Yesterday a neighbor posted,

“I have a challenge for those of you old enough to have lived thru it. My 25 year old daughter recently asked whether it was better to have been a kid / teen in the 70’s or now. I challenge everyone to tell me which one, and why? I’lI start: The 70’s were better… no elementary school shootings. The closest was Kent State. Your turn.”

Mike B., NextDoor, May 2023

True to my nature, while most people responded with simple comments such as, ‘Present times, because of advanced video games!’ or ‘The ’70s, as my babysitters were hippies!’, I offered a more detailed response.

Definitely 70s & 80s. Free to run around, all the fun toys you can’t get anymore because they’re too “dangerous”, and so on. And women and minorities started tasting sweet freedom.

And according to my parents, better drugs for them, as well. The things that had been prescribed to 50s & 60s housewives became recreational for their kids, and Nixon’s War on Drugs hadn’t started, yet.

Oh, and weed. Lots and lots of weed. Dad worked in a machine shop next to a cemetery, meaning the cops didn’t go there but the dealers did. Everybody on the night shift would buy a different variety or from a different dealer, they’d all puff-puff-pass to pick the best, and then they’d all go to that dealer and buy him out.

The dealers quickly figured this out and that cemetery became the place for everyone because that’s where the best stuff was. And yeah, they’d have other stuff, too, which is why dad bought me a chemistry set when I was ten and taught me how to test, um, stuff.

Ok, so yeah, the Cold War drills weren’t fun, but at least we knew that if something happened, we’d all blip out of existence at the same time.

Most importantly, there was a prevailing optimism that our generation would enjoy a better lifestyle than our parents, with less effort. Some of us had a lot fun envisioning a Jetsons-like future filled with robots and personal flying discs.

Then trickle-down economics started and most of the mental health facilities closed.

Wives had to enter the workforce in order for families to maintain middle-class lifestyles. Kids were free to do whatever they wanted due to zip-zero parenting. And even when the parents were around, they were so stressed that everything was a fight.

The refs and coaches at school games felt it big-time. Family dinner time turned into a huge mess the few times it happened, and then it stopped happening at all because nobody wanted to do it.

Then the War on Drugs ramped up bigly with DARE and “this is your brain on…” commercials. Which basically turned out to be giant commercials for drugs instead of turning kids away.

This brought the rise of the drug lords and cartels, which replaced the mafia but without the family hierarchies and clear “enemies”, or the rules.

The late 90s kids had so many rules to stay “safe” that it was overwhelming and nowadays so very many of them are addicts, live with crippling anxiety and/or depression, and have no clue how to adult because they learned to be so risk-averse that they don’t know how to live. And we’re losing so very many of them to suicide.

Then the 00s kids had the rules, but no one around to enforce them. Drugs were harder to come by, so they started cabinet parties. In case you don’t know this term, it was a bunch of kids going to one friend’s home and raiding the bathroom medicine cabinet and everyone trying what’s in there.

Then video games became the socializing method of choice, and everyone became so insulated from others. They’d meet up in school with all of its cliques, then head home to spend the evening avoiding homework and the rest of the family by playing violent video games all by themselves.

Next up are the 10s, which was basically like the 00s only more. As in, better quality video games, more realistic, more like a TV show or movie that you could be part of, and a headset to talk with others from around the world on your campaigns.

The cabinet parties were gone, but raiding your own parents’ stashes was pretty easy, and opioids were everywhere.

Which brings us to nowadays.

Some parents think wearing masks is traumatizing, but shooter drills and dead kids are the price of freedom. Too many think that active shooter drills are the same as our Cold War drills, but they’re not. At all. We went to the basement and hid. We could talk, do homework, read a book.

Nowadays kids have to barricade doors, block windows, remain perfectly still and silent (heaven help you if you have to sneeze or cough), and know that someone’s going to die. Is it you? Your friend? That weird kid you always avoid?

Worse, yet, will the shooter turn out to be a friend of yours? Will you forever wonder whether you could’ve done something to stop this? Is this somehow your fault?

The political divide is so huge that people can’t (or won’t) speak civilly to each other in order to share ideas. Suddenly it’s so much better to agree with your pundit of choice who only thinks of you as a pair of eyeballs and ears with attached dollar signs than it is to get along with the real humans you interact with.

And the siloed lifestyle is so bad now, the only neighbors names I know are those who’ve been my neighbors for at least a decade.

The omnipresent economic strain is such that a middle-class lifestyle is nearly unattainable for most families, even with dual incomes. Everyone has to have a full-time job for benefits and to cover basic expenses, a side hustle to pay for fun things like new clothes or a night out, and a passive income stream because you probably won’t get to see the retirement funds you’ve been paying into forever.

Assuming you even live that long, that is, thanks to rampant violence, especially guns. For awhile there, I only had six guns which is woefully inadequate in this white suburban hellscape of Trump flags and republicans winning local elections with 75%+ of the vote. (Note, there are now fewer guns in the home, not more.)

Our nation is witnessing escalating violence, widespread substance abuse, environmental degradation, and an unprecedented mental health crisis.

Not to mention the various other viruses and bacteria that we can’t treat very well, and the lifestyle diseases such as cancer because of all the bland, fake food we have to eat because cooking for ourselves takes up too much time, and it’s too expensive to buy fresh ingredients.

Oh, and the air & water toxins that turn into food chain & soil toxins that turn back into more air & water toxins when climate-change-fueled extreme weather spews it all around again.

Also, nobody is free because the political divide is so huge that we check each other against the perfection of our side’s ideal instead of allowing everyone a safe space to live our lives. And by safe space, I mean emotionally and physically safe with sufficient funds and other support.

Quite frankly, I’m glad to be an old lady who never married or got pregnant, because I don’t hate anyone enough to have brought them into this world. And I certainly don’t have the wisdom to give younger folks what they need to survive weather disasters, firestorms, getting killed at school, or how to deal with what feels like WWIII and/or Civil War Part 2 starting up any day now. Or both at the same time.

The younger generations are disillusioned, angry, and anxious about the state of the world, while the younger kids are losing the chance to enjoy a normal childhood amidst the chaos.

Too many 20- and 30- somethings are anxious, depressed, and never want children for the same reasons mentioned above. The few actually looking forward to the future are usually the same ones who think tracking girls’ and women’s periods, having active shooter drills, and allowing pedophiles to check genitalia for school age sports players are all perfectly ok.

The teens and early 20s folks are pissed off and ready to take the rest of us on because we’ve allowed the world to become what it is, or worse, actively worked to make it this way.

Meanwhile the younger ones are too busy trying to figure out what the heck is going on with all these swirled emotions and arguments and ever-changing rules in these siloed environments to even have a chance to be kids.

Considering all these factors, I firmly believe that it was far better to grow up in the ’70s. Now, I find myself looking at a bleak future that fills every single day with dread.