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Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 1999 /6 Kislev, 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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My Peter Pan Generation -- “I WON’T GROW UP...” song from the Broadway musical Peter Pan.

Why does my generation refuse to grow up? We baby-boomers have the dubious distinction of being the first generation in history who never really wanted to be adults. We were raised with television, Disneyland, and rock and roll. Hula Hoops, Silly Putty, Slinky, Click-Clack-Blocks, and Mr. Potato Head were some of our play things.

My generation ate Wonder Bread and Hostess Twinkies. We drank Ovaltine and Welch’s Grape Juice. Mighty Mouse, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Captain Kangaroo were but a few of our cultural icons. They still are. I don’t know why these things are called “nostalgia” -- they never really left -- we took them with us as we aged. Barbie and the Three Stooges have never been more popular than they are today.

Certainly I’m not the first to make this observation. A recent editorial by Collin Levey in The Wall Street Journal noted that “...the credit or blame for the rise of adult Halloween should probably go to our baby-boomer parents. Like no generation before them, they have sustained their adolescent habits.” For the life of me I just can’t figure out how it happened --- why this bizarre obsession to remain childlike and childish? Consider how many grown ups you see walking around in baseball hats, T-shirts, jeans and (what used to be called sneakers) athletic shoes. Once upon a time ONLY kids used to dress this way, now it’s everyone. My father wouldn’t have left the house looking like that --- are you kidding --- he wouldn’t have looked like that IN the house, either!

Our culture not only accepts the child-adult phenomenon, but actually encourages and fosters it. I find that I have to make a CONSCIOUS EFFORT to act, talk, dress and think as a traditional adult and NOT like a kid. It’s not always easy because it means going against the tide of society. Easier to throw on jeans than to dress in slacks and sport coat, right? Easier to demand your own way than to reason things out. Easier to do what feels good than to have to make value judgments.

Icon of a generation?
It is now generally acknowledged that Bill Clinton is our first boy-man president -- an adolescent trapped in a man’s body. The level of sophistication in network television programs continues to drop with each fall season. Professional athletes often behave more like immature kids than do kids. Maturity, it seems, is to be avoided at all costs. You’re just not “with it” if you act like an adult.

Most major movie and television actors project this child quality in their personas both on and off the screen. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio are examples of leading men who are actually leading boys. The older group of contemporary stars including Kevin Cosner and Tom Cruise are STILL adolescent acting, even when they attempt grown-up roles. Whatever it was that made Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne MEN is simply not there in today’s actors.

The same holds true for actresses. More and more they all seem to be speaking with that sing-song teenage girl inflection to their voice which drives me up the wall. And the attitude and body language they project is that of little girls, not adult women as we once knew them, a la Barbara Stanwyck, Greer Garson, and Myrna Loy for example. Sigh.

If you believe corporate America is immune to this trend, think again. Milk and cookies have long ago replaced cigars and cigarettes in board rooms. Casual office wear has taken the place of the more adult look of suits and ties and skirts and dresses. Off-site retreats often feature child-like competitive play.

Although my group started it, subsequent generations have also discovered what an easy and comfortable route it is to remain a child, and have embraced the child-adult concept. Not only that, but it’s catching on with the OLDER generation too. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a seventy-nine year old woman in a T-shirt, cut-offs, and Nikes pushing her walker along in the mall.

G-d bless her ... but heaven help us.


JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


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10/22/99: Too Late for Dinner
10/15/99: Pondering, Musing and Supposing
10/05/99: A Message From Your Journalistic Human Interest Commentator
09/24/99: The Getting Away With It Decade
09/17/99: The Scoop of the Century
09/09/99: Important Millennium Advisory
09/03/99: Ask Mr. Politically Correct Man
08/26/99: Broadcasters, Please mind Your Manners
08/19/99: The Golden Age of Jerkdom
08/12/99: Dressing Down...and Out

©1999, Greg Crosby