Opinion: Between Damn Kids and Out-of-Touch Fogeys - Age Week


By Tanya Silverman

Photo courtesy of Ilya Averyanov.

“Is that what the kids are into these days?”

I actually caught myself asking that lame question over the weekend as I was driving behind a Philadelphia city bus with a backside ad for One Direction.

As no kids were in the car–just a group of friends in their mid-to-late-twenties–my inquiry was answered by comparisons to our old boy-band icons, the Backstreet Boys, rather than sarcastic yesses and eye-rolls from people who are truly in tune with the trends of pop music.

The conversation soon strayed away from One Direction, but the cheesy boy band ensemble still stared at me until the bus reached a T in the road and turned left. Right I turned, and though we drove off separately in two different directions, my initial question stayed on my mind.

Hearing myself utter “kids these days” reminded me of those instances when teachers and parents would awkwardly ask such questions to younger members of society, inquiring about unfamiliar names of pop bands or trendy neighborhoods or television shows with distinct unease.

Past explanation, it’s common for elders to try and integrate these terms into their own vocabulary, often in an awkward manner. Today, such statements might be, “You’re kind of a hip… ster,” or, “It was full of these… bros,” or, “They don’t like Lady Ga…ga.”

But younger listeners can easily sense that forceful pronunciation that indicates the speaker’s distance to the subject.

Feeling out of touch with what’s up will probably dawn on all of us. And it seems like these generation gaps are becoming even shorter. For instance, the other day, my friend (who’s only a couple of years my junior) mentioned a place that’s full of “basic bitches”. When she noticed my perplexed expression at the term, she tried to explain what being a basic bitch meant, but I didn’t understand any of the cultural references.

I still don’t, and when I say “basic bitch” out loud, nothing about it sounds natural.

Other current terms are more relatable. A few peers around my age discussed overhearing “YOLO”, in that it’s what the “kids” were saying, how we embraced the feeling when we were younger, but just didn’t coin the phrase ourselves. Yes, there are still times when my decisions are drawn based on the fact that I only live once–though I’d still feel odd and old shouting “YOLO!” when I go to act them out.

But I don’t feel entirely out of the youth loop when I catch my elders trying to act cool. At a recent dinner session with some family members, the elders took a stab trying to relate to the youngsters by asking what drugs we do.

“Do the kids still do acid these days?”

“No! The kids all do the mollys.”

The brief debate was followed by questions to my cousins and me if we were ever “on the mollys,” where we responded with denials to them but subtle sneers amongst ourselves. Sure, maybe the parents were hip and with it during the era of quaaludes, but those days are long gone.

On the other hand, Baby Boomers constantly reference long-gone times of their own glory. The days when hippies were nuanced and New York was dangerous they got to see living Jimmy Hendrix, or George Harrison, or pre-fogey Rolling Stones, or the Allman Brothers. The times when life was “real” because pizza was a quarter and five-and-dimes existed.

But then I realize I start to do that too. When I hang out with my college friends, we’ll often reflect on our epic all-nighter parties of past. Plus, I miss legit 99-cent stores, not this 99-cent plus garbage. I’ll also catch myself thinking, “Damn kids!” at instances of seeing children playing on smartphones and tablets I don’t even know how to properly use.

Established as it is that time only moves forth and age is something we can’t reverse, sometimes it’s difficult to accept this truth when the reality catches up to us. Another teeny-bopper sensation will eventually replace One Direction, party drugs will have new weird names and crazy ingredients, and one day, the kids be talking with strange slang none of us can decipher.