The Woodstock nation gathers for its latest reunion
We're glad we don't belong to any special generation. Not the Lost Generation , nor the Beat Generation, nor the Silent Generation. If you plan it right, you can escape. It's sort of like landing on the cracks in the sidewalk. Generations, like sidewalks, have space between them - a year or two or even three - where you're too late for the last generation and too early for the next.
At the moment, we're particularly glad not to be a member of the Sixties Generation. It must be hard to be an ex-hippie about now. You'd have to read about Abbie Hoffman losing his bid to purchase at auction the brass-plated gavel of Judge Julius Hoffman, who sentenced Abbie and the Chicago 7, way back in 1968 . Double humiliation!
The other thing you'd certainly have to do is see ''The Big Chill.''
If we were from the Sixties Generation, ''The Big Chill'' would not be just another movie. We'd have to participate in that little reunion of former radicals, attending a friend's funeral, and reappraise our life along with theirs as the sound track blared ''Joy to the World,'' ''A Natural Woman,'' and other anthems of the decade.
We're exempt. Not our songs. Not our decade. Not our problem.
As the survivors turn the weekend into a seminar on what-we-were and what-we've-become, the old camaraderie, the old idealism, are saluted like flags of a lost crusade.
We slumped deeper in our seat and reached for the popcorn. Not our flags. Not our crusade.
Being born out of the Sixties Generation meant we were They - the not-chosen. Up against the wall with the likes of us!
And now, as ''The Big Chill'' pans over the decade and a half since the '60s, they too, it seems, have become They - the enemy. With stereotypical neatness, these survivors have reversed themselves and taken their places in the Establishment, in just those roles they would have once despised most. One is a reporter for People magazine. One is the star of a private-eye TV series. One, with almost too perfect symbolism, is a tycoon manufacturer of jogging shoes.
By the simplistic standards of 15 years ago, they have Sold Out. And yet here they posture for one another, and for us - charmingly determined to engage everybody's sympathy because they came in from the cold, and it still feels cold.
They want us to admire them for having been radical and to forgive them for being middle class. They want it both ways. Was there ever a generation so tyrannical, expecting its every mood to be indulged?
Its moods are not our moods. We watched ''The Big Chill'' from the back row of our heart, exasperated with this generation that confused hope with dope and discounted love until the word passed for casual sex or a Flower Child's glassy smile. Worst of all, these self-righteous dropouts, with their complacently angry slogans, made moderation nearly impossible for the rest of us, turning the '60s into a shouting match.
Not our kind of folks at all.
Still, there was a passion for simplicity, even a certain purity to the '60s that deserves to survive its own cruel parody. No member of any generation - or nongeneration - can totally separate himself from that.
In reviewing the film for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael wrote: ''Anyone who believes himself to have been a revolutionary or a deeply committed radical during his student-demonstration days in the late '60s is likely to find 'The Big Chill' despicable.''
Then, as critics will, she doubled back to half-praise it as ''an amiable, slick comedy.''
A friend who happens to belong to the Sixties Generation expressed this response: ''I was painfully moved and amused, despite obvious contrivance.''
James Kunen, who wrote ''The Strawberry Statement'' in 1968 - one of those manifestoes so prevalent at the time - has declared he does not cotton to ''The Big Chill.'' His present passion is to own a house of his own - presumably with real middle-class snow to shovel and real middle-class grass to cut. And not a guilt trip in sight.
Right on!, as his generation (not ours) used to say.
Mr. Kunen ended ''The Strawberry Statement'' with this observation: ''Since the First Republic of the US is 192 years old and I am 19, I will give it one more chance.''
A little saucy, but fair enough. We members of a no-name generation ought to take the same patient position toward this least patient but not uncourageous generation. On one condition. No more replays, please, of ''Heard It Through the Grapevine.''