Hicksville, Long Island, N.Y, 1957 -- Four siblings are lined up in age order, leaning on an ironing board covered with a white sheet. First in line is Lenny, then the two girls: seven-year-old Eileen and six-year-old Diane, who sports a buster brown haircut and a blue suit with a little flower corsage pinned at the right shoulder. Last in line is Charlie, the baby of the family. All four smile broadly as they wait for their photo to be taken by the “picture man” a photographer who makes his living by driving around neighborhoods and snapping photographs of families in their houses. One click and a black-and-white snapshot of a 1950’s childhood is immortalized, but more specifically it was my mother Diane’s childhood that was immortalized, along with a time in American history whose culture is now faded away.
My mother, Diane Marie Merryman, was born in Queens, N.Y on May 22, 1951. As a Baby Boomer, she spent her childhood and teenage years in the 1950’s and 1960’s; decades whose cultures differ drastically with American culture today. The Baby Boomer generation of my mother and my generation, the Millennials, who grew up during the 1990’s and 2000’s differ largely in the aspects of economics and technology, but it is in the areas of moral and behavioral expectations the cultural changes are most obvious
For the Baby Boom generation the purchasing power of the average American had never been so high; as a matter of fact the average American family had thirty percent more purchasing power in 1960 than in 1950 (Stanley 12). “By the time I was sixteen a 1967 Ford Mustang cost $2,500” says Mom. Earning a childhood allowance of fifty cents a week, Mom spent her money in the only soda shop in Hicksville called the...
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...hen Mom was a high school senior, “Boys could not wear hair past their ears and girls had to wear skirts” (Merryman). The skirt girls wore “had to be finger–tip length” when they stood up with their arms at their sides, and boys were sent home to change if they wore jean-like pants (Merryman). Body piercing outside of earrings for girls were non-existent, and only men who were involved in the military had tattoos.
Growing up, the only person my mother knew who had a tattoo was her grandfather who worked in the Brooklyn navy ship yard and had an anchor tattooed on his forearm. Unlike the Baby Boomers, adolescents of the millennial era have few qualms about body art. As of 2001, sixteen percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty four and fifteen percent of Americans aged twenty-five to twenty-nine had either a tattoo or a piercing, if not both (Gardyn and Whelan 9).
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