Back when Saturday Night Live was good, Dana Carvey had a great character
in the "Grumpy Old Man." The gist of the aged and crusty octogenarian
was that he embodied our stereotypes of old people; aged and crusty. Things
were better way back when when I was young etc.
My car was rear-ended over the summer. The driver was born in 1981. I
stood calculating whether he was old enough to drive. As I looked into his
baby face, framed by an inexplicably stupid haircut, I couldn’t help but
feel that I wasn’t king of the castle anymore.
This year’s frosh crop includes those who were born in 1980 and I am
These people don’t understand where I’m coming from. They’ve never known
a world without answering machines. They’ve heard of eight-track tapes but
probably have never seen one. They’ve never felt the sting of a Pac-Man
machine stealing their quarter. Rotary-dial phones, Walter "Refrigerator"
Perry, Glam Metal: the list goes on.
A friend of mine told me that his 16-year-old sister didn’t know who
or what the Smurfs were. Can ALF be far behind?
While they missed out on all that crap, they miss out on our common heritage.
Or more to the point, my heritage. They’re different. It’s just that simple.
That’s the trouble with being number one: number two is always gunning
for you. In this case, number two likes really heavy bass and inane dance
My lead-footed friend’s generation, and it is a new generation, inherited
a used-car market full of compact cars. My first car was a comfortable mid
’70s gasoholic cruise-mobile weighing 5,000 lbs. Today’s first-car-buyers
can’t boast half that number and try in vain to make up the gap with ground
effect lighting and ugly hubcaps. I am baffled by this trend.
Those of us born in the mid to late ’70s pretty much deserve what we
get. We are the ones who both killed and resurrected the ’80s. It’s like
Flatliners with more Duran Duran. Much to my chagrin, ’80s retro nights
are all the rage.
The ’80s were like a war. Sure it was hell but we stuck together and
got through it. We have a right to joke about things like Twisted Sister
and big hair. How many Vietnam vets does it take to screw in a light bulb?
You don’t know because you weren’t there, man! Many of us would choose not
to listen to "Rock Me Amadeus," but we all feel a certain kinship,
if not enjoyment, when confronted with it.
People have forgotten how truly foul the ’80s were. In fact, if you had
a time machine and went back to the ’80s you would die. You would die of
sucking. You would die of a suck-attack while watching Miami Vice. I was
painfully conscious through the decade and I don’t want to repeat the experience.
In the early ’90s there was a ’60s nostalgia craze. People wore entirely
too much plaid and solar fleece. The Gulf War, during which the average
frosh student was 11 years old, raged on. In the mistaken belief that it
was the ’60s all over again, a delusional mini-peace movement broke out.
Movies like The doors and Born on the Fourth of July taught us how empty
our lives were in comparison to the baby boomers. Hell, there was even another
Things have generally worked in 20-year increments but the cycles are
getting smaller. The ’70s have barely got their fair share of booty shaking
in, but people are already talking about how Jordaché jeans and bright
neon shirts got a bad rap. And now we’re working toward a ’90s retro craze.
If the retro circle remains in this spiral, y2k will consist of dance
remixes of Pearl Jam’s "Jeremy" and tapered jeans. Eventually
there will be no progression in culture. Only an ever-present style will
exist; total and unyielding.
What it all boils down to is this: when I was young, things sucked. And
now that I see the next generation coming along, with their strange customs,
I feel as though they suck too. Have we finally graduated from youngest
sibling status into a neglected, and perhaps bitter, middle child role?
Don’t look for answers from me. I am not Kilroy. Just remember that as
long as we’re driving the bigger cars, we will win.