Let me begin by saying I know I'm cool.
That out of the way, let me also say that I am slowly being forced to accept the reality that I am growing older. It happens to us all; our physical youth withers no matter what our mental age is. I have watched my hair begin to thin out, and the responsibilities of my life increase exponentially. Gone are the simple problems of childhood. I can remember when having to explain a "B" in conduct on my report card to my dad was the hardest thing I had to do.
I wish that were my most difficult dilemma these days.
Still, increased responsibility and more difficult problems in my life were somewhat expected. While I couldn't have predicted the intricacies of the troubles I face today, I had an idea that they were coming.
And even if I didn't admit it to myself, I also had an inkling that I might lose some of my hair as well.
What took me by surprise was the sense that I'm beginning to lose the thing that I have taken the most pride in throughout my formative years. It's the thing that many of us cling to, even long after it's gone. It is the thing for which I have heard time and time again sworn "I'll never lose that," often from my own lips. It is the thing that I didn't anticipate losing in the least.
I am starting to lose my cool.
I used to be on the pulse of pop culture. I had seen all the hottest movies. I watched the hit TV shows week after week. I had the new cassettes of the greatest bands the same day they hit the rack at the record store. I wore Jams. I was what the kids like to call "hip."
I witnessed the adults around me. The clothes they wore weren't cool. The music they listened to wasn't cool. They drove stupid cars and preferred Time Magazine to Mad, Rolling Stone, or Playboy (which I was, of course, only reading for the superb articles). These folks didn't have a clue as to what was cool.
I knew what was cool. Even at the weaker points of adolescence when some might have misconstrued the true magnitude of my coolness, I was still cooler than the adults were. And I was going to stay cool. Even as a grown up, the kids were going to look at me and say, "That old dude is cool!"
But, alas, it has started to fade.
Even though I am only in my mid-twenties, the firm grasp I had on what is cool is starting to slip away. Already three years out of the MTV demographic, I watch in disbelief every time I happen to catch what is being requested on TRL (that stands for Total Requests Live for all of you who have rightfully given up on MTV. This show was called something else seven to ten years ago when I would watch Adam Curry count down requested videos by Guns and Roses and Motley Crue).
I'm not to the stage where, like my father, I imply that the music I grew up with is better than what is presented today. I won't get into a debate on Skid Row vs. Blink 182. I won't profess that *NSYNC is merely a Xerox of New Kids On The Block. For me to say that music ten years ago was somehow superior to that of today is like my father shaking his head at my CDs while he pops in Englebert Humperdink and Johnny Rivers.
But I can say that when I watch many of these new acts, I feel as if I've been left behind. Sure, there's always the Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots to offer things I prefer. But when the local rock station plays "Sour Girl" right after "Oops I Did It Again" and "It's Gonna Be Me," I feel a little disenchanted.
I still try to keep up with the local music scene. You know, just in case I get a band going soon, I'd like to know my competition. Even if I like the band playing and I'm having a good time, the other audience members often subtly remind me that I'm aging. I'll watch the band and have a beer, and a group of kids who likely entered the premises using false identification suspiciously eye me.
"Who is that old guy?"
"Don't look at him. He's a NARC."
Just last week, I took a plane ride down south to visit an old friend. Knowing in advance that I would have a layover, I meant to grab the latest issue of Maxim off of my desk to read during the trip. It, along with my damn sunglasses, was left behind as I departed. So after check in, I made my way to the newsstand in the airport. I stood there and looked at the rack. Christina Aguilera graced Rolling Stone's cover. Frankly, I don't care what she wants. Spin's lead story was on Matchbox 20. Great. George featured a stunning woman decked out in a bikini with an American flag pattern along with the caption, "Why Women Are Dying to Look This Good." Yeah, I want to read that about as much as I want to read a feature on "Why Men Are Dying to Be Naked with Women Who Look This Good."
These, my usual periodicals, held nothing of interest for me. So I glanced over the remainder of the rack. Newsweek, Fortune, Time, etc.; I think the painful part was that one of the featured stories in Fortune looked like something I'd really have enjoyed, especially if I had any money.
I took a deep breath. And I realized that my desire to hold onto what is cool was fading. Yet my fervor to not yet become an adult still lingered.
I walked onto my plane empty-handed.
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
7.12.00 @ 3:16a
Sorry. I can't talk right now. I have to go put my copy of Fortune in the bin and try to hide my Financial Review in the stack of wallPaper* magazines that I've never read.
7.12.00 @ 4:15a
Poor Jeff. Does it help to know that those of us who grew up with the cool music of the 70's were also snickering behind our hands while your cool generation listened to Duran Duran? That we saw Cyndi Lauper then the way you see Britney now? The only consolation is that... aw, damn it. There is no consolation. Being old does suck, especially when you have to admit that there was a time when you thought Boston and Peter Frampton were (you guessed it) cool.
7.12.00 @ 9:15a
Let me pipe up for Jeff here with the 80s-kids defense that we did indeed hate Duran Duran back then. We did everything we could to stop them. It's not our fault. I'll go one step further and admit that I wore nothing but jeans and t-shirts in the 80s and never broke a dance in a my life. And I agree. Even Spin blows now and I choose sports-radio (thank God it isn't news-radio, especially in my market, where there is one station and the average age of listener is deceased). Like Jack, I sometimes feel sheepish about my subscriptions to Inc and Biz2.0. And I loathe the fact that not only can't I tell the difference between Christina Aguillera and Britney Spears, but I'm also quite aware that both are way too young for me.
7.12.00 @ 10:13a
Okay, a few points. a) Look at her - just because she's five or six years younger than me doesn't mean that I don't care what Christina wants. I don't care what she sings, but I'd be happy to give her what she wants. b) Cool and young most often go together. Who do you think dictates pop culture? Teenagers. It's that simple. The trick is to be well-versed enough in the culture that you don't sound old when you talk about it. Think Jon Stewart. c) The difference, Joe, between the two women is that Britney dresses like a hooker, looks like a choirgirl, and Christina dresses like a hooker, looks like...a hooker. d) it just looks bad when you make fun of your own generation's pop songs. They're supposed to suck and get overplayed. Wham! deserves our pity, not our derision. d) How is it that David Bowie always seems cool?
7.12.00 @ 10:24a
Yes, that was two d)s. I'm not very smart, but it allows me to make point f) - How is it that certain musicians manage to stay hip (George Clinton, Tom Petty), while others become a joke (Journey, Huey Lewis)? Is it just the music? Is it transcendence of culture, or immersion in it? Why do Madonna and Cher keep turning out hits, but people laugh when they hear Pat Benatar has a new song? (she does, by the way)
7.12.00 @ 11:16a
on Christina vs. Britney; the difference is, Christina sings better than I do, and Britney doesn't. That's all. Cher and Madonna reinvent themselves periodically (think "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" vs. "Believe"), and that's why they continue to resurface insistently, like the plastic submarine filled with baking soda that you got in the box of Cap'n Crunch.
7.12.00 @ 12:09p
Actually, the really cool part was filling that submarine with baking soda and vinegar. Much more fun.
7.12.00 @ 7:19p
I agree with Jael about the reinvention of certain bands, acts, personas...but Huey Lewis was just silly. Ditto Journey. And does anyone remember the glow in the dark bats you used to get in the boxes of Count Chocula?
7.13.00 @ 9:24a
Oh, yes, you're right. "Separate Ways" and "Power of Love" were much sillier than "If I Could Turn Back Time." Also, what about bands like The Who and Led Zeppelin who never reinvented themselves, but who still sell out tours even today?
7.13.00 @ 7:55p
For every example of a silly song by one artist, I could match you with one from another...but I do see your point. There are exceptions to any blanket statement we make here concerning the longevity of bands and musicians careers. Hey, look! I found my Ovaltine Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring!
7.14.00 @ 2:31a
Oh, Adam, do you honestly think that teenagers dictate pop culture? Don't you realize that it's dictated TO them by companies like Gap and Guess? Re Britney and Christina, they are, obviously, the same person. I thought everybody knew that. BTW, thanks for clearing me up on Duran Duran. And don't look now, but Huey has a new song, too.
7.14.00 @ 8:49a
jack, would that be the same Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring that Ralphie sent away for in A Christmas Story? I am beginning to suspect you and I had the same childhood. What with the Twizzler business and all.
7.16.00 @ 2:24a
jael, that would be the one. And did Joe rat on me about the Twizzler thing? Fine, if he can't keep a secret, then I'll just have to tell everyone about him and his tragic Capri Sun addiction.
lee anne ramsey
7.16.00 @ 5:01p
I think Jeff hit the nail on the head when he mentioned that he is already 3 years out of MTV's demographic. I can tell you from the inside what you already know is true: we are targeting you with marketing. Start watching VH1's Behind the Music like the rest of us 20 -somethings, like you are supposed to!
And, if this makes you feel better, I was in Wherehouse buying Moby's Play (best cd that I did not own, up until that point) and was having a fine conversation with the clerk about the Beastie Boys anthology that was playing until I said "remember when Fight For Your Right was the best song ever?" (implying - we were so young and silly then) and he looked me straight in the eyes and said "Well. . .yeah. But I was like four years old." Ouch.
7.17.00 @ 3:45p
I had the same issue with Beastie Boys as I did Duran Duran. I HATED Fight for Your Right in 198? but now I have everything they've ever recorded. The Beasties stayed relevant long enough to get good. By the time we came around to Duran Duran, they were as relevant as a Nagel print. End of career.
7.17.00 @ 9:43p
I decided to keep my mouth shut and see where all the discussion went before throwing my own two cents in about my own article. I have to say only really that I don’t think you look foolish by making fun of your own generation’s music, you only look foolish when you look back at how into it you were. I have photos of my past self with hair too long, and wearing Don Johnson-esque white sportcoats over a tank top with white slip on shoes and no socks. Foolish can only truly be grasped in retrospect.
And I liked Duran Duran, Joe – speak for yourself!
7.18.00 @ 9:26a
So we are already too old for America's youth-oriented culture. I feel your pain, Lee Anne. Tough to think that the target market for a lot of this stuff is those born in 1980 or later.
7.18.00 @ 2:52p
I'm just saying that at no point in the history of man has a majority of 40-year-olds looked back at the fads from when they were age 15 and said, "Hey, I still like that look." or "Hey, that band with all the make up still looks cool." or "I still think that wearing one glove and a jacket full of zippers is cool." That's what make these things a fad.
7.19.00 @ 5:06a
Rest assured that NOT ONE of you EVER looked as stupid in your generation as I did when I went through my unfortunate Laurie Partridge stage. And, hey, doesn't anyone else want to see the pic of Jeff during the Don Johnson years? One word of advice: hide the pics (or burn 'em) before you even THINK about having children. Take my word on this one. Kids have an uncanny way of finding all those pictures and posting them on the web. And yes, do the math, that means my Laurie pics are on the net somewhere, but please, show some respect for your elders and don't ask me for the URL.