Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ashes to ashes, Bugcatcher™ to bug-catcher

Disturbing stats about my mid/late 1960s-born generation continue to mount. Suicide peaks having tracked my generation since we were teenagers was written-up a few weeks ago; now there’s fatness (and for gay Xer men, Aids) grim reapers who seem to have it especially in for us, as well.

Gen X-er's to die before parents” screams the Daily Telegraph, throwing in a stray apostroph’e as a bonus extra frustrator/insult for its presumably already unsettled Xer readers.

That the young tend to be more obese than the old is nothing new, of course. But the Daily Telegraph’s story – covered with less headline sensation, and more important detail in a sibling paper here – did break new ground by for once sodding the yoof/kids, and just comparing Xers to older generations. Specifically, three groups were studied: those born from 1966 to 1970 (Xers), 1951 to 1955 (boomers) and 1936 to 1940 (parents of Xers).

It would seem that Xers have only started piling on the pounds quite recently. Otherwise, a pronounced “fat kids” phenomenon would have trailed us through the 1970s, through to a “fat Nirvana fan” stereotype of twenty-somethings c.1992, etc. Indeed, the money-shot in the study – 88 per cent of Xer men (and 61 per cent of Xer women) would be overweight by 2010 – suggests an exponential growth just hitting its bootstraps.

Disappointingly, a patently ludicrous generalisation/guess is trotted-out to nonetheless explain the phenomenon as having roots in Xers’ childhoods:

Unlike Generation X, baby boomers and pre-war babies had grown up in an environment when food was scarcer and higher levels of activity were required in daily life”. (same URL)

Apart from my above point about Xers’ fatness being quite recent, it is also a slur on my generation to insinuate that we were much less physically active as children than boomers. Bullshit. Kids my age were hardly ever driven to school, and television, in the days before “C” programming, was presumed bad for us, and rationed accordingly.

Research author Adrian Bauman, (from Sydney University and the Centre for Physical Activity and Health) can’t let the youth-angle go, in other ways too:

"We tend to think of obesity as a middle-age problem, but we found the rate of weight gain among young adults is accelerating faster than in other generations. This means we are going to have a problem down the track that is going to be more substantial than thought". (same URL)

Huh? While I’m sure that 36-40 year olds would generally be flattered to be called “young adults”, Bauman is surely shifting the solution (i.e. benefits) of an Xer problem onto a younger generation that has not yet even been (and won’t necessarily ever be) diagnosed. In case you don’t get it here, his “problem down the track” gives it away – 2010 is not “down the track”. Bauman’s plain subtext is that it’s already too late to do anything about Xers (a refrain I’m so wearily familiar with that it makes my blood boil), but a bit of preventative medicine for GenY here wouldn’t go astray.

To which NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos dutifully chimes in, saying that young adults [i.e. GenY] who failed to change their lifestyle risked illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease (same URL). Albeit in another report Hatzistergos is quoted in way that suggests (shock, horror) he is actually squarely addressing GenX:

"The message however has to extend beyond younger people to adults, who set not only a role model for children but also have real issues in terms of their own longevity and quality of life."

“Real issues in terms of their own longevity and quality of life." Tell me about it, John. More to the point, show me the money.

Then again, if fatness or suicide doesn’t get you, Aids could well do the trick, if you’re a gay male Xer, anyway.

In the 1970s, there was this popular science-toy called the Bugcatcher™. Ironically, it was heavily promoted on TV, while its primary use was outdoors.

Somehow, too many of us 70s kids have grown up into middle-age finding ourselves living inside our toy Bugcatchers. We style it as a chase, of calories/fat, viruses and simple death like they were in short supply, but we know that we’re really the chasees, the caught.

Poor fellow my generation.

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