Embarrassing personal facts are not plastered all over social media, stored in servers to be resurrected at any time, or emblazoned in permanent ink on our arms, backs, buttocks, legs, and necks.
You'll never find evidence of me wearing bell-bottom pants, so I'll deny that I ever did.
As with every generation, we thought we were hip, trendy, and cool. We had crew cuts, pompadours, Nehru collars, Converse All-Star basketball shoes, tie-dye T-shirts with peace symbols, cars with fins, and, yes, bell-bottoms. We watched Howdy Doody, Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and American Bandstand.
How embarrassing is that?
Even more embarrassing was our political gullibility. Falling for the propaganda of the day, we didn't question the carefully crafted media image of President John F. Kennedy, the Kennebunkport version of Camelot, JFK's book, Profiles in Courage, and his communitarian message, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Similarly, today's generation didn't question the rainbow image of Barack Obama, his book, Dreams from My Father, his vague promise of "hope and change," and his unbridled collectivism, especially his socialized medicine.
Some of my generation thought that singing Peter, Paul and Mary folksongs, protesting the Vietnam War, and joining the Peace Corps would bring peace and love to the world. The current generation continues the idealism with multiculturalism, Habitat for Humanity, and Bono's African aid.
We grew up thinking that anchorman Walter Cronkite was learned, wise, and unbiased. Millennials grew up thinking that Jon Stewart was not only the same but also hip and cool. In actuality, both generations were being manipulated, conditioned, and brainwashed by Big Media, Big Education, Big Industry and Big Government to conform to a narrow point of view instead of learning to think independently, broadly, and deeply
The saving grace for those of us from my generation who wanted to escape our working class and climb the socioeconomic ladder was that the economy was booming due to the United States being relatively unscathed by World War II, and also due to college being relatively inexpensive, because the government had not as yet made it exorbitantly expensive by trying to make it affordable for everyone.
Fortunately, as dumb as we were, we were smart enough to change our garb, hairstyle, and manners as fashions and social mores changed—or as needed to conform to the expectations of the next higher social class. As quickly as Clark Kent could change outfits in a phone booth, we could go from a hippie-lookalike to the man in the gray flannel suit or woman in the gray flannel skirt. We left behind no Internet trail to embarrass us.
Not so with millennials. They not only have an Internet trail, but many of them have branded themselves for life with a current fashion trend: tattoos. Not a small tattoo of yesteryear on an upper arm, such as a "Mom" or "USN" or a heart with a girlfriend's name inside; but a sleeve tattoo running from wrist to shoulder, or a back tattoo the size and shape of a splayed chicken, or an inked likeness of Jesus on a calf, or grotesque designs on neck and face that resemble scars from a third-degree burn.
It's none of my business if people want to wallpaper themselves. But I do worry about machismo issues when I see armed cops, soldiers, gangbangers, and psychotics covered in tattoos.
Imagine what those tattoos will look like in coming years as skin wrinkles and sags with age, and as bellies, triceps, and thighs become flabby. The Jesus on the calf will end up with jowls. Moreover, there is no hiding such large and visible tattoos from prospective employers or from offspring. How does a tattooed parent tell a child not to go along with the crowd?
Are the tattoos an anti-establishment statement, a marker of class or tribe, an indication of a lack of ambition, a reflection of a real or imagined lack of opportunity, or a failure to understand that fashions change?
Whatever the answer, thank goodness tattoos were not trendy in my generation. If they had been, this old guy might be working as a barista at Starbucks, with no money in the bank but wearing an old pair of bell-bottoms and a wrinkled tattoo of Elvis on his back.