1. TWO ROADS DIVERGING. As I proceed further into middle age, I now realize there are two paths you can take. The first is to remain young at heart and not resent the habits and tastes of the younger generations behind you as they gradually take over the world. My wife certainly seems to be traveling down this road. While others my age often complain about the young being so distracted by social media and their smartphones, they don’t know how to have real, look-you-in-the eye human interactions, she thinks it’s wonderful that technology has created new ways to connect that she believes don’t replace, but rather supplement, old forms of communicating. Of course, the other path one can take is to gradually transform into a crank, constantly lamenting about how far modern times fall short of the good old days. Yes, when I insist my oldest daughter has to turn off that “horrible” rap music she listens to or I wonder why some beautiful young person would cover their skin with tattoos, I realize I’m traveling on the path to grumpy old man-dom. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever be able to overhaul my opinions to the point that I could consider the “music” created by a rapper like Childish Gambino equal to the brilliance of Neil Young or Van Morrison, and as someone who grew up on George Carlin and Richard Pryor, I’ll probably never be able to muster more than a snarky, disapproving chuckle at the “humor” of YouTube sensations like Jake and Amir. But to avoid the risks of being perceived as nothing more than a disgruntled geezer, I have decided that when talking to my children I will no longer start sentences with phrases like, “In my day…” or ”You kids today…” Baby steps.
2. KEY FINAL DAYS. I will turn 55 in August, which means I have only eight months left in the “key demographic” (those aged 25 to 54) that is so valued by advertisers and TV networks. I feel like I should go on shopping sprees or engage in prolonged TV binge-watching just to take advantage of these final days when my preferences still have some broader societal relevance. And what will I do when August 19th comes and my chronological age rolls over to double nickels and my buying decisions and tastes in entertainment no longer matter to Madison Avenue or Hollywood? I’m not sure. Maybe, I will take a very long nap.
3. DOUBLE STANDARD. Recently, in a conversation with my eldest, she said to me, “That’s crazy, af.” Thanks to her and her friends, of course, I’ve discovered what that means. I considered reminding her that she was talking to her father, but there didn’t seem to be much point in getting upset over two letters. I secretly felt impressed that teens have found a way to get all the visceral release that using swear words provides without sinking to the vulgarity of actually using one. Plus, I felt I could be cool enough to not get angry over a vulgarity that was only implied and not employed. Of course, when I tried to embrace this more lenient interpretation of cursing by responding to a comment she made with a “Hey, wtf,” she looked at me aghast and said, “Dad, watch your language!” So I guess the benefits of sanitizing curse words through the use of initials only come if you’re under 40. Given the daily immersion I get in teen logic, I probably should have figured that out immediately. (But the double standard sure seems silly, af!)
4. BEYOND COMPREHENSION. My oldest likes to take candid photos of her father caught making an unintentionally goofy expression or awkward gesture. While I laugh when she shares them with me, I get nervous about the prospect of her sharing them in her social media universe. Getting any reassurance that these compromising photos don’t land on her Tumblr page isn’t easy though. Our last conversation on the topic went like this: Her: Dad, Tumblr pages aren’t private. If you’re worried about what I’ve posted, go look for yourself. Me: Okay, I will. Her: But you’ll never be able to find my page on your own anyway. Me: C’mon, just reassure me you’re not posting any goofy pictures of me. Her: Dad, you’re not cool enough to be on my Tumblr page. Me: Ouch!
5. A HERDER AT HEART. Whenever my family and I travel by plane, I am always in a slightly agitated state until we reach our gate. I don’t have any traumatic incidents of late arrivals from my childhood that might have instilled this reaction so I suppose it’s just my imagination that runs wild, fearing the worst-case-scenarios at every turn – that the airport parking garage will be so full we’re still be circling through various levels looking for an open spot when our plane takes off or that, if the garage isn’t a problem, the line at security will be so long, we’ll still be winding our wind through the maze of ropes when that dreaded announcement comes over the speaker, “This is the final boarding call for Flight 234. Passsengers should be at the gate. Doors will be closing.” But even if parking turns out to be a breeze and we make it through security in a flash, I have to deal with the next great obstacle – the bookstores, clothing and perfume shops along the councourse that seem to call out like sirens to all three of the ladies in my life. Let’s just say if airports started renting Segways and non-injury-inducing cattle prods so that timetable-obsessed dads like me could keep their herds moving steadily toward their destination, I’d be all in, no matter what the cost.