I never thought that women my age would spend mid-life talking about "the younger generation." After all, historically we were The Younger Generation. We were destined by the star of the baby boom to be always at the cutting edge.

Yet this winter, wherever I go, I hear a peculiar echo in the voices of my peers or my cohorts or whatever the demographers call us. I catch them repeating the question once uttered by our parents and grandparents about us: "What has happened to the younger generation?"

The women who seem most disappointed are those who call themselves feminists. Now in their mid-thirties and forties, they matured on the wave of the women's movement. For many, change was exhilarating; they were too young to feel betrayed by new ideas. They took pride in the assumption that they would make life better for those who came behind them.

Now they look at students and business associates and colleagues, self-confident women in their twenties who feel little connection with the women's rights movement. They look at those who have few qualms in being described as the post-feminist generation. They look at women who fit at least partially under the abused heading of Yuppies. And they wonder about them.

A generation gap has opened between the feminists and the Yuppies. It is, at least on the surface, about politics, but it's also about change. The feminists are conscious of sexism as an aroma over the landscape. The Yuppies do not have the same sensitive olfactory nerve. Many have never, or so they will tell you, been discriminated against.

To the feminists, the women's rights movement is as current as the latest slur or lawsuit. To the Yuppies, it is tale from the old days when, once upon a time, women had trouble getting into the schools or jobs they now hold.

The mid-life generation of women genuinely worry that the young are pulling the covers of denial back over their heads. They worry that the young are being misled again into the belief that they can cut a private deal for progress, one woman at a time. The younger women listen to the repeated warnings of their elders with the polite distancing patience of children told how grandparents walked 10 miles in the snow to school.

In distress, the more liberal mid-lifers say of the more conservative young: They'll find out. They'll find out when they have children and try to balance work and mothering. They'll find out when they bump up against the ceilings on women's aspirations. They'll find out that we were right.

As for me, I find little pleasure in anticipating the day of disillusionment when "they'll find out." I find less comfort in the generation gap I observe.

If I worry about the young, I also worry about my peers. At times we sound like parents who worked hard to make life easier for our children and now criticize them because they've had it too easy. We wanted them to carry on our lives and are angry at them for living their own.

I suppose feminists think of Yuppies the way the suffragists must have thought of the flappers. The suffragists fought for rights. The flappers came along and acted them out in speakeasies and flirtations. The suffragists had planned a series of next steps; the flappers turned them into the Charleston. Today -- if you will forgive my generalizations -- the feminists who believed in sisterhood are followed by the Yuppies who believe in personal success. One generation marched for progress; the next marks progress on a Nautilus chart.

But there is something else the mid-life feminists of the 1980s have in common with the suffragists of the 1920s: aging. I think it is hard for any group of people to feel themselves bumped into middle age. It may be particularly hard when those who call themselves progressive find their deepest ideals wear-dated by those who are younger, as if ideals were pop music or hoop skirts. But it's also hard for the young when their elders don't listen and do judge.

I am enough of a creature of my times to share the alarm of friends and peers about the young. I think that social change is fragile. While the young aren't paying attention, women can drift back. But no generation can write the script for the next. Those who try only lose. Lose contact.

Once, another older generation asked of us: "What has happened to the younger generation?" I remember our response to their distance and dismay. We stopped paying attention.