How to Talk to Your Baby Boomer about the Coronavirus

In a time of inconsistent messaging about COVID-19, there is one constant: The children of Baby Boomers throwing up their hands because Mom and Dad promised to be very careful and went straight to Zumba class before heading to the buffet and then a community soul-kissing workshop.

In the spirit of avoiding more brain-melting conversations, here are a few pointers.

You may have noticed that your Baby Boomers seem like they don’t understand that they’re in a high-risk group. It’s because they don’t.

Just as the Boomers were first beginning to turn 65, I started working for a company that put out Medicare brochures. The very first rule I learned was that we couldn’t put actual 65-year-old models on the covers. We couldn’t put 55-year-old models on the covers. We had to put models in their forties on the cover or the Boomers (and many Boomer-pluses) would just throw them away. They simply could not identify themselves with those old people.

Honestly, even using models in their forties was pushing it. Ideally, we would have given models in their thirties a touch of grey at the temples or used pictures of the individual Boomers themselves in their twenties, extreme hang-gliding their way into Woodstock.

The Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up constantly in the eye of the media, and many of them pegged their identities to being a part of the Forever It Generation, the youngest and the coolest and most popular for all time. If you were around as Generation X was coming into adulthood, you may have been baffled by the bizarre denial and rage that roiled up in many of the Baby Boomers. (Yes. The actual Washington Post published that.)

So no, your Boomer may not be able to psychologically deal with the fact that they need to be careful right now.

Then how do you get your Boomer to stay home when they won’t believe they’re at risk and they’re used to doing exactly what they want?

Everyone has a friend or loved one who needs to be extra-careful about COVID-19.

(Hey. Non-Boomers who are still going out to restaurants and holding neighborhood beerfests and licking subway railings: Literally everyone has a friend or loved one who needs to be extra-careful with COVID-19. And every time you go out and stir the human soup, you increase the risk of that loved one getting it. Or of your best friend’s loved one getting it, or just of someone you don’t even know getting COVID-19 when their system can’t handle it, even if you, personally, will be fine. We don’t have to agree about pineapple on pizza, but let’s agree that as a general rule we should try not to kill other humans, even if we’re feeling really carefree that day.)

You need to talk to your Baby Boomer about how he or she is the strong one who needs to protect the rest of the herd, and that even young, strong and possibly immortal people can still spread the virus, even when they aren’t showing symptoms. In fairness to the Washington Post, this piece has an excellent simulator that shows how social distancing works.

PRO TIP: If your Baby Boomer is white, don’t be shy about invoking Keith Richards. White Baby Boomers love Keith Richards and feel that he must be protected at all costs. Even if it means missing brunch and brewskis.

What if my once-recognizable Baby Boomer has turned into a Fox News/Trump cultist?

This is a tough one. The howling, conspiracy-addled jackals that have lurched into control of the Republican Party and even-farther-right are currently spreading three harmful lies:

  1. The coronavirus is just a harmless cold (FALSE) that’s getting hyped by CNN (FALSE).
  2. The mass deaths in China, South Korea, and Italy are all part of a plot (FALSE) to harm that nice Mr. Trump (FALSE).
  3. Your job is to Own the Libs by going out to dinner (FALSE; borderline criminal) and sensually stroking each other’s eyeballs before partaking of the nachos.

Unfortunately, a direct and reasonable approach will only solidify your Baby Boomer’s position here. And, unlike with Thanksgiving, you can’t just ignore them. It’s time to be cruel to be kind to your Trumpy Boomer. And you would be right to feel bad about if they hadn’t spent eight months wearing Fuck Your Feelings T-shirts.

When your Booby Trumbers start proudly announcing that they are going to the Spring Square Dance and Tonsil Grab and you can’t stop them because fake news ‘Merica yay for regular joes like Steve Mnuchin, encourage them. Tell them that they are right, and they should have an excellent time and linger over coffee and shared cigars.

And then mention how you are looking forward to their reduced demographic come election time. Tell them, as sincerely as you can, that you’re glad that they have so much faith in Mr. Trump’s chances that they’re not even worried about a drastically reduced voting bloc. Just give them something to think about. It’s drastic and it’s gross, but so are the times we’re in, and it’s what we need to do.

Get them focused on protecting the less vibrant and cool. Frighten them if you have to. Keep your Baby Boomers around to tell you about the brilliance of The Doors for years to come.