Deconstructing My Personal Myth
I am a product of my cultural heritage, as everyone is. I was born in 1951, part of the baby boom that was a reaction to the horrors of two world wars punctuated by the Great Depression. The reaction was fueled by the cultural upheaval of the industrial revolution, the women’s suffrage movement, and the suburbanization of the middle and working class. The Boomers, as we are called, was the largest age-group in the history of the world until the Millennials caught up, and in America, we have shown that the rules and customs of previous generations are neither adequate nor valid for the present.
In America at the end of WWII, the great impulse was “back to normal.” Women left the workforce as the men came home—although my grandmother and most of the women in my family had worked in the cotton mills since they had opened in the early 1900s. Women’s clothing became almost as restrictive as in the 1860s with corseted waists and crinoline skirts—not the quasi-military suits of the 1940s. Many women had large families, 3, 4, or even 5 children, much like the large families of my grandparents, who had 8 and 10 siblings each.
The mechanization of the 20th century helped to collapse the extended family typical of my grandparents’ generation—people who had no electricity or running water until they moved into the mill villages built in the 1920s. They bought cars, driving them to church on Sunday, but walking to work every day. As people got used to the idea of driving, and as cars became easier to drive, and roads were built, people were willing to go further from home to work. My parents commuted over 30 miles one way through most of my childhood, leaving me and my brother at home after school or with a baby sitter—one of my cousins or a black woman. This was the 1960s, when many other kinds of work were not open to blacks, especially women.
The many labor-saving devices invented in the late 1800s and early 1900s gave women not only different tasks, but more of them, just as the invention of the sewing machine made possible the extreme ornamentation of women’s fashion in the 1870s and 80s. The
In one generation, my grandparents went from large, farm-based, extended families with no electricity or running water, to the small, nuclear family that depended on industrial work for money. My parents helped turn the mill community into a bedroom community as they drove to the city to work, and eventually moved there—losing all knowledge of how to live on the land. My generation was raised on TV, and we became the first generation of children to be a demographic group for advertising. We were the first group of children to be raised in the shadow of global destruction from “the bomb.” I personally did not expect to live to be thirty.
When I was 4, (1955) Sen. Joseph McCarthy was interviewed by Edgar R. Murrow, ending McCarthy’s witch-hunt of communists. The power of TV was born, and a simple campaign slogan won the day: “I like Ike”.
- When I was 7 (1958) we watched the manned first rocket launch at school! Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in the Bay of Pigs and remained in power many years, though he died this year.
- When I was 9, (1960), the youngest president was elected; John Kennedy was 43. He was also the youngest president to be assassinated.
- When I was 11, (1962) we nearly had WWIII with the Cuban missile crisis.
- When I was 12, (1963), Kennedy was murdered, which ushered in Johnson’s Great Society and the Vietnam War.
- When I was 13, (1964), the most successful ad campaign in music was processed: the Beatles came to America. How innocent we all were then—long hair indeed. Lyndon Johnson started the Great Society, legislated for civil rights, and turned the military industrial complex loose in Vietnam. Boom times.
- When I was 15 (1966), half the people in America were under the age of 25–it was the end of the baby boom and the beginning of the Summer of Love.
- When I was 17 (1968), Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were murdered, and Richard Nixon was elected president.
- When I was 18 (1969-70), men landed on the moon, the Mets won the series, the Beatles broke up, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix played Woodstock, and then both died of overdoses along with Jim Morrison. I could buy liquor and beer legally because of Vietnam.
- When I was 21 (1972), we lost the war in Vietnam, although we had never lost a battle.
- When I was 22 (1973), the Arabs nationalized their oil fields and gas prices went from 25c a gallon to $1.50 in six months. I started teaching that year, making $8,000 a year. Minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, which in 1968 would purchase $8.85 of 2005 dollars.
- When I was 23 (1974), Nixon resigned rather than be impeached, and we had a president who had not been elected—Gerald Ford. There are those who say that the 1960s did not start until 1964 with the Beatles, and did not end until 1974 with Nixon’s resignation. The 70s only lasted two years—like disco—with Gerald Ford, and the 80s started in 1976 with Jimmy Carter.
- When I was 30 (1981), I was amazed that the world had not ended, and had a surge of hope that we might survive after all, even though Ronald Regan was inaugurated as president, and George Harrison was ordered to pay $500k for unconsciously plagiarizing the melody to “My Sweet Lord.”
- When I was nearly 31, (1982) I gave birth to my brilliant daughter and learned the true meaning of post partum depression. On a brighter note, ET phoned home.
- I don’t remember much of the next six or so years. I was teaching English at a small county high school, fighting depression, and spending about three weeks in the psych ward. They said I needed marriage counseling, which we tried, but I met another man at OA, and broke the first rule of 12 step programs…don’t get involved with others at 12-step programs.
- At 39, (1990) I earned a Master’s degree, filed for separation and divorce. Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and Imelda Marcos was found not guilty of racketeering despite her 4000 pairs of shoes.
- AT 40 (1991) I remarried, bought a house, lost my teaching job, and Bush, Sr, invaded Iraq…ironically, the first war televised, with camera footage of drone strikes, and in March, the president announced that the war was over. He lied.
- Four years later at 44, (1995) I was widowed, working as an adjunct at a community college 35 miles away, while Timothy McVey blew up a government building in Oklahoma City.
- When I was 50 (2001), the World Trade Center was destroyed by two hijacked jets. My life was pretty much same stuff different day.
- At 57, (2008) I received a second master’s degree, for which I am still paying off student loans, and the housing market tanked–my student loan interest is higher than my mortgage, but I was hired full time for the first time in 17 years as a web designer for a small college.
- When I was 60, (2011), my first novel was accepted for publication in 2012, and the Arab Spring began, which now has turned into the Winter of Discontent for much of the Middle East, especially Syria, and the many countries dealing with refugees and migrants. I’m working on another book, but have published a number of short story collections.
- At 65, (2016) I declared bankruptcy (after losing my job in 2015), started receiving social Security at -7% for early retirement, and The Donald was elected president.
What a long strange trip it has been. I don’t know what to expect next, but my tarot reading today indicates that American has received a wake-up call. I hope we don’t hit the snooze button.