Eileen White Jahn of Rockville Centre chairs the business administration department at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.
It seems the turn of the century and the millennium are barely behind us, but it's somehow now 2010. The pressing question is not whether we call this New Year "twenty-ten" or "two-thousand-and-ten." It is rather, what do we call the decade that we just finished? How else can you have cheesy theme parties 20 or so years from now?
My husband and I had one of our first dates in 1977 at a '50s night at the South Fork haunt, Wilson's Garage. Everyone was decked out in poodle skirts and pompadours. It was a total blast.
In a frightening coincidence, David Berkowitz was arrested in his driveway that night, on his way to the very party we were attending. He was fully loaded with submachine guns, heavy artillery and a map to that particular bar. We read the headlines with horror the next morning. But I have to admit that we attended a Son of Sam '70s theme party sometime in the late 1990s.
Our society's retro hang-up persists. I was most distressed when my oldest child said to me in 1998 that he wished that he had lived in the '70s. I assured him that I had been there and it was not pretty. I have the pictures to prove it - what was I thinking with that hair?
I was stunned recently to learn that the college where I teach held a retro '90s night. Weren't we just there?
So, what will we call the past decade - the "single digits"? Could you plan a party around that? Could it be called the "ohs"? The "uh-ohs" might be more apt, given the number of disasters both natural and man-made that occurred over the past 10 years.
I can't imagine that we will call it the "zeros." I mean, how loser-ish is that? Just imagine, "Hi, everyone, I'm a child of the zeros."
Another possibility is the "double-ohs." Each year of the decade had a pair of zeros in the middle of it - incredibly convenient for the manufacturers of cheap New Year's Eve novelty glasses. Of course, the "double-ohs" conjure up a lot of words we may not want attached to a decade - "doom," "gloom" and "va-va-va-voom" come to mind.
I have heard the term "millennial," though it seems suited for the whole century rather than the first 10th of it. Marketers consider it a term for a spending demographic. The thing is that the "millennials" were not born at the millennium, they were born in the '80s and came of age around the year 2000. I personally own a few of these models and think that the generation might more fittingly be called the "underemployed adult" generation, but I trust that's just a recession thing.
I have also heard this crowd (now in their 20s and early 30s) referred to as the "I generation" for all their iPods and iAccessories. I am most amused by the fact that the "Me generation" is now raising the "I generation" - maybe it's just first-person grammatical correctness.
At the turn of the last century, they called the first decade the "aughts," an old-fashioned term for zero. Each year was called "nineteen-aught-one" and so forth. But nowadays, people would think it was the word "ought."
Ironically, the whole past decade could be summed up in terms of "ought-nots." I ought not have taken out a mortgage worth more than my home, for example, or invested with my friend Bernie.
But the name for the first 10 years of a new millennium should be phrased positively. It should be the "oughts" that we learned over the past few years - all the things we ought to do: take care of the environment, appreciate the freedoms that were hard-won for us, take responsibility for ourselves and for things going on the world.
So here's to the "oughts" and on to the "teens." And maybe we ought to focus more on the future rather than romanticizing the past. Especially those hairdos we ought never have worn.