Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Whole Lot Of People Need To Get Off My Lawn




I had a funny exchange with my friend Ian on Twitter this afternoon. At least, I hope he thought it was funny, because I sure did.
See, he made this entirely valid, if somewhat negative, observation about one of my people:

To which I responded:
  
I wrote in all-caps because I’m hard of hearing. Of course.
Anyway, Ian had a point, didn’t he? A fifty year old guy in a skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors? Unless you’re Joey Ramone and it’s 2001, that’s a big dude, naw.
But I feel the guy’s pain, you know? Especially if he has kids.
Because the fact is, when you’re a parent you become a human time capsule. You become frozen in time, and you don’t really realize it until you find yourself making some wildly out-of-date cultural reference in some social setting, when you finally get out of the house and into a social setting, and the whole conversation you’re in the middle of comes to a screeching halt, and in that awkward silence you realize you haven’t bought a current record – see, I call them records – or seen a current movie that wasn’t rated G, or maybe a mild PG, in many, many, many years, and the whole image you created for yourself in your 20s and 30s – that image of you, being witty and upwardly mobile and knowing all the current music and seeing all the latest movies – that image crashes, man. I mean it crashes to the fucking ground.
For me, it went like this: Pearl Jam released Vitalogy, and the next thing I knew Barack Obama was president. And in between, Pixar and Spongebob Squarepants happened.
Boom. You’re old.
So you can fight it, like the dude in the skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors. And lord knows, there’s always a powerful desire to fight it. Not like some 1980s made-for-teevee midlife crisis where you buy a little red sports car and snort cocaine (that’s what people did in the ’80s) and you lose your job and your house and your wife … No, not like that. You can fight it by buying your clothes where the twentysomethings shop and growing a goatee and wearing a porkpie hat; and you can fight it by cleaving scrupulously to whatever cultural trends are happening right now, watching whatever teevee shows everybody’s tweeting about and knowing every internet meme and buying – sorry, downloading – whatever the cool kids are downloading (which is easy, because NPR tells you exactly what the cool kids are listening to, which is all kinds of ironic), and by eating at all the right restaurants and pretending you like the food.
You can do that. Or, you can not fight it. You can let cranky middle age wash over you like, I don’t know, fill in some old-timey movie reference here. From Here To Eternity? Whatever.
You can refuse to fight it and embrace it. Because, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as liberating as realizing you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’ve run out of fucks to give. See this barrel that says “Fucks”? Yeah, it’s empty. We’re fresh out.
Seriously, to not have to care what’s hip and trendy; to like the music you liked when you were hip and trendy, and not care that it’s (ahem) classic rock; to look at the Top 40 (or whatever they call it these days) and not recognize a single artist – unless, pathetically, the Rolling Stones have released a new single – and to not care. That’s freedom, baby.
Trust me. I’ve lived it. I’m old and fat and slow. I’m a runner, if you can call it that, not because I think I’m an athlete but because I’m scared of dying. I don’t mean scared of mortality; I accept that. I mean scared of being that guy who dies hunched over at his desk in the middle of the afternoon so they have to take you out by the freight elevator. That kind of dying.
I haven’t bought a record by a current artist since Midnight Oil was current, and I’ve never seen a zombie-themed television show. Ever.
And, yes, I have literally yelled at kids to get off my lawn. But those bastards had it coming.
Look, if you’re a middle aged father, you’ve already become Willy Loman. Your family’s already laughing at you, not with you, and it’s a laugh with a high discomfort-to-mirth ratio. This is what you’ve become.
It’s better to accept it, in my book; to relish it. There’s a lot less pressure and a lot more venting, and I can’t fit into skinny jeans anyways.

7 comments:

  1. "Because, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as liberating as realizing you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’ve run out of fucks to give. See this barrel that says “Fucks”? Yeah, it’s empty. We’re fresh out."

    THAT'S ME.

    (all caps because I'm old and shit)

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  2. There's always the wisdom that comes with age to fall back on, Brother Dave.

    I am in a position on the psych ward where I deal with a lot of younger people, both my fellow nurses and the youthful patients having their "first-break" schizophrenia (the illness tends to manifest in the late teens-early 20s) and the street junkie/meth freak crowd. I also have a daughter who's 23.

    Do I feel old and in the way because I'm not able to match name-dropping the latest phrases and songs with these folks? No! Because I'm confident that I've been places, done things and seen stuff that these yoofs probably never will. (After The Collapse, intercontinental air travel will be more difficult for anyone but the 1% to afford and arrange.) Not that I flaunt it, but when I tell tales of Paris, Venice or swimming out to Ningaloo Reef in the Indian Ocean off the coast of West Australia, the reaction is like "Whoah dude, you've BEEN some places!" So I don't feel inferior because I can't dress hipster.

    And as far as music goes, let me clue you -- lotsm of kids today think the music from their generation sucks. I had a discussion last year with a 17-year-old guy in a manic phase of early schizophrenia, who was locked in out "quiet rooms" (the steel-doored, concrete-walled equivalent to a padded cell, since he had attacked his parents with a knife). He was up all night singing Beatles songs. I told him "That's the music of my generation, and we're old farts now. Don't you have more current songs you can sing?" The kid told me that lots of people his age listen to classic rock like the Doors because they heard so much of it from their parents that they developed an appreciation for it. Plus the tunes are more sing-able than the changing rhythms of bands like Slipknot and rap groups. I've heard the same thing from other young people who weren't off their nut in the looney bin, too.

    So don't feel like you're outdated. You're experienced. You're the elder with the knowledge of generations.

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  3. Two more things post-50 -- (1) Discovery: The absolute joy of becoming hard of hearing, and the crap you can opt out of listening to. (2) Still totally relevant: If you can't whistle the song, it ain't music.

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  4. Can't remember where I heard this but I love it:

    When you're 20, you worry all the time about what people think of you.

    When you're 40, you don't care what people think of you.

    When you're 60, you realize that nobody was thinking about you at all.

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  5. "Trust me. I’ve lived it. I’m old and fat and slow."

    Son. I'm old, fat, slow, arthritic, schlerotic, incontinent, inconsistent, incoherent and, and, and--dammit, there's something else, I just can't amember what it is. Anyhow, I'm old and I know what it looks, feels and SMELLS LIKE. I know other old people, son; you ain't old--but I think you can prolly see it from your porch!

    50 is the new 30, but 63 is still 63.

    Being old, btw, is not a problem, compared to NOT being old, if y'nowudimean.

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  6. "You can refuse to fight it and embrace it. Because, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as liberating as realizing you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’ve run out of fucks to give. See this barrel that says “Fucks”? Yeah, it’s empty. We’re fresh out."

    Brilliant! Send it Sullivan. Or I will.

    JHL

    ReplyDelete