GEN­ER­A­TION X CONFRONTS ITS MOR­TAL­ITY»

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­mara Lush

Princess Leia was our first girl movie hero­ine, and we made our moms braid brunette yarn so we’d have ear­muff buns for Hal­loween. Carol Brady of “The Brady Bunch” was the ideal mother we prob­a­bly didn’t have, be­cause our moms had to work and left us latchkey kids home alone, with TV and pro­cessed food our only com­pan­ions.

Car­rie Fisher and Florence Hen­der­son — and other icons of Gen­er­a­tion X’s youth — are now gone, stolen by the cruel thief that is 2016. The year has left the gen­er­a­tion born be­tween the mid-1960s and the early 1980s wal­low­ing in mem­o­ries and con­tem­plat­ing its own mor­tal­ity.

“It’s a very melan­choly time,” sighed Shelly Ran­som, a 47-year-old speech-lan­guage pathol­o­gist in Darien, Conn. “This is re­ally bring­ing back a lot of teen angsty feel­ings. Th­ese peo­ple are sup­posed to still be the voices of my gen­er­a­tion. It’s sad to see th­ese artists not there to be our voice.”

Or, as weary, 51-year-old Lawrence Feeney, a film­maker from New Port Richey, Fla., put it: “You lose Ge­orge Michael and Car­rie Fisher in a three-day span, you feel like you’ve got­ten a cou­ple of dag­gers thrown at you.”

Through­out the year, of­fice con­ver­sa­tions, din­ner party dis­cus­sions and so­cial me­dia have ex­ploded with in­credulity, sad­ness and fear, as one ’80s celebrity af­ter another died, start­ing in Jan­uary with David Bowie.

The feel­ings have been par­tic­u­larly acute for Gen X, whose mem­bers came of age when many of th­ese cul­tural fig­ures were pop­u­lar.

We adored Bowie in the movie “Labyrinth” and danced to “Mod­ern Love” at prom. We re­mem­ber read­ing the words “Pur­ple Rain” on the the­ater mar­quee and won­dered why that lit­tle guy in high heels was so sexy. We made out fer­vently in cars in high school as Ge­orge Michael crooned on the FM dial (Re­mem­ber ra­dio? It came decades be­fore Spo­tify, and you couldn’t pick your music).

“We were the gen­er­a­tion that was go­ing to change the world. When I was a young man, I watched peo­ple my age stand in front of tanks in Tianan­men Square and tear down the Berlin Wall. Now I find my­self com­plain­ing about arthri­tis in my

hands and tak­ing care of my ag­ing par­ents,” lamented Rob Withrow, a 43-yearold land­scape busi­ness owner in Palm Bay, Florida.

He added: “The mu­si­cians I ad­mired grow­ing up are now dy­ing off. Hope­fully, I still have quite a few more decades left in me, but the re­al­ity of dy­ing is much clearer to see.”

Of course, this hap­pens to every gen­er­a­tion: Our idols die off, and we sud­denly feel our youth slip­ping away.

But Lou Manza, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Le­banon Val­ley Col­lege in An­nville, Pa., said baby boomers and older gen­er­a­tions weren’t as in­vested in or con­nected to their celebri­ties. Gen X had MTV, which put pop stars such as Prince, Michael and Bowie into our homes in heavy ro­ta­tion.

That, com­bined with the im­me­di­acy and in­ti­macy of 21st-cen­tury so­cial me­dia — we knew when plat­inum-haired punk rocker Billy Idol turned 61 be- cause Face­book in­formed us, for in­stance — am­pli­fies the sad­ness.

“Our par­ents in the ’70s would hear about a celebrity death on the nightly news, or the next day in the news­pa­per,” Manza said. “Now, there’s more and more of an im­me­di­acy with every suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion.”

Sarah McBride Wag­ner, a 37-year-old writer in Weir­ton, W.Va., said so­cial me­dia has cre­ated a place for col­lec­tive mourn­ing.

“We’ve never met th­ese peo­ple, yet we’re all so af­fected by it,” she said. “Be­ing a shared grief both makes it big­ger and eas­ier.”

For some, the death of beloved child­hood fig­ures re­minds us of the pass­ing of peo­ple closer to us and of the march of time, which seems more like a fast jog.

“We’re at the age now when we re­ally start to see our­selves in our par­ents. My son just turned 10, and it oc­curred to me as he hung out with my par­ents that it’s re­ally not go­ing to be too many more years be­fore my hus­band and I are my par­ents, and he is us,” said Amanda For­man, a 38-year-old mother of three and a writer from Flour­town, Pa.

“The celebrity deaths of peo­ple we’ve ad­mired ex­ac­er­bate those feel­ings. I think in the case of those who passed who are slightly older, it makes us feel like we are that much closer, that our gen­er­a­tion is next. And it makes us feel like our child­hood is that much fur­ther be­hind us.”

An­gela Weiss, AFP/Getty Im­ages file

florence hen­der­son. The ac­tress who de­fined the tele­vi­sion mom of the mod­ern era with her star­ring role in “The Brady Bunch,” died Nov. 24. She was 82.

Vince Bucci, Invision file

car­rie fisher. The ac­tress, known best for her por­trayal of Princess Leia in Ge­orge Lu­cas’ epic “Star Wars” movies, died Tues­day. She was 60 years old.

prince. One of the most in­ven­tive and in­flu­en­tial mu­si­cians of mod­ern times – with hits in­clud­ing “Lit­tle Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry” – died on April 21. He was 57. Chris O’Meara, As­so­ci­ated Press file

david bowie. The ca­reer of the iconic singer lasted five decades, pun­cu­ated by such hits as “Fame,” “He­roes” and “Let’s Dance.” He died Jan. 10 af­ter a bat­tle with cancer. He was 69. Kathy Wil­lens, As­so­ci­ated Press file

Fran­cois Mori, As­so­ci­ated Press file

ge­orge michael. The singer rock­eted to star­dom with Wham! and went on to en­joy a long and cel­e­brated solo ca­reer. He died Dec. 25. He was 53.

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