April 19, 2010

Hip to be Square

Print More

As a production intern at a TV station two summers ago, I shared an office space with a legal intern who was about a decade older than me. He had undoubtedly put on some weight since college, was very much balding, wore thick-framed glasses, knew everything about music and movies and was just about the coolest dude in the office. Inevitably, I developed a massive crush on the guy. Now since I was an intern with just about no work to do, I spent my eight-hour days flirting with the legal intern and then e-mailing my best friend to relay every detail of our interactions. But to be sly and ensure that if he peeked at my screen he wouldn’t know I was writing about him, my best friend nicknamed him “The Fossil” –– in our 20-year-old eyes, a 30-year-old bald dude was just about equal to a crustacean from the Cambrian period.

But his age only inspired me to work my college-young’un magic by acting more mature and appearing to be on his one-year-left-of-law-school intellectual level. Somehow, it kind of took hold. We started getting lunch together and the tension built up until his very last day of work when we decided to go see We Are Scientists at the Bowery Ballroom to celebrate his being done with interning.

Everything was going great. We got to the show just after the opener; he bought me an alcoholic beverage, which was exciting because I was still a smidge underage; we were holding hands … it was just dandy. Then, We Are Scientists took the stage and The Fossil did the last thing in the world I ever would have expected. He pulled from his pocket a super expensive set of earplugs. The Fossil nickname was a joke no longer. His age became all too real and I had no choice but to Shut. It. Down.

To me, nothing says old and uncool like a set of earplugs. I know this is a misguided assertion, but I just can’t get past it. For example, last week at The Shop, 23-year-old Jean Paul Pitts, the lead singer of Surfer Blood, was sporting lime green earplugs during his whole set. And no, they were not the earplugs for making sure the music was in check. They were just straight up squishy earplugs to hush sound and it may have made me like the band a tiny bit less.

Another example, I’m an avid subscriber to Oh My Rockness, the website that sends out weekly e-mail blasts about newly announced indie/hipster/we-wear-skinny-jeans concerts. Each week there’s an earlove earplug ad that says “Listen Up: Protect Your Ears at Shows, We love Earlove Earplugs! Oh My Rockness recommended!” While I know they’re being paid to say that, it still goes to show that even the hipsteriest hipsters condone earplugs. But there’s something about those little suckers that I just can’t take.

If you are going to a concert to listen to sounds, why would you bring along something that’s going to hinder hearing the noise that the performer is trying to create? Of course there are so many exceptions to this rhetorical question, like being in front of the bass amps or seeing one of those bands whose shows require earplugs like My Bloody Valentine or just not wanting to go deaf when you’re 40. But if you’re just attending a normal show, you’re not right in front of the speakers and you don’t have a hearing issue, then what’s with the earplugs I ask you — Mr. Fossil and regular earplug users alike?

So as you can see, I have this stigma about earplugs that I just can’t shake. Unfortunately for me, as my final month of college approaches and my self-proclaimed year as an “old hag” (aka senior) on campus is turning into being a real-world old hag (otherwise known as an adult) I’m about to be surrounded by a way older crowd than Cornell has to offer. With this, I fear more earplugs will be popping up in my presence and I can only pray that I’ll be able to break this habit of harsh judgment. I’ve got my fingers tightly crossed that it happens sometime before I’m 30, graying and have some 20-year-old intern calling me a fossil behind my back.

Original Author: Justine Fields