November 24, 2013

GORDON | Coming to Terms With “It”

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I’m still a bit drunk from last night. There’s a soothing buzzing echoing in my head. In a few hours this buzz will be replaced by the sound of a lawnmower going over a field of hard acorns and kittens. It was not always like this. While the freshman Me could shake off a previous night’s consumption with an Odwalla smoothie and a quick scamper around Beebe Lake, the senior Brian will lie in bed with the shades drawn, watching Friday Night Lights episodes until the sun sets. Harsher hangovers are a sign that I’m getting older. There are others too. My friends now have spare tires for stomachs. My hair now finds its way into the shower drain. I’ve started enjoying sitcoms on CBS.

For many, the fact that famous people are now younger than they are is a particularly difficult sign of aging to process. This week’s most anticipated album release came from Jake Bugg, age 19.  Lorde was born in 1996, a year many seniors may faintly remember. The idea that more and more famous people are younger is very weird to experience. I realize that sentence isn’t the most poignant analysis but I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and “weird” is the best I’ve come up with. Watching ESPN highlights of freshmen basketball phenoms going for 30 is weird.  Listening to Earl Sweatshirt rap or a 19-year-old actress get interviewed on the Daily Show is weird.

There’s a sort of melancholy to watching these people achieve a level of artistic and athletic success.  It’s a final affirmation that your wild fantasies about performing at Bonnaroo or taking charge in the Final Four are never going to happen. Even though I’ve never held a guitar pick in my life and my basketball career stalled at the J.V. level, watching Jake Bugg and Jabari Parker do what they do leaves me with a tinge of regret. There’s a little more regret when you experience people your age or younger succeeding in fields you always sort of wish you’d pursued. I like comedy and I like to write.  There might be some lamenting on my part once the cast members of SNL start having post-1992 birth dates. If only things had gone differently. If only I’d applied to be a theater major at NYU instead of an Industrial and Labor Relations major at Cornell, then maybe I could be working in the SNL writer’s room instead of a cubicle in an HR department. When people are older than you, there remains the possibility that their success is a byproduct of their extra years on this earth. But once the excuse of time is gone, you more definitively realize those dreams are not to be.

Another sort of scary thing about getting old is how staying with “it” becomes more of a challenge.  “It” is a cultural concept. As Grandpa Abe Simpson explains to a teenage Homer, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what “it” was. Now, what I’m with ‘isn’t it,’ and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you.” I won’t pretend I am, or have ever been fully with “it,” but as an Arts columnist I feel I can at least recognize what “it” is. But “it” is in a continual state of motion.  Once real life starts, time to keep up with “it” diminishes. Days are eaten up by commutes, work, kids, wifey, girlfriend and mistresses. There’s less time to scan through Rotten Tomatoes, Rolling Stone and Tumblrs when TPS reports are due on the boss’s desk at 11 and little Billy has pinkeye again.

The more famous people begin being younger than you, the more you are reminded that you are no longer the future, but instead somewhere between the present and the past. And what feeling is more irrelevant than the past? For while we all love grandma and grandpa and the hard candies they provide, in more than one way they are but a novelty to the rest of society’s daily functions. Unless Johnny Knoxville plays them, old people are yesterday’s news. As Homer says to Grandpa Simpson in another episode “Aw, Dad. You’ve done a lot of great things, but you’re a very old man now, and old people are useless.”

Once we lose a firm grasp on “it” I fear we become the old people at family gatherings who sit in the corner and make inane Andy Rooney-like comments about the current state of society. Grapefruits aren’t as good as they used to be. Do we really need iPhones and iPads? When did $ become a letter? Pull up your pants, sport. I give you all permission to euthanize me if I ever get to that point. But the thing is, I likely will. I think we all might get to that point if we’re lucky. So maybe the answer is to embrace losing “it” and stock up on the best hard candies so our grandchildren still visit us sometimes.

Those are all my thoughts on the matter. I’m going to go throw up now. Go East Dillon Lions!