I got Elizabeth a Sony Walkman for Christmas, one that records as well as plays back (and even has a little microphone built into the headphones so she can audibly record as she walks, runs, or bikes along in college). That, I suppose, qualifies her as a genuine Yuppie, and me as the father of a Yuppie.
In fact, as we shall see, father of Yuppies.
None of the other children got computers for Christmas -- or VCRs, either -- so they don't qualify in that respect. But they do have running shoes and backpacks and some of the other paraphernalia required for admittance into the exclusive clique.
I myself, though, am the possessor of a new computer (and printer, floppy discs and lots of other groovy things) that winks and grunts and gurgles at me each morning in my home office overlooking the park, chastising me for not producing more daily on a long-delayed book. And I do own a genuine Burberry, purchased many years ago.
Like its owner, the Burberry literally has been around the world a few times, and not always in the most scenic or placid of places. And, again like its possessor, it isn't as serviceable as it used to be. It's torn, tattered and otherwise displays unmistakable signs of long use over the years. Still, it's the real article.
What's more, I am the son of the owner of a Genuine Trench Coat, worn in the last war to be officially classified as world class, if wars can be said to have any class, which they don't. Anyway, he was, in his day, a young urban professional himself. Even the story of how he got the Genuine Trench Coat has a kind of upwardly mobile cast to it:
The editor of The New York Sun, the grand old newspaper that then employed him, assigned him to be its war correspondent for the Pacific theater in World War II. "Go over and get yourself an outfit at Abercrombie & Fitch," the editor said, and so he did. (In those days, you had to look the part of the dashing correspondent in the Richard Harding Davis mold, it seems, and the editor, believe it or not, actually had once been the great Davis' boss. Hence, the tailor-made war correspondents' suits from Abercrombie's. Along with them came, naturally, a Genuine Trench Coat.)
I lay out all this extraneous personal background for a reason. While I cannot claim membership as a Yuppie, I do have some of the needed credentials and background.
So at least, I qualify as an Adumpie.
I am, dear readers, an Aging Downwardly Urban Mobile Professional.
The Adumpie designation fits in other respects, too. (Yes, again, I resolve in the new year to lose weight, get a home bicycle or rowing machine, start jogging, which always has struck me as the most boring of pursuits, and one way or another return -- or come close -- to the streamlined, slimmed-down, svelte athletic type I used to be.)
But that's not the point of this exercise. I come here to confess that Christmas and all the current retrospection on 1984 ("The Year of the Yuppie," Newsweek proclaims on its delightful New Year's Eve cover by, of course, Garry Trudeau) have brought me to a dreadful realization.
I am a failure as a father of Yuppies.
As such, I clearly have let down my children and quite possibly consigned them to a terrible future. As Yuppies, they just don't make it. This is the tragic fact I finally had to face, and accept, this holiday season.
God knows where I went wrong, but I have tried, believe me, I have tried, and I can show you the checks made out over the years to Harvard and Brown and such fancy places to prove it.
None of it took. Not one of them voted for Reagan. Not one has an MBA. Not one is the possessor of a condo or tax shelter of any kind. Worse, they all seem, in one way or another, relics of the '60s -- yet that wasn't even their generation.
They aren't even doing "practical" things. Well, that's not true. The eldest, Katherine, (and the only one married), certainly works terribly hard at her career, and she's probably the most conservative of the group, yet it was she who was so upset by a TV show last fall on the Moral Majority (to her it recalled Hitler) that she couldn't sleep and wanted the two of us to collaborate either in written or televised form to alert other people to the perceived dangers arising out of this intolerant "Moral Majority" that would have others conform to its views and beliefs.
Sarah, after graduating from Brown last spring, shows no sign of cashing in on the professional career. She wants to be an artist, of all things, and seems prepared to starve in New York for the chance.
Liz, who wanted, and thus naturally got, that Sony Walkman for Christmas, has chosen one of the least likely upwardly mobile career paths. Like her mother, my former wife (and my own mother before her), she wants to be a musician; in Liz's case, an opera singer. Thus, she can now listen to playbacks of her own recordings, and record new ones, as she continues her schooling.
The boys are even more hopeless. Harvard brought David no great financial rewards, no cash payoffs for the great tuition expense: He's been organizing workers, (and you know how much future that has) going down into mines, putting out newsletters, making speeches and the like, and all in all acting more like Jack London or John Reed than a proper American Yuppie of his generation.
As for Stephen, my 6-foot-6 hulk, forget it. He didn't even capitalize on his sports potential, which is, after all, the best way to make it big -- that is, rich -- today. He's so unmaterialistic he claims to enjoy living as close to nature as his small business in South Dakota permits.
Failures, and I have only myself to blame.
Herewith, on this closing of the Orwellian Year and dawning of the new, I resolve to teach them to be more selfish, acquisitive and to renounce all remnants of so-called social consciousness. That, after all, is what Yuppies are all about, isn't it?
But I have one last confession to make. You know what? I rather like them the way they are, and I don't for a minute believe their Yuppie peers are nearly so reactionary and uncaring as they're made out to be.
Take it from an Adumpie: these Yuppies just might turn out to fool all of us and build that better world we're supposed to want. In any event, they can't do worse than we who brought them into the world.