, I want to raise my hand and call out, “remember me?  I’m still here!”



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