My wife and I are at the very end of the Baby Boomer generation. Because we’re at the tail end, we didn’t share the same experiences, nor do we have the same drives which typically describe that generation. There was no Woodstock for us because our Silent Generation parents didn’t go in for that kind of thing, and we weren’t old enough to go unchaperoned, even if we cared about the music at that age. The Vietnam War ended while we were still too young to have an opinion about it, and the spectacular accomplishments of the U.S. space program seemed almost commonplace to us.
We do not fit into Generation X either, although we share many characteristics with the older members of that group. We are called Baby Boomers solely based on the number of births in the United States during the years in we took our first breaths. And let’s face it, our experiences shape us so completely, and things change too quickly for a 21 year generation to make much sense. We need a new one.
I got the idea for a new generation from the back of a truck trailer that I saw on the highway a few days ago. Pictured was a Thomas’ English Muffin with squeezable jelly in the shape of a smily face. That seemed wrong. When I was growing up, the ads used butter not jelly, and the butter would pool in the muffin’s “nooks and crannies.” (This feels a little Pavlovian; I’m salivating at the thought of those ads from the 1970s.)
And so, I dub those born between 1958 and 1970 the Nooks ‘n Crannies Generation.
What are the experiences that shaped our lives?
The Cold War, for one. The Baby Boomers grew up with the Cold War too, but their experience was different. History showed that there was a good chance of a nuclear war which would destroy life as we know it. Wars happened every twenty years or so and each new war brought bigger, more devastating weapons with it. They experienced real fear during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and some helped dig backyard fallout shelters.
For the Nooks ‘n Crannies Generation, we were at most four years old during the crisis, and most were not yet born. We have no memories of it. By the time we were old enough to notice what was going on, the perception had changed. To us, the Cold War meant a lot of blustery talk which kept us from having a major, world-altering conventional war in our lifetimes. It also allowed for other pursuits to flourish; most of us thought a nuclear war would never happen, and we still do.
We benefited from the fruits of the earlier generations. We were quick to adopt computers as valuable tools, and while we didn’t have the buying power of the Baby Boomers, we helped drive product development with enthusiastic adoption of the things we found most useful. As a whole, we are a little less judgmental than our predecessors, and fewer of us have personal military experience or close relationships with those who have served. That doesn’t mean that we’re unpatriotic, but there’s a bit of disconnect with the armed forces. We recognize that social injustices deserve at least as much attention as overseas military concerns.
And then there are the ads. We grew up with three or four television stations and no way to fast-forward through the commercials. During a lull in advertising creativity, there appeared to be only one good ad on TV – “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” But still, the other ads had their impact. So much so that I’m now dubbing our newly formed generation after one of them.
There’s another reason I’m gravitating toward the butter covered English muffin ad. While the Nooks ‘n Crannies Generation didn’t suffer from war in the same way as earlier generations, and we’ve generally enjoyed favorable economic conditions, we have been the victims of one insidious agent. I speak, of course, of the food pyramid.
The food pyramid was a mistake by the government. They meant well, but it was a huge mistake. Scientists noticed that heart disease was lower in people with lower blood cholesterol levels and made the unproven leap that our diets should be much higher in carbohydrates and we should eat very few meats and fats. The scientists and the government were aided in their development of the food pyramid by companies who profited from the farming and processing of grains.
While the food pyramid is no longer the recommended eating guide for us Americans, the damage has been done. Our generation and the next two have been fed large quantities of unsatisfying carbohydrates, and we would eat ever greater amounts in an attempt to feel satiated. We were supposed to limit our consumption of nuts, meats, olive oil, butter, cheese and other foods that make us feel full. We were supposed to throw out millennia of hunter-gather diet history to which our modern bodies had adapted, and switch to an unnatural diet based on highly processed carbohydrates and incomplete scientific data. And we went along with it.
Data began to show that the food pyramid was a bad idea, but it was entrenched. A whole lot of farmers and many large corporations profited from the food pyramid’s dietary guidance, and lawmakers were loath to act against those powerful voting and fundraising targets. Attempts were made to tweak the message – “eat more whole grain carbohydrates and fewer highly processed ones” – but the food pyramid remained. That strategy didn’t work well; the highly processed carbs taste the best, especially those with a lot of salt. Some studies also show that lab rats find sugar to be more addictive than heroine, and sugar is a carbohydrate, the base of the pyramid.
So, many of our generation have been damaged by the food pyramid. Obesity has grown by about 130% between 1990 and 2014 in the United States. Even if we know that too many carbohydrates are bad for our health and our weight, we were raised on that diet, so we can’t help ourselves sometimes.
Now you know why I chose to name our newly defined group the Nooks ‘n Crannies Generation. We crave the butter, and now we’re allowed to use it in moderation, but what are we putting it on? A highly refined carbohydrate – an English muffin. We just can’t escape that food pyramid.