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  • Jan Flynn

Hey, Boomer! Stop Saying That

Five phrases to remove from your vocabulary right now

If you’re a Boomer too, congratulations

Welcome to the club, and I mean that wholeheartedly. But now that you’re here, there are five conversational gaffes you need to purge from your speech if you don’t want to be discounted by everyone in Gen X and below.

If any of these phrases have found their way into your thinking process, it may be understandable, but it’s crucial that you strangle them into silence before they escape your lips.

1. Years ago

When my husband and I vacationed at a resort in the same Mexican beach town where we’d honeymooned twenty years previously, we were impressed by all the growth and development. My husband couldn’t help but share his amazement with the friendly young resort staff.

“Years ago,” he’d begin, “when we were here the first time . . .” at which point I’d observe, without fail, the staffer’s eyes glaze over above a suddenly weary smile. And then I’d hear myself saying the same thing, with the exact same result.

“We can’t say that anymore,” we agreed, and declared a fatwa upon the phrase “years ago” from then on. We have never regretted it.

Beginning any sentence with “years ago,” especially when relating something about one’s own history, most especially to anybody younger than you, is a conversational door-slammer.

Don’t do it.

2. You’re too young to remember/understand, but . . .

You may be tempted to pull this one out to show that you’re spry enough to realize you’re in a more advanced age bracket and have a different frame of reference than your younger conversational partner. If so, it’s guaranteed to backfire.

Just turn it around and see how it feels: “You’re too old to remember/understand, but . . .”

Nobody likes being told that their experience doesn’t count because of their years. This phrase communicates disrespect, which never helps in communicating with anyone.

3. Ugh, technology

Or any iteration of the same attitude. Saying you despise, or just can’t cope with, technology and/or social media is a surefire way to consign yourself to the dustheap of history, as far as your younger interlocuters are concerned.

First of all, it’s almost certainly untrue. Unless you live entirely off the grid, technology is woven into nearly every minute of your daily experience. And don’t give me any hogwash about not being able to adapt to all the new stuff. As a Boomer, you’ve moved through a dizzying cascade of technological advances, deftly discarding the obsolete for the innovative as you’ve gone. You were there for hi-fis and transistor radios and data punch cards. You survived childhood without a microwave oven.

Sure, you remember slide rules and rotary phones and cars without bucket seats or safety belts. But would you really trade your iPhone (with its calculator) and your quiet ride (with its back-up camera) for those relics?

Don’t brand yourself as a relic too. If you find the learning curve for whatever newfangled doohickey (or social media platform) a bit daunting, that’s understandable. But instead of bitching about it, gracefully admit you’re not a digital native. Those who are will be much happier to help you out.

4. By the time I was your age, I’d already (fill in the blank)

Graduated college? Established a career? Been married? Bought a house? Had kids?

Maybe all that’s true. If so, nice for you, I guess. But you came up in a vastly different economic and social environment from following generations.

If you went to college, you probably didn’t come out of it with a staggering load of student debt. One-employer careers with steadily rising pay and pensions were still the norm, and in most regions housing costs were a fraction of what they are now.

As for marriage and kids, who has ever enjoyed being nagged about them?

Avoid this phrase even if what you’re trying to get across is that you were able to meet these apparent markers of adulthood earlier on because your circumstances were different. The “by the time I was your age” gambit will shut down the conversation faster than you used to be able to turn on your TV (remember how easy that used to be? Back before . . . never mind).

5. You can’t call that music

You may not have developed an appreciation for synthwave or K-pop or EDM (that’s electronic dance music, boomer). You might even still claim to hate rap, except of course for Hamilton.

You’re entitled to your preferences, but keep it to yourself before you go rejecting entire categories of musical innovation since the 90s.

For one thing, there is some very cool innovation happening in today’s music scene, if you are willing to keep an open mind and can tolerate stuff that doesn’t sound like what you learned to love in your teens and twenties.

For another thing, it wasn’t all Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin when we were coming up. There was just as much vapid, formulaic trash on the airwaves then as there is now. Remember the immortal hit “Yummy Yummy Yummy (I Got Love In My Tummy)” (Ohio Express 1968)?

I rest my case.

I don’t blame you for thinking or feeling any of the thoughts or feels that might compel you to employ one of these five forbidden phrases. But I do urge you to quash them before they reach the open air.

Let’s not give ageism any breathing room

Ageist attitudes, I am sorry to say, are very much alive and well in our culture. No doubt you have already felt its oppressive weight. Your last birthday celebration may have featured some of those snarky greeting cards that depict the candles on your cake as a bonfire or show your birth certificate being discovered by archaeologists.

Who needs that noise? We’ve earned the right to be taken seriously. Let’s not help ageism along by branding ourselves as old farts with our choice of words.

Because kids these days . . .

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