1. RANDOM CULTURAL REFERENCE GENERATOR. When I’m riding in the car with my youngest, I never know what pop culture reference will suddenly enter her mind and send her into a fit of laughter. On a recent drive, within the space of 10 minutes, I heard her shout out, “Dee Dee, what are you doing in my la-bor-a-tory?” in the exaggerated, formal tone of Dexter from the cartoon series, Dexter’s Laboratory. A minute later, when we passed a former International House of Pancakes restaurant that now housed another business, she declared, “Nice try, IHOP,” in imitation of a College Humor video that features an actor from The Wire pretending to expose the scam behind the restaurant chain disguising its distinctive, gable-roofed buildings as anything but a pancake house. Minutes later, she began singing a snippet from a Vine video in which a little girl hilariously misinterprets the line from a Frank Ocean song, “a potato [apparently, it’s supposed to be a tornado] flew around my room before you came.” While I didn’t get any of these references until she explained them to me, I must say it was still a highly enjoyable ride. Being with her when she gets in one of these silly streaks is a bit like keeping company with a Magic Eight Ball. You never know want funny line you might get next, but each of them is curiously entertaining.
2. TOTALLY IN STEP. When my daughters talk about books and music, they mention a whole slew of authors and singers I’ve never heard of. It makes me feel completely out of step with current culture. But then a recent issue of Rolling Stone arrived at our house, and my oldest looked down at the cover the featured Fleetwood Mac’s lead singer and exclaimed, “Wait a sec’, Stevie Nick’s a girl??” So maybe I’m not so out of touch after all. (And a special thanks to you, Stevie, for keeping your career going from the ’70s into the ’10s!)
3. ELECTRONICALLY ENGAGED. Recently, my oldest and I visited a doctor’s office for a routine health check she needed. While I got momentarily distracted in the examining room, reading the medical charts on the wall, my daughter snapped pictures of herself and then told me to look at the Snapchat app on my phone As parents of my generation are wont to do, I immediately admonished her. “I’m right here, two feet away from you, can’t we interact without using our electronic devices?” She seemed unfazed by my chastisement and told me, “Dad, just check out your phone.” I then was treated to a series of photos in which she first contorted her lips into a crescent-shaped smile that made her look eerily like Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch cartoon, then another in which she’d spiked her eyebrows into an angle that made her resemble Vincent Price from some mildly menacing 1950s horror film, and a final shot in which she puffed out her lips so exaggeratedly it looked like she had bitten into some fruit she was allergic to. I had a good laugh and realized the error of my ways. If she’d been looking right at me while contorting her face into these bizarre expressions, I might have had the sinking feeling that I needed to bring her to another type of health facility.
4. CONSPIRACY UNVEILED. Last evening I had such pain in the first knuckle of my right thumb that I feared it might be an initial indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. Of course, I realized that I had exchanged several long texts with my family that day and the ache was probably just repetitive motion syndrome. But then I came to a second, sadder realization – the volume of texts I put out through the day was just a fraction of what my teenagers can pump out in an hour, and they never complain about any finger aches. And that just confirmed my long-held suspicion: modern technology is simply a vast conspiracy by people under 40 to torture those of us north of that divide!
5. SUPERTASTER TO THE RESCUE. Since the day I met her, whenever my wife and I visit restaurants I am treated to a sophisticated analysis of the foods we eat. At an Indian restaurant, for example, she told me that the unique flavor of the rice pudding we liked came from cardamom and the citrus-like flavor of another dish was the result of the spice galanga. Even when I developed an interest in craft beers, it was only when she accompanied me to brewpubs and advised me to take notice of things like “the nutmeg and allspice in this one” — that I was able to detect any of the subtle differences in the various beers that were served to us on sampling trays. But I must say after years of these culinary insights, I did start to feel a little inferior for not being able to discern any of these nuances of flavor on my own. But then one day I read a magazine article about “supertasters,” people who are gifted with more taste buds per square inch on their tongues that enable them to detect tastes others cannot. It sounded so perfectly reasonable and reassuring. It’s just the luck of the genetic draw for taste buds, not native intelligence or cultural breeding, that accounts for why my wife’s food-analyzing abilities are so vastly superior to mine. So since that day that has been my explanation, and until the time comes that I have to shuffle off this mortal coil, that is the story I am sticking with!