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The Twilight Years of Hipness (buffy mention)

Debra J. Dickerson

vendredi 22 septembre 2006, par Webmaster

A middle-aged mom labors to stay in the know on pop culture.

IN THE SAME WAY that we middle-ageds go to great lengths to hide our advancing waistlines, thinning hair and increasing forgetfulness, I have been for some time now faking a vibrating cellphone or fumbling conveniently in my purse when pop culture references are made. As deluded as any mom doing the Robot at her daughter’s Sweet Sixteen, I thought myself hip for culting on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I smirked knowingly at the Scoobies’ updated Ridgemont High-slang and indulgently dug the angsty-goth bands that played at Buffy’s fave dance spot, the Bronze.

I didn’t recognize the bands, felt no need to run out and buy their CDs, but hey - I’m black and 47. So I get outta jail free for my willingness to groove to both Michelle Branch (whose name I had to snag from the "Buffy" TV credits) and Louis Armstrong, right ?

Turns out, not so much. Black may not crack, but it does creak.

I read a great many periodicals (one or two online even !), and they’ve been flush recently with a heads-up on the new TV season. Where I once digested all that along with Harper’s and felt proud to be both cerebral and earthy, my gut reaction now, once I locate one of my many disappearing pairs of reading glasses, veers between annoyance (how the hell am I supposed to tell all those stick-figure blonds apart ?) and panic (did I just make my mom’s disapproving "humphf" tooth-suck sound ?).

When, in my youth, I turned my nose up at "The A-Team" and "Dynasty," then later at the "90210" brand, I felt wise beyond my years. Superior. But in my 20s through early 30s, when I was mostly abroad or too ambitious to sit still for long, I stalwartly denied myself the instant gratification of "Twin Peaks" and Eddie Murphy’s "Saturday Night Live" years. Like any snob, I dined out on my cultural blind spots, feigning a Parisian ennui as I changed the subject from David Lynch to the Louis Malle movies I rented, from "Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood" to grad schools and fellowships.

Now though, I’m passing on "Lost" just because I’m too stubborn to admit I was wrong about it, and "Deadwood" because the violence and profanity exhaust me. And what if my kids are only feigning sleep ? I’m also passing on quality entertainment because I’m just no longer on the right cultural wavelengths, for oh-so-many reasons and not always by choice.

TV worries me now, and not just for my preschoolers’ sake. God help me : I see the tube, with its beckoning to "invest" in 52 inches of wardrobe malfunctions and tuition-level monthly fees, as I do the baby-sitter with one too many tattoos. Does she bring a bourgeois family’s much-needed shot in the arm or is that the bulge of a hypodermic needle I spy in her hipster’s low-slung messenger bag (which could use a good washing) ?

Mine was a conscious refusal to degrade myself with "Desperate Housewives," but I was shocked recently to learn that "Nip/Tuck" just began its fourth season. Wasn’t that canceled ? I’d watch "Weeds" or anything with that funky grown-up, Mary-Louise Parker, in it. Except that premium cable is an extravagance, and there ain’t no money tree in the backyard.

Oh dear. That’s what Daddy always said. When did I become Grandpa Simpson ?

My flickering connection to pop culture saddens, frees and humbles me. Only a gun to my head could have made me watch the recent MTV Video Music Awards, but I’m so unfamiliar with today’s music that I Googled a list of winners twice before I noticed that it was from 2004. I diligently scanned the correctly Googled list, but it may well have been another one of those Onion hoaxes for all I knew. Avenged Sevenfold ? Chamillionaire ? Ringtone of the year ? Best videogame soundtrack ?

When you don’t even recognize the categories, it’s time to admit that you’ve been hip-checked. So be it. Confession is such a relief. Hi, I’m Debra, and I haven’t recognized the bands on SNL for years now.

Guess it’s just as well that I can’t stay awake long enough to hear them anyway.


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