There is a thing that has been going on that, while I’ve seen a lot of on Facebook or Twitter, has been one of those things that happens all the time. Older people decrying the predilections of younger people. I am as guilty of it as anyone else, especially when I’ve had a few drinks and someone is playing music that isn’t from the 90s (an era in which I shunned music from the 90s for music from the 60s because “hipster” wasn’t a defined thing yet). “Kids these days,” one might remark, “and their taste in [music/art/movies/books/technology/social interactions/etc.].” Many of us forget that, at some point, we were the kids with the different tastes from our parents’ generations. We wail and moan that the shit today is considerably worse than the shit from our days. We compare lyrics of cherry-picked songs we enjoyed to cherry-picked songs that are specifically chosen based on perhaps simplistic lyrics from current artists that we don’t like. As if Nirvana, or Social Distortion, or the Clash, or the Beatles, or anyone else didn’t have the occasional turd or two. We opine that kids spend more time communicating on phones and computers than in person. We often cry, “but when I was your age, we managed to plan stuff out and get together without smart phones!” Some of us post pictures of rotary phones or dial-up modems on social media and challenge anyone who will listen to dare to be old enough to know what this particular artifact of some long-ancient time might be. As if being alive during a certain period in history is worthy of praise.
Again, I’ve done this. I am not accusing without reflecting. The ruts from the rocking chair on my porch are well-worn, and my cane well-shaken at many a child who dared venture upon my lawn. I turn 40 in just over 2 months. I still refuse to let go of what I see as the “proper” use of certain words, like “literally” and “decimated,” simply because popular usage has left historically proper usage in the dust. I still don’t care for Taylor Swift. Hell, I still use “Taylor Swift” as my stand-in for “I don’t get music these days.” I know maybe two Taylor Swift songs. My daughter, eight, just got a Taylor Swift album. She may end up loving Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift may be the artist who “gets her.” I may want desperately to introduce her to Pearl Jam and Nirvana and the Butthole Surfers as the definitive musical library that she should love goddammit.
But you know what? I also loved Ah-Ha. And Europe. And Starship. Not Jefferson Starship or Jefferson Airplane, but “We Built this City” Starship.
Truth is, I find myself hard pressed to complain about this generation. Sure, I may not like all the music they like, but there is some great stuff out there. I won’t get into what I like that is current (*coughMusecoughandholycrapdisturbed’scoverofsoundofsilenceisgreat*) because someone will have an opinion on it and it won’t match my opinion and I will, of course, be wrong on the Internet.
Language? Grammar? Okay, some things I won’t let go of. “Literally” has a very specific meaning (screw recent definition changes), “decimate” means destroy only a measly 10% of something (not completely wipe out), and “penultimate” will always and forever mean the second to last, but I have to let go of other things.
One of those big areas, especially since I have a child, is how the younger generation communicates. Look, you may not think that kids being on social media all the time is healthy, but I’m going to suggest this: when I was growing up, I associated with only those people I shared geographic proximity to, with the exception of family and few friends that I’d moved away from and wrote letters to (ending sentences with prepositions… can I let go of that one, too?). My daughter will be able to communicate with people all over the freakin’ world, with ease. Yeah, yeah, there’s a risk she’ll end up communicating with someone who has ill-intentions, but it’s small (especially since we’ve been working on having her be smart about how she uses the computer, and also, overblown risk) compared to her potential exposure to a world I never had exposure to. I had one pen-pal in Alaska, I think, through a school program once. She’ll be able to engage people everywhere with ease. The kind of understanding she can gain from that — the awareness of the larger world — is, in my opinion, unmatched by any opportunities I had as a child.
And shit, I wish I’d had a cell phone when I was younger. I might not have accidentally stood up my future wife once in college if I had (she was — and inexplicably still is — very understanding).
Therefore, in 2016 and beyond, I vow not to be a curmudgeon about stuff. I promise to remember that the stuff I liked and did was both important and meaningless in equal measure, as was the stuff my parents liked and did, as did their parents, ad nauseam.
I encourage you to do the same. I mean, don’t like what you don’t like, but for Christ’s sake, stop holding up your own likes as some sort of badge of superiority. Put down your cane, get off your rocking chair on your porch, and have a beer or something.