Since Texans 65 and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, my friends and I have been feverishly swapping emails and texts with links to vaccine registration sites, urging one another on, and reporting which sites work and which don’t. Online, it’s mass delirium and competition. (My friend John says he hasn’t been so angst-ridden since he was trying to score tickets to Hamilton.) But we aren’t just losing our minds over getting the vaccine; we’re also making big plans for our future.
A week or two after we get our second round of vaccine, the first wave of baby boomers is going to be 95 percent immune to COVID. Unlike our younger friends and our grown children and grandkids, we will be free to rejoin the world. It’s time that the rest of you remembered what the generation that invented sex, drugs, and rock and roll is capable of.
We are going to hug. We are going to the hairdresser. We are going to dine indoors at restaurants, we are going to travel, and we are going to party. In spite of our knee problems, we may even dance.
Expect us at all the cool new restaurants, where we’ll dine early and ask you to turn down the music. We’ll be at music festivals, too, with our sunblock and hats and T-shirts from the sixties and all our long, boring stories about Woodstock and acid trips that went bad. In fact, you’ll probably see us everywhere, as long as we don’t have to climb too many steps. There are also rumors of single boomers ready to storm the dating market before the younger competition is back in circulation.
“You know,” I tell our millennial daughter and son over the phone, “your father and I are going to be living high. Think of all of us geriatric cases crowding into planes with our luggage and our CPAP machines, going anywhere we want.” I try not to gloat, but I don’t try too hard.
Neither does eighty-year-old Austin author Ellen Sweets, who’s already eyeing a trip to Rome. “I’ve got friends there who made the mistake of telling me to come and stay with them anytime,” she reports. “After that, I want to go to Thailand and eat my weight in street food.”
In Fort Worth, Helen Anders boasts she’s planning her sixty-ninth birthday party in a few days, with an exclusive guest list of “also immune” family members. They will embrace, dine three feet apart on food that doesn’t come in Styrofoam, and laugh loudly in one another’s faces.
Rebecca Wallace Ford, 74, a retired Austin caterer, wants to toss back margaritas at Guero’s, then maybe hop a flight to New Orleans, where she’ll head straight to Galatoire’s and never leave. Maria Bellantoni, a 70-year-old Dallas piano teacher, plans to go back to Florence, where she once sat at a sidewalk cafe with friends, smoking and speaking Italian and discussing existentialism, the myth of God, and the breakdown of the nuclear family.
Others are more conflicted, though. Dan Bullock, 76, who bills himself as an Austin civic engagement catalyst, can’t decide whether to go to Paris (as in France) or the snake farm (as in New Braunfels). Another friend, who wants to be referred to as an anonymous contrarian, says she’s been perfectly happy not to travel during the pandemic, since her goal in life is never to leave the time zone, anyway. Post-pandemic, she sees no reason to change her plans.
But for the rest of us—a late-in-life boomer comeback! We deserve it, we tell ourselves. In the past year, we found out that COVID was much more lethal to our older cohort. Then, even worse, Texas’s firebrand lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, helpfully suggested that we oldsters could sacrifice ourselves to save younger generations and the economy by dropping dead. (Many of us have been waiting for the seventy-year-old Patrick to offer to go first, but so far he hasn’t obliged. So much for leadership these days.)
Pummeled by all that bad news and abuse, many of us have spent the past eleven months huddled in our houses and apartments, working and reading and streaming Netflix, picking up groceries curbside, finding new hobbies, ditching new hobbies, stress-eating, getting judged by our Fitbits, drinking too much, drinking too little. I should also mention that, at this time in life, our feet hurt, our teeth are cracking, our hair grows out funny, and we’ve been routinely blowing out enough knees and shoulders to support a generation of orthopedists.
To make up for a wretched year, newly vaccinated boomers have been out of control, high-fiving and preening and posing on Facebook. But even a bystander like Austin writer Wendi Aarons, a self-described “long-suffering Gen Xer,” says she’s happy for us. “My elderly parents were worse than my teenage sons,” she says. “They kept sneaking out of their house to see friends. Now they’re vaccinated, I can relax knowing they’re pounding drinks at the Elks club and booking cruises online.”
In the meantime, we’ll try to stop all this unseemly gloating and plan our exciting post-pandemic lives. And, as Helen Anders points out, we’ll keep on wearing masks. But under them, rest assured, we’ll all be grinning.
As I write this, late in January 2021, I’m also reading front-page warnings about the spread of new, more infectious COVID variants. Maybe all this showboating and cavorting is premature. So be it. My generation will adapt. At our age, you think we haven’t learned patience?