Dear Mom and Dad,
Although you’re no longer together, I felt the need to write you two a single letter. Dad, I can’t stop thinking about the stories you used to tell of the summer after you graduated college and returned home to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. You said one of the few times you ever felt peaceful was when you were under water in their pool, either in a full wetsuit or leaning your head off a raft wearing a diving mask. I’m beginning to understand this distracting feeling—both peaceful and frustrating—at a time in life when I’m just below its surface with nothing to cling to but a slogan promise of hope. In this postmillennial world, all I can think about is finding my own pool in which I can submerge and escape, completely indifferent to its peacefully frustrating aura. At least it’ll be quiet.
Your generation let us down, folks, and I have a few questions. I’m not pointing fingers at you specifically . . . Mom, as kid I remember you saying “that hippie thing was just a fad,” and Dad, you’ve never been one to conform to nonconformity. The Summer of Love and Woodstock may not have had a telethon “Do it for the children” theme to it, but weren’t you trying to change the future by changing the present? What happened to that energy of your generation? How did we end up in this society of plastics from which, Dad, you told me you were so determined to run away? When you drove all the way up to Berkeley to chase Mom down and beg her to marry you, that was Real. When he showed up at your would-be wedding to that jock and the two of you ran off together, that was Real. So tell me, what caused you kids to surrender that four-letter word and embrace the plastics industry?
As accusatory as I can get towards your generation, I wonder if you felt the same towards the one that came before you. Maybe the unifying goal of your late-60s movements was simply a shared determination not to end up like your parents. Getting to know Grandma Robinson after you two separated was, putting it mildly, a bizarrely entertaining experience. I had spent my whole childhood accepting the fact that she simply was not in our lives, but as a kid, naturally I didn’t think to question it . . . I assumed every kid had one grandmother, not two. Grandma Robinson was pretty senile by the time I came to know her as an adult, and I’m not sure she always knew who I was when I went to visit. She’d tell me stories of her frisky teenage years, and for some reason her deteriorating mind often confused Dad with Grandpa Robinson. After all these years, I still don’t understand why you both found her so undesirable, unless it was just a generational thing?
The world seems to be getting angrier. Am I the only one who sees it, or is it just something that we all feel as they age? Maybe I just need to let it to go and accept the fact that the world your generation was supposed to hand us was not possible. Blaming you may not be the fairest course of emotional action on my part, but I can’t help pointing a finger in the direction of your generation. And you know precisely which finger that is! How did you let the Real (that resulted eventually in my existence) unravel your marriage and become so synthetic?
I understand that I need to make changes happen if I want them so desperately—life doesn’t owe me calm waters free of the occasional riptide. But would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work? Terrified of leaving a steady paycheck, here I sit at a job in which I no longer have any interest, punching numbers into a computer so consumers can buy and read books on the other end of the wireless wires. Still I cling to the hope that one day something more will come along and try to seduce me.
Thanks for letting me vent. My love to you both.
Benjamin Braddock Jr.
Academy Award for The Graduate (1968): Best Director