Bill Coates

Bill Coates

OK, Millennial.

Sure, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as OK, Boomer. And it’s harder to spell. I had to look up millennial in the dictionary.

I tried to spell it on my own. But I couldn’t get rid of that pesky red line. The one that keeps insulting my intelligence, though my intelligence is used to that by now.

Millennials, it happens, are insulting an entire generation of baby boomers, my demographic. As insults go, OK, Boomer, isn’t all that bad. They’re just treating us like the old farts we are, all the while rolling their eyes.

Boomers were young once, too. Back in the ’60s, dude. And we knew how to rebel. We tripped out. We took to the streets. We stuck it to the man. We blared rock from our record players, like Joe Biden.

We told our parents they weren’t cool. Now that I think about it, when were parents ever cool? And how were we to know our parents were the Greatest Generation?

Nobody told us, until newsman Tom Brokaw came up with the term. He wrote about people born mostly in the 1920s. They grew up in the Depression and fought in World War II. They didn’t talk much about it, not to their kids. The boomers.

Growing up, I had no idea my dad was the greatest. He was a career Air Force officer. He didn’t fly jets. He worked as a civil engineer, though I had no idea what his job was at the time. He’d come home, change clothes and we’d all watch television.

The fathers we saw on television were pretty much the same. This was in the ’50s and early ’60s. A TV father would show up after a hard day’s work. He’d walk through the front door and hang up his hat. He always wore a suit. What did he do for a living? The TV father never said, and it didn’t matter. He went to the office while mom cleaned and cooked.

TV’s Greatest Generation dads were often greeted by a household of boomer kids, like the Beaver. They’d offer some fatherly advice and sit down with a newspaper. The Greatest Generation had afternoon newspapers, morning newspapers and several editions in-between.

The Greatest Generation fathers never swore, at least on TV. And they didn’t drink, on TV. And they certainly didn’t toke up on marijuana.

Boomers didn’t invent marijuana, but they took it to a whole new level. Or it took them to a whole new level.

My father likely spoke for an entire generation when he asked me — answering for another entire generation — if I smoked marijuana. I was in college. Before I could say anything, he added: “I ever find you smoking marijuana, I’m going to have you arrested and put in jail.”

I answered: “No.”

My daughter, Sarah, lives in Massachusetts. I couldn’t threaten to have her arrested for pot. She’s an adult. It’s legal there. And, it so happens, she has no use for it. Just because you can doesn’t mean will you. She might have had a glass of wine when she turned 21.

I think millennials have something of a laissez-faire attitude with pot. It’s not the end of the world. They can take it or leave it.

My wife, Cindy, and I had a somewhat laissez-faire approach to child-rearing. Maybe it was a boomer thing, OK? We called Sarah on her 21st birthday.

She said, joking: “Now you can’t tell me what to do.”

I said, joking: “I could have told you what to do? If only I had known.”

Actually, we set some parameters. Be nice. Play fair. And do well in school. I put school above keeping a clean room. At some point it came to mean Sarah didn’t have to clean her room at all. My boomer wife blames me for that.

I admit that’s not how my Greatest Generation parents taught me. Cleaning my room and making my bed were the price for room and board. And free TV. Well, that was the arrangement. I had better things to do. Sleeping late. Listening to the Stones and Beatles. Hanging out at the mall.

All three generations had their existential threats. The Greatest Generation had the Depression and Nazis. The boomers had the threat of nuclear war. The millennials still have the threat of nuclear war, even if they don’t seem to mind as much. They’re more engaged in the threat of climate change, a slow-moving disaster movie.

People of all generations become more set in their ways as they age. Old and cranky. Boomers are becoming the “get off my lawn!” generation.

But people can mellow, too. Their views soften. My father fell into that category. He died in 2004. He was 81. Shortly before that, he asked if I could get him some marijuana.

Medical marijuana wasn’t on the books. I guess he figured: I was a boomer. I could score. But I couldn’t. That was decades ago. Sorry, I said. I no longer had a line on love grass.

I can hear my dad now. OK, Boomer.

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Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at bccoates@cox.net.

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