Friday, April 27, 2012

The Birth of Uncool

I’m old. I’m 31 years old. And it’s happening. The it I am talking about is generational disconnection, the metaphysical loss of youth.

I guess I am no different than any other post-modern wayfarer lost in the burgeoning glut of television channels, personalized YouTube music video collections, and iPad apps. Thoughts whistle delusional tunes:  “I won’t grow old at heart. I won’t let it happen. I’ll always be hip. I will always relate to the youth.” Then it happens. A teenager cycles by with a flat-billed hat, emblazoned with rhinestones and slaughtered with oversized calligraphy, sporting a 90 dollar Affliction T, titanium sports necklace rubbing neck flesh raw, tipping a Monster energy drink, and all of a sudden you’re Walt Kowalski. 

No more watching the Real World. No more polluting the suburban atmosphere with gangsta rap. No more listening to crap music in behest of irony. No more mohawks and novelty mustaches. No more jawing at authority. No more convenience store hot dogs and mouth-puckering slushies. No more crowd surfing. No more catch phrases where you say something dense with blundered inflection. No more nights turning into mornings turning into nights again. And, oh yeah, get off my lawn.

Hip cannot be forced. Sure, I slap a Lil’ Wayne album on my iPod once in a while, or maybe some AWOL Nation. I might listen to a Kesha song all the way through if caught at the right moment of stop-light quirkiness, but I’ll be damned if I will spell her name with a dollar sign. 
Here’s the thing: I don’t even know if those artists mentioned are even cool or not, and even though I can dig a few of the tracks, I’m merely testing the frigid water for signs of life. I’m confused when modern radio pumps Nirvana and Green Day and Blink 182 over the waves. Is this like when I would explore Zeppelin and Floyd as a teenager? I can’t even sniff the faintest jock of coolness right now. Which begs the question: was I ever hip in the first place? Magic eight ball says, “All signs point to no.” If there was ever any proof I am past my glory years, it was that last sentence. But is anyone ever really cool? And is being cool, in and of itself, actually…cool?
I am a father of two toddlers, and I am also a returning college student. Juxtaposition can be a real stab in the ass sometimes. As far as I can tell, there are two styles that college students attempt these days: the sporty/pajama look, usually involving sweatpants for the boys and sport leggings for the women, and the modern hipster/business look, which can involve a grave amount of hair gel mixed with a starched button-up for guys and an 80s shoulder-baring top for the women. Either way, hefty or not hefty, the goal is to let as much hang out as possible. I’m just not comfortable with this yet, and I don’t really know why. Am I worried about what this means for my children’s generation? Or am I jealous that I don’t fit in? 
The world certainly doesn’t wait for those raising children. Is this the reason I suddenly find myself watching all 68 hours of Ken Burns’s Baseball on Netflix and piping Kind of Blue at a low volume through headphones to relax at night? Is it because when one has children, the record skips? In that small gap of time, you turn down a couple of free concert tickets and extra nights with friends to watch Finding Nemo a few hundred times, and suddenly you can’t decipher why Saw VII is a box office hit. Is it for the sake of my own children that their father can’t be cool? 
How do these things happen overnight? One day I’m strolling through the mall buying the same curved-billed Royals hats I always wear, the next I can’t even find one for sale. Get this: they don’t even sell compact discs in malls anymore! But there are plenty of faux Coach bags and faux designer sunglasses and, well, faux anythings. And when was it decided screen printing technology should be maximized? I feel like Brooks released from Shawshank.

There are droves of thirty-somethings still hanging on. If lucky, the T-Shirt is of Bad Religion or Social Distortion variety, but the usual garb involves dragons, tigers, and a spiked, receding hairline, skinny guys with beer bellies. The ladies are easy to spot. Just look for the pink, jewel-encrusted Fidel Castro hat. I feel like such a hater for succumbing to stereotypes, and I hate the word hater. I am friends with these people, as much as I am friends with most people I meet. I enjoy the peculiarity of human nature. I just can’t see myself instructing my children to behave in school while huffing on a cigarette, blasting Metallica, letting them snack on a Pop-Tart breakfast in a mini-van as I drive them to school. I do match the Ramones T with khaki shorts on occasion, and I am certain that is decidedly uncool enough.
When I talk with my fellow youthful college comrades, I notice it happening. I could be their friend, but that isn’t even an option for me. I refuse to be David Wooderson. They look up to me in a way, looking for advice, and I think that is pretty damn cool. 
All right, all right, all right.
So, when I was asked to join Inconsiderate Prick for a few articles detailing pop consummation, I jumped at the chance to keep my youthful exuberance intact. What better way than to collaborate with a man that was never young to begin with? If Old Man Duggan and Wordy Ginters can litter the web with Victorian idolatry, I can certainly contribute. So who is up for some Breaking Bad commentary? A back-and-forth argument with Old Man Duggan about whether the Beatles suck or are the greatest band ever? A tournament bracket of relatively obscure 90s songs anyone? Stay tuned. Wipe that hipster smugness off of your face, and enjoy one man’s struggle with cultural relativity.
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