There's this funny thing about aging that makes us self-conscious and embarrassed. It seems to arise especially when we're made aware of some new trend that we didn't realize was a thing until someone younger and hipper points it out. Or, when we look around and realize that we have no idea what the trends are. Like normcore. Brian and I were discussing normcore the other day. He thought it was dressing normal, like flip flops and cargo shorts. I think that it's dressing normal... for 1993. Like Jerry Seinfeld... in 1993. But the truth is, neither of us really know. In order to find out, we'd have to do some research, and we still wouldn't *get* it. The kids, they get it. Like, they probably know that normcore is, like, so last year.
When I was a teenager, my dad warned me that the minute you graduate high school, you start to lose touch with what's popular. "No way, man!" I said, "I'm always gonna know what's cool!"
But he was right! It started immediately. By the time I started college, I was less in touch with what was cool than I was just a few months before. Teenagers don't have to research what's cool, they know what it is just by living and breathing. They can explain it, sure, but so much of pop culture just simply can't be explained with words. Maybe it's because they're so hyper aware of themselves and where they fit in the world, maybe it's because they have more time on their hands, maybe it's crippling insecurity or hormone shifts. Who knows? But it's true. They know what's cool, and I don't. And it's all because I'm getting older. And it's only going to get worse.
Aging is kind of embarrassing. Think about it. We change, and we can't control it. For some reason, most of us picture ourselves as young. I think it's because we become self-aware (and self-obsessed) as teenagers, so that's the self we identify as. And when that self starts to change, we take notice. Now, we can intentionally change that self. We can change our hair and make-up, we can change our clothes, and the way we walk. But that's a choice. Aging, however, changes us, and is completely out of our control. And I think it's that lack of control that makes us feel embarrassed. We think of ourselves as being young, but when something forces us to see the difference between what we picture and what we are, we're ever so slightly shaken by that realization. Not because there's anything wrong with the way that we look or act, but because it's different from the self we picture in our heads.
That sense of embarrassment can manifest itself in any number of ways. Brian and I are always a little awkward around teenagers. It's too close for comfort, and yet so foreign. And the numbers always trip us out. We ordered drinks at Starbucks from a kid who was born in 1997. I can't explain to you why we felt the need to tell him that we were in high school when he was born. (Shit, I was already a rebellious teenage asshole when he was born.) It's that sense of embarrassment that comes from being faced with the reality that differs so significantly from the picture in our heads. But I'm guessing that it gets easier with each passing year. I'm also guessing that it increases at a faster rate once you have kids. Because really, who gives a shit what teenagers think is cool when you have a baby?
But seriously, what is cool with the kids these days? Because I have no idea.