Your generation

I watched an old Noah Baumbach movie last night from 1995. Kicking and Screaming. Very first wave GenXer. Everyone’s wearing baggy Gap jeans.

I’m right at the end of GenX. I have no memories of the 70’s. The girls my age were influenced by Beverly Hills 90210, yes, but more by Clueless.

Clueless really gets the generation split between Xers. Cher vs. Josh. Cher is young and fun and colorful. Josh listens to whiny, angsty music and wears the same combat boots as his girlfriend.

There’s this punker than thou deal with people my age. They never got over it. You have to prove to them how real you are. How not basic you are. What your first concert was and what it says about you now. What shoes you wore then and what it says about your entire life. It’s a litmus test. Only you’re held to choices you made when you were fifteen.

I never picked a personality out of an aisle at Hot Topic (the shame! the horror!). Nogales wasn’t really a place that permitted trying personalities on. At least, I couldn’t. If I wanted to do that I had to get away.

But even after I left, I carried Nogales on my back eveywhere I went. Like a tortoise.

I was well into my 30’s before I experienced that sort of wholesale liberty. It’s still happening. I’m figuring things out. (Hell, I didn’t even learn my hair could curl on its own until I moved to NYC). I’m way behind the curve for this psychological development but that can’t be helped. My tastes swing younger and older than most people I know in their 40’s.

I’ve been accused of being basic by the punker than thou crowd so often that I’ve just taken it for granted. My music tastes are too pedestrian. I have the VH1 experience to others’ late night MTV reality. While everyone else was busy learning about the cool thing no one knew about, I was studying Pop-Up Video like it was my job.

Note: if you think about it, the 90’s would, on reflection, become the beginning of the era of the video clerk. He (it was mostly he’s) who controlled the information got to gatekeep who was in and who was out. That 90210 crowd gave way to independent filmmakers and Silicon Valley. It was Revenge of The Nerds writ large (what a rapey movie). The nerds, when they got their chance, did not act kindly either. What they did was normalize weird until that too became a status symbol.

My personal growth retardation can’t be helped. I’m a late bloomer. What I would like is to shake is that ingrained snobbery that was foisted upon me and that I have, in turn, foisted upon others. And also the anticipatory rejection of anything that is new and therefore uncomfortable.

I used to reject hipsters. Now the water is body temperature and I couldn’t spot a hipster in the melee. It’s a case of semantic satiation. The word has lost all meaning.

I should probably make more friends my age. Maybe they’ve mellowed. Maybe I’ve wisened up. Or maybe my friends will always be older and younger by a fixed margin.

Is nostalgia a prison for people who can’t live in the present, or is it just another side effect of aging? Do we all look backwards for identity at some point? And if so, is it for the glory days or a sense of foundation? Do we ever get to shake the shackles of yesteryear or do they just grow in weight as time goes on?

How do we, as Garth Algar once said, “Live in the now?”

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