When my daughter said to me recently, “You’re pretty cool for a boomer,” I didn’t really know what to do with that. Little did I know that I would subsequently be inundated with articles about the term “OK Boomer.” Ken Levine wrote about, as did Amy Biancolli and several others.
But I needed to understand the genesis of it all. Fortunately, I came across a warm and fuzzy piece in VOX entitled, “‘OK boomer’ isn’t just about the past. It’s about our apocalyptic future.” There you go. The subtitle: “It’s not really about age — and it’s more complicated than just memes.”
Of course, there have long been generational conflicts. In the intro to the song I Got Life, from the musical Hair:
[Claude, spoken] This is 1968 dearies, not 1948
[Parents individually, spoken] What the hell you got 1968 that makes you so damn superior?
And gives me such a headache?
But this feels different. As the story notes, “Because of the cultural and political moment we’re in, the stakes feel much more fraught and high-risk than other generational clashes…” Generation Z, I should note, is comprised roughly of those born between 1996 and 2015, though this is fluid. Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964, usually.
“A song by Peter Kuli & Jedwill entitled ‘OK BOOMER!’… became a popular song choice for TikTok sing-along videos this fall… The verses define boomers as racist, fascist Trump supporters with bad hair… Teens on the platform used the song’s intro and chorus as a rebuttal to annoying run-ins they’d had with seniors policing or judging their behavior…
“OK boomer is meant to be cutting and dismissive. It suggests that the conversation around the anxieties and concerns of younger generations has become so exhausting and unproductive that the younger generations are collectively over it.” As a boomer with a Gen Z daughter – the gift of being an old parent – I very much worry about their future. And I’m afraid we flower children were much less successful in creating the change we desired than we would have liked.
As the New York Times noted this fall, “Gen Z has finally snapped over climate change and financial inequality.” Sidebar: I’ve never used the term “participation trophy” pejoratively. But I do like to eat cereal.
“In the end, the debate around OK boomer might be another iteration of the endless parade of internet-fueled ideological debates in which neither side is listening to the other. For frustrated millennials and teens, OK boomer is an emotionally valid response to boomer condescension, but to frustrated baby boomers, it sounds insolent and disrespectful.”
Now that I understand the genesis, it clarifies things. It never bothered me; I just didn’t “get” it before. Heck, I might use it unironically on some of my fellow sexagenarians when they get all “Kids these days.”