Wot can one say about the Yuppies? Wot would anyone want to say about them? The young urban professionals, selfish successors to the Hippies, who begat the Yippies, who dissolved into the Yuppies. Jerry Rubin, who wanted to burn down universities, now is on the lucrative lecture circuit with Abby Hoffman, who wanted to burn down the world. The radical turns Organization Man. Yesterday’s revolution is turned into today’s greed. It’s what makes America great.
The streets of Washington and New York are filled with the Yuppies, the expensively dressed young ladies wearing their trademark scuffed Adidas with gym socks, their badge as to the inefficiency of high heels on city pavement (a girl’s gotta walk swiftly to climb the corporate ladder). The male Yuppie of the species is also out of the cookiecutter, sober threads dripping sincerity, the only dash of color a tie from an obscure British regiment or something in discreet yellow, the TV correspondent’s current favorite.
These are the Baby Boomers, the obverse in the world of Ethiopian famine, the proof that capitalism indeed does work and success is spelled excess. There is a generation, born in the Dirty ’30s during the Depression, that missed active participation in war. There is a generation, born during the war years, that knew nothing of the Depression. The Baby Boomers turned Yuppies are the first generation in a half-century to know neither hard times nor war. The result could be expected: the major issues of existence are brie, Perrier, designer jogging suits and K-Y jelly.
We have, for your inspection, 28-yearold Rob Lewis, who wanted to be a regional planner but decided instead that it was more lucrative to become a lawyer and is now with Denver’s largest legal firm. He meets most of his dates at health clubs, rather than bars or discos, because “the clubs make your selection
Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.
process easier, especially if one criterion is whether the women are co-ordinated, balanced. You can see what their aggression levels are like, their strength.” And all the time I thought that’s what you went to a bar for. “I’d like to get married, have a family,” says the Yuppie, who admits a number of “important relationships” have foundered because his job came first, but “I’d like to move to that step without too much trauma.” Ah, trauma. It is what Yuppies fear most—beyond unemployment, welfare, herpes, AIDS, nuclear war or death. Trauma is to be feared, on the way to the
condo and the Saab, the Cuisinart and the freshly ground ego. The demographers tell us that the Yuppies, in their Burberry scarves, are to be found among the 60-million issue of the great, uh, lust boom that took place between 1946 and 1964. They make up some 23 per cent of the American population but already control 23 per cent of after-tax income.
These are the people who are the market economy’s equivalent of that nutty California millionaire who was going to breed a superrace by matching superior IQs via frozen sperm. These earnest achievers, too busy climbing the ladder to do the European tour and thereby perceive where Ethiopia might be, are the types who almost vaulted into the Democratic nomination last spring one Gary Hart, who on subsequent examination proved to have changed his name, his age and his signature. It didn’t matter to the Yuppies: he jogged. The number 1 sin for a Yuppie, if you do make $40,000, is to have a belly.
Ethiopia would not qualify.
All you have to do is look at the beer ads—the classic sociological delineation of the way our end of the skewed world is going. They are made up of slim, toothsome young damsels (apparently dressed out of Vogue) who drink beer. I don’t know a single young woman who drinks beer (I’m 39) but the Yuppie market—perhaps 20 million of them out there—is the market to be chased after by advertisers.
Archie Bunker types are out the window, depending on Cheez Whiz and Hamburger Helper. Ozzie and Harriet are long gone, as are Lucille and Desi, all those middle-class values and plastic flowers on the mantel. Happy Days is dead. Replaced by upwardly mobile females who are into graduate work in nuclear nonsensicality. The more America ages, the more it is taken over by the generation that reaps it all—no trauma of the Dust Bowl, no remembrance of the war dead, no guilt, no memory, simply a belief that all is possible once one has had a university education and a credit card at o Brooks Brothers. Valhalla ? awaits at the computer g centre.
The thought of this multitude of quiche-eaters, into whitepainting former slum residences and acquiring ski cottages, with numbers almost equal to the population of Canada, is awesome to think about. Inevitably, as all good things south of us, the success spelled excess drifts across the border, as dictated by osmosis.
Soon, Thompson, Man., will be overrun by silk-clad education specialists importing Indonesian oysters and driving BMWS. Edmonton will be full of those with a full-year tan who invest in sow belly futures in Chicago and don’t own a can opener. The politics of selfishness, which has already enveloped British Columbia, will spread its Jacuzzi charm throughout the less-blessed areas of the land deprived of VCRs and Red-Hot Video. Canada has a long way to go. The people whose major emotional exchange with life is the midnight encounter with the electronic withdrawal card outside a bank have not yet quite taken over. Wait for it.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.