Baby Boom Bungles

Our entire generation should regret this list of unfortunate occurrences.

Ten things that the Baby Boom Generation should be ashamed of (These may well have sounded like good ideas at the time, but oh, did they turn out badly):

1. HYPHENATED LAST NAMES. Back in the 1970s, people were starting to break down barriers in important areas like race, gender and choice of fried chicken. One of the things that really got some folks' britches in a third-degree wedgie was the centuries-old practice of having a woman take her husband's last name upon marriage.

Women's groups decried this practice as sexist and outdated, and urged women to either keep their own last name or negotiate some hyphenated monstrosity. I guess they felt they were striking a blow against sexism, but the vast majority of men could care less. It's like:

Woman: I've decided to stand up for womanhood. I'm not going to take your last name after we get married.

Man: Uh-huh, OK. Am I still going to get to see you naked and stuff?

Woman: Yes.

Man: Well, you can call yourself Thelma Hitler, the Spawn of Darkness for all I care. (Pause) As a matter of fact, that 'Spawn of Darkness' thing might be cool. I could be the Prince of Evil; you could be the Spawn of Darkness. It could spice things up.

Woman: You can make light of it if you want, but I think it's sexist to have to take your name. I'm going to take a stand against the tyranny of male sexism by refusing to take your name.

Man: Oh, so you're just going to keep your father's name instead?

All that was well and good, but what it left in its wake was an entire generation of hyphen-kids--poor little second-graders who have to learn how to spell names like Megan Gionfrido-Clum or Jason Butts-Walker. Why would you do that to a kid?

Every time I see a hyphen kid, I visualize that his parents are like Larry and Abby, the burnt-out hippies of Dharma and Greg--the kind of people who got married, barefoot, at sunrise and even wrote their own vows that went something like, "You-ness, me-ness, us-ness, we-ness." The poor kid is probably starved for protein and sick and tired of having to repeat his last name to everybody who asks.

If a woman wants to keep her name when she gets married, great. There are a lot more important things that go into a successful marriage than the last name. But please, let's save the hyphen kids. Parents can be hyphens if they want, that's their adult choice. Let the kids choose their own last names before they get to kindergarten; it's the only humane thing to do.

2. DISCO. We're sorry. Really. It had a good beat and you could dance to it.

Besides, who knew it was going to take off like that? It was just one of those musical trends that comes and goes, and it wasn't all horrible. Whether you care to admit it or not, "Stayin' Alive" is an almost-perfect pop song. Disco as a whole was no worse than glitter, rap or punk. And please, try not to look back nostalgically at punk. Other than The Clash and the occasional 20-second dose of the Ramones, punk sucked, too.

3. THE 'DISCO SUCKS' BACKLASH. This started out to be a lark. Guys on Saturday Night Live would wear "Disco Sucks" T-shirts, then radio disc jockeys would get in on it. Pretty soon, you had goons tearing up Comiskey Park in Chicago.

What I always hated about the "Disco Sucks" backlash was that it allowed racism to creep back into radio (and, by extension, the early years of MTV). Rather incorrectly, disco was widely seen as an urban music phenomenon and radio programmers used the backlash as an excuse to bleach their playlists lily-white.

There was a time here in Tucson that Top 40 station KRQ wouldn't play the No. 1 song in the country at the time, "Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind and Fire, because it was sounded "too black." After disco, radio became fragmented into heavy-metal stations and alt-rock stations and so on. Radio has sucked ever since and it seems to get worse every year.

4. THE DIVORCE EXPLOSION. Whatever happened to getting it right the first time? And what happens to those poor hyphen-kids when their parents get divorced and remarried? Poor Megan Gionfrido-Clum-Butts-Walker is going to need therapy (and carpal-tunnel surgery).

5. TWENTY YEARS OF MADONNA RECORDS. No explanation. No excuses.

6. ETHNIC AND GENDER STUDIES AT UNIVERSITIES. One of the outgrowths of the wave of liberalism that swept through America's college campuses back in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the idea of creating courses that would be relevant to the times and the students. This led to Black Studies and Hispanic Studies and Women's Studies.

These were cool classes to take to learn a few things about oneself or others, but, as often happened with Baby Boomers, success led to excess. Instead of just offering a few classes to help broaden a student's horizons, entire departments sprang up around this stuff. Complete curriculums were stuffed from bottom to top with classes that would lead to degrees that were guaranteed to leave the bearer with only two options: unemployment or trying to get a job teaching others what they had wasted the previous four years learning.

Taking a few classes of this stuff can be good. Taking nothing but classes in this stuff is the Pamela Anderson of majors. Way too much.

What's next? Tall Studies? Overweight studies? People With Really Bad Allergies Studies?

7. LONG-WINDEDNESS. I know I promised you 10, but I ran out of room. I tend to ramble on; it's the curse of my generation. But at least I don't do it on a cell phone ... in a restaurant ... while your kids are telling you what they did at school that day ...

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