I was waxing nostalgic with my dad not long ago because listening to him talk about his childhood makes me feel somewhat less ancient by comparison. It also got me thinking about what had changed, aside from clothes, hair styles and music, since I was younger. I think most of what I miss, and what makes feel bad that today’s kids won’t have, are experiences or feelings rather that things. That is, I don’t think it’s sad that taking music “to go” no longer requires a fanny-pack full of cassette tapes and extra batteries. But it’s a bit of a shame that they won’t feel the joy of going to Licorice Pizza and finding that elusive album they’d been searching for. It’s also a little sad to realize that many have no idea why it was even called Licorice Pizza.
When we were crushing on someone and too nervous or insecure to call them just to talk, we could always pretend we had a question about homework or a test. But that doesn’t seem like much of an option anymore. If you call to ask how deep the Grand Canyon is or when General Custer died, the answer will most likely be “Why are you asking me? Google that shit.”
Speaking of Google, I think they should take some responsibility for kids no longer knowing what it’s like to wonder or be gullible. It’s said that everyone remembers where they were when President Kennedy was shot. I hadn’t yet been born when he died, but I remember quite clearly where I when I heard that Rodney Allen Rippy (the Jack In The Box kid) died after eating Pop Rocks while drinking a soda. That story hung on forever! Sometimes the flavor of the Pop Rocks or kind of soda would change, and there were those who insisted it was Mason Reese (the Underwood Deviled Ham kid), not Rippy who died. But the details weren’t as important as the “fact” that you could explode from excessive carbonation.
Now, as soon as there’s the faintest whisper of a celebrity-death,everyone reaches for a smart phone or tablet to suss out the truth. Sometimes even the celebrity in question will take to the Webernet and engage in a bit of modern day Mark Twaining.
We fell for stories like that again and again because there was no way to confirm nor disprove the rumors. If you’re of a certain age, you may remember a time when you kept a sharp eye out for any car without its headlights on; because you knew getting initiated into a gang involved driving around with no headlights, and shooting the first person to offer a courtesy flash. And judging from things I see on Facebook about drug cartels disguising crystal meth as Pop Rocks (why do Pop Rocks always get dragged into these things?), some in my generation have maintained their naivete or are too lazy to pull up Snopes.
But do we even need Snopes for some of these? They’re drug-dealers, not Evil Geniuses plotting and planning from their secret lair. What would they want with a bunch of six-year-old meth-heads anyway? Is the lure of all that lunch money just too much to resist?
Most kids now have no idea that when playing outside on a hot summer day, nothing is more tasty or refreshing than hose water. The majority won’t ever walk out of the house with a vague announcement about going “to play” or “ride bikes.” And they won’t know what it’s like to be gone for hours and not find their parents organizing a search party when they finally go home.
And since loss and failure have been eliminated (it seems some schools no longer allow teachers to grade papers with a red pencil because it’s a negative color), they won’t get to know how good it feels to really win or to be motivated to try harder next time.
They’ll never have mix tapes where every song was collected by holding a tape recorder up to the stereo speakers while the song played on the radio. They’ll never hear a busy signal. They won’t know the nervous thrill of being taken by a friend to see a newly discovered stack of their brother’s/dad’s/uncle’s/cousin’s nekkid lady magazines. And you’ll never see them smoking candy cigarettes or bubble gum cigars.
I’m not trying to make a case for my childhood being somehow better than the one kids have now. Long drives were miserable before air-conditioning and multi-screen cineplexes became standard equipment. And I’m sorry, but vinyl records did not sound better that digital music. That low-level hiss and dust-related popping and crackling just makes us sentimental because it sounds like our past.
And we’re fond of the past because it took place when we were younger, thinner and better-looking. What we don’t like is realizing that our past was so long ago, trying to explain it to a young person today generates nothing more than a blank stare … or worse, an eye-roll. And when that happens, the only course of action is to disparage the current childhood experience and try to make them feel like they missed out on the really good stuff. And doing that is just as useless now as it was when we were kids.
Have we really forgotten our reaction when the adults in our lives tried to pull this on us? Can we not recall how old and out-of-touch they sounded? Sure, their cars looked cool; but they also didn’t come equipped with seat-belts, airbags or safety-glass. And I don’t know about you, but I was never too distraught about missing out on a good cranial-degloving if I rear-ended someone.