That 70s Show

bikesForget running to the convenience store with a note to buy your mother’s Pall Malls. Forget rolling around in the way, way back or playing kick the can in the middle of the road until the porch lights flickered on. Forget swimming unsupervised and sweating in the car while your mother ran into the bank. Forget never needing to account for the ten hours a day you spent without supervision, cell phones or other means of communication, whole days when no one knew exactly where you were. Forget all those things. The one thing that truly stands out to me about being raised in the 1970s is this:

The hesitation to praise, promote or otherwise indulge my own abilities.

Kids today, including my own, steam through life towing their very own cheering squad behind them. From the moment they are born (Great job making your way through the birth canal, Jack!!) to their experiences in school (Everyone’s a Winner!) straight on through to adulthood, they are constantly and consistently praised for achievements, both real and exaggerated. They get a medal for showing up; they get a medal for being born.

I did not grow up that way, nor did most of my fellow Gen Xers. No, I did not have to walk to school uphill in my off the shoulder Flashdance sweatshirt or through the snow without my Capezio shoes, but it was generally expected that I not just show up, but that I do the work, and that I do it well. If those conditions were met, then praise was parsed out. I won’t say sparingly, but certainly not as lavishly as it is today.


To give you an example (and forgive me, Mom, you know I love you): in my junior year of high school I belonged to an organization called DECA. As part of this program, I competed in various disciplines at progressive levels. When I was 16, I won a spot at the regional level. I won a spot at the state level. I competed on a national platform, and I placed 4th. In the nation. My mother’s response was this: “just think, if you’d worked just a little harder, you could have placed 3rd!”.

She was thrilled for me, of course. She was proud of me, I know. I don’t hold anything against her or hold any grudge (plus, it makes for a great story). My point is, that kind of thinking, the attitude of you show up and do the work, that was part and parcel of growing up in the 70s. You were expected to do, to do well, to do your best, to work hard. Some times you were acknowledged or praised. Sometimes not.

Us 70s kids were born and raised before multi-hyphenates became a thing. I am both floored and flummoxed by the ease at which younger generations are able to attach words and titles to themselves, the ease at which they are able to confidently call themselves “X”. Truth be told, I am a bit envious of it as well.

What this means is that the notion of deserving something is a difficult one for me to ingest, even as an adult. While I am inwardly thrilled when something good happens, the notion that I ‘deserved’ it makes me uncomfortable. It is just how we were brought up way back in those Happy Days. You didn’t flaunt, you didn’t brag, you didn’t exaggerate or pretend. The problem with this deep-seated tendency to down play is that when I am acknowledged for something, even something that I have worked for, I have a difficult time finding the right balance between justifiable pride and arrogance; it is a fine line to walk.

For all my leftie, pink-0, liberalist leanings, I hold a very old-fashioned view of myself. I blush at the very notion of calling myself a writer. When I joked recently about it being a big deal to change my work status to include the word ‘writer’ on my Facebook page, I wasn’t kidding. Recently I had to write a short bio and it took me a painfully long time to decide whether to use the sentence Dina is a writer.

8fec81204944199ea73f9dccf14cfb94In the way, way back of my 1970s mind, there are certain criteria I must meet to call myself a writer, criteria which I haven’t yet met. Honestly, and you can go ahead and laugh here, there is still a small Cinderella part of me that thinks that a Fairy Publishing Godmother is going to happen across something I’ve written and whisk me away to the land of book deals and movie rights.

The problem is that my self-imposed criteria will never be met without a hefty dose of self promotion. I don’t mind the work. I am used to the work part of it. But I bluster and bluff when it comes to getting my successes out there. I worry incessantly that I appear to be merely fishing for compliments. Social media makes it easier, but I still sweat over whether or not something sounds too boastful, too full of braggadocio, too full of myself. If I told you how long it takes me to hit ‘post’ on a tweet or a status update which is acknowledging something I’ve done, you would laugh.

So, how does a product of the 1970s update her thinking?  You would think that between the writing and updating a status or a tweet, that the latter would be the easy part, right?

If it is, you were probably born a lot later than me.


How do you walk the line between pride and hubris? How do you comfortably promote yourself and your work?



19 thoughts on “That 70s Show

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  1. It falls under the same category of asking for help. Whether it’s being a 70s kid or being raised Catholic or just the general New England-ness of our upbringing, you put your head down, you do the work. You don’t complain and you don’t bother anyone else with it. I wonder if it’s particularly hard for the girls of the 70s – trying to figure out how to be women who could have it all as that first generation whose moms were Ms. subscribers. We were encouraged to accomplish but not taught to toot our own horn. Great piece.


    1. Yes. Yes. Yes. Amen.
      Oh, and yes. I am intrigued (and often plagued) by the 70s feminine mystique. On the one had, we are the benefactors, on the other, we got shafted because we are the guinea pig generation of ‘you can have it all’ (you can’t, not without running in circles). Raised to be equals, but you had to prove yourself an equal by being tough, by not asking for help, by not, as you say, tooting your own horn. Yet we still rock. How tough are we?


  2. You really hit the nail on the head, Dina. I was raised in the 60s and early 70s and I too had to earn my accolades. I think it is terrible — not good in any way — to give trophies to everyone on the team (a snack, OK). Worse, is to have parents do all the work and the kids get the credit.

    I deal with this on a daily basis. My son, who has ADHD, never made a project that resembled what it was supposed to look like. I and my husband are both horrible and the craftsy stuff. My son made projects that looked like they were created by a ____-year old. Everybody else had parental, ummm, involvement. It really bothered me, and bothers me still. You don’t learn if you don’t do your own work. You don’t learn if you don’t have to do anything to succeed. The new adults and kids of today will have a whole lot of fast learning to do when real-life bitch slaps them.

    As for self-promotion, yeah it’s hard. But I learned long ago that nobody is gonna toot my horn. There are things I’m good at — damn good. And so I stopped fearing to tell folks what I can do (or that I have done that). Most of the time, folks are cool with it — but I am very careful to use a whole lot of humor when I do it — in an incredibly self-depreciating way, natch!


    1. I have seen the ‘a little too much parental involvement in the class project’ first hand. The worst thing about it is that then the kids who do it themselves, who should be given the MOST credit, feel bad about their own work because it doesn’t measure up. The last thing my own kids need is another cheerleader. There are things I am good at too. AT least things I feel like I’m good at. Like writing. But like you say, whenever I talk about myself using that particular label, it is always conditional. I think in my head I would have to win a Pulitzer to comfortably call myself that. Even though, in fact and deed, by simple definition, I am. But oh, those old fashioned upbringings are hard to shed!


    1. Thanks. I hear that a lot ‘hitting the nail on the head’. I love the imagery of being a word carpenter. Of course, I would lack the ability to sell my own creations, but there you go. Thank you. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone!


  3. Me too. Female. 70’s. Gen x. No accolades. I don’t think self promotion is ever comfortable. But it is necessary, we sure don’t live in the 70’s anymore! Practice makes it easier.


    1. Perhaps I’ll start the way we used to when we were kids and wrote out the names of our crushes on the brown paper bag covers of our textbooks. Back when there were textbooks. In flowery cursive: I am a writer, I can write, I do write. I am a writer….Nah. Still sounds awful!!


    1. They are, which is a double edged sword because not only are they over-praised, they are never allowed to experience failure, which is the very thing that drives us on to do better.


  4. It seems mandatory to toot your own horn these days. I find that difficult since I was raised to think of the family/team first. These days everyone has their own webpage, facebook, instagram, twitter account, iPod with their own music, so becoming self-absorbed seems like a natural progression. (I, of course, have all of these things but know what the world was like before the interwebs. That doesn’t exclude me from being a self-absorbed twit, but it gives me some perspective.) Great post.


  5. How do I promote my work? I try to get other people to do the bulk of it. Like you, I am a product of the same upbringing. (you made a 99 on that test. Why, so-and-so made 100, and so should you.)

    I had similar qualms about putting writer on my resume, especially since my path to publication didn’t adhere to my dreams, and most writers disregard me as one of them.


    1. I imagine your path to publication dreams closely adhere to mine, Andra. Which makes it all the more frustrating that a certain level of assuredness in titling or labeling yourself something seems to come so easy to others. Who are these ‘most writers’ you speak of? You are a published author, Andra! You have more than earned the title.


  6. First of all, a most deserving congratulations on your winning story at Paste. I’m so happy to have “discovered” you now and look forward to visiting often. And I couldn’t agree more with your assessment here. I’m a baby boomer and this whole notion of “every kid gets a prize” drives me crazy. We’re raising a generation that will never learn to stand on their own merits. I seriously fear for this country’s future.


    1. Thank you for your kind words. It was a huge honor for me, and your congratulations mean the world to me. Truly, thank you. (See, 1970s inability to accept compliments!). I too worry about our children, including my now. We are protecting them from failing, praising them for mediocrity, and basically fattening them for the slaughter that is real life. Sometimes, like you, I fear we are fattening to the point where they can’t function without a cheerleader standing behind them telling them it will all be ok. I’m glad you’ve ‘discovered’ Wine and Cheese (Doodles). It’s a bit of a mash-up of subject matter, for no other reason than I am too selfish to give up writing about any/all. But I hope you find something here that you can relate to. Thank you again!


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