Loss of Words

Ok. I’ll be the one boomer to admit I was not at Woodstock. I was only 11 years old when Max Yasgur hosted the party, but I wouldn’t have gone even if I were a teenager. (Now that’s a less than trendy term: when was the last time you heard someone other than your mother use the word “teenager”? When did “adolescence” become the term of choice? Did “teenagers” go the way of Fonzie’s leather jacket?)

I don’t like crowds or mud, and I don’t think I look all that spiffy in tie-died shirts, so Woodstock wasn’t going to work for me. I probably spent that second weekend in August  the way I did most others: on the front porch, with my next door neighbour, Mr. McKenna, listening to the Phillies fade from the pennant race on his transistor radio. Jimmie Hendrix was nowhere to be seen.

Amidst the nostalgia for the summer of ’69, I am suddenly struck by a sense of loss. It’s not so much that the present decade lacks a defining Woodstock-like event to which future mid-lifers will one day yearn. No, the real absence is a name for our time. We followed the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. And the teens and 20’s will be on us before we know it. But the decade that will end in just a few short months, it lacks a name. And what’s worse, no one seems to mind.

Sure, we got by with “the new millennium” during ’00. (By the way, did that “bridge to the 21st century” ever get built? Was that a part of the stimulus program?) But eight years have passed, and we’re still grasping for nomenclature. And please, don’t  even try to sell me on the word “aught.” That sounds like something out of a Bertie Wooster novel. And even Bertie and his chum, Gussie Fink-Nottle, had a chance to live in a decade with a real name.  Gee, I wonder if those two ever made it to the three days of peace, love, and music in upstate New York?

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