An unsettling conversation happened at work last week.
Let me tell you it.
First, let me set the stage. My co-workers are all under 35, many well under 35. I could easily be their mother, even their grandmother. Sometimes the generation gap is… awkward.
::the three other cubicle dwellers around me are talking about something or other, ribbing each other and laughing and generally acting the way everyone does when it is finally Friday afternoon. One says something about someone else having been born in the 1950s::
Me: The Fifties were a good time to be born. ::thinking to myself, I will NOT tell them I was actually born before the Fifties::
Them: Oh, you were born then. (pause)
Them: Were you a *hippie*?
Them: Did you talk like this, (drawls very slowly as though stoned) "Heeyy, man…"
Them: Did you have a VW van?
Me: I had a VW bug, my boyfriend had a VW bug AND a VW van. Now we have multiiple VW vans.
Them: Did you listen to (dramatic pause) the Mamas and Papas?
Me: Yes, and I heard The Dead in concert.
Them: Did you have long hair then, too?
Me: Of course.
Co-Worker 1 (who is from Sri Lanka, so imagine this being said in a south Asian accent): Did you wear "bell bottoms"? (I could hear the quotation marks in her voice.)
Me: Yes, I even made them myself — cut a slit in the sides of the legs of my jeans and sewed in a triangular piece of fabric to make regular jeans into bell bottoms.
Me: No, I am one of the few honest people who wasn't there and don't claim to have been.
Me: But I did my fair share of drugs back in those days,too.
Them: (awkward laughter)
Co-worker 2: I can see you as a hippie. You wear hippie socks.
Co-Worker 2: You know, hippie socks?
Co-Worker 2: (comes over to my cube) I bet you are wearing them today. (points to my hand-knit socks) See?!
Me: (to myself) WTF?
The whole conversation stuck with me. My life, which of course to me is just my life, was so foreign to them. It was as if I were talking to a Civil War veteran and asking about the the horses and the cannons and the uniforms. I may never be able to relate to my co-workers again.
And I will certainly never tell them about how Smokey and I lived for five years in (what they would call) a commune…