Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How You Know You're Old

I've been having an age crisis lately. I don't know why it's hitting me now, but I feel really, really old. My little brother just went to prom. I keep seeing kids who should be babies, but aren't, they're real live kids. My music is on the oldies stations. It's a litany of reminders that I am no longer who I think I am. I am no longer a kid trying to figure things out. I am an adult either succeeding or failing.

My newest gauge of my age is music. But not in that, "I can't watch MTV anymore, who are those people." kind of way. To understand my current crisis, we have to travel back in time. When I was 14.

When I was 14, I was a weird kid. Born and bred on country music and just currently discovering the world outside. Don't get me wrong, I was as into Tiffany as the next kid when I was seven and I knew all the words to "Funky Cole Medina." Then my step dad introduced me to the world of heavy metal. I developed a love (that has not died) for hair bands, especially Poison. I would melt for Poison. But I knew the songs I heard on the bus, and I knew my mom's country and I knew Jerry's metal. I didn't know anything of my own. When I started high school, I discovered that there was something else. And it fascinated me.

It started with R.E.M. then They Might Be Giants, the B-52's. I was amazed to discover that this stuff had been around for a decade. That it wasn't new. I memorized "It's the End of the World as We Know It" and I started hording Violent Femmes. Next was '80's punk. Sex Pistols, the Ramones. And then, 70's rock.

Led Zeppelin was my favorite. I could listen to "Black Dog" until my ears bled, but almost anything would do: Eagles, Queen, The Who, Skynard, Aerosmith, CCR, Steve Miller Band... I approached my mom. My mother has a drool-worthy vinyl collection. She has two overloaded boxes of 45's alone. She had to have something, right? No Zeppelin, no Sabbath, no Blue Oyster Cult. She had The Carpenters and KISS. She had Johnny and Waylon (who I appreciate now much, much more than I did then) and she had disco. But she didn't have what I wanted. She seemed so old to me, then. Older at that moment than she has ever since. At that moment, her style had lapped her. The music that was popular when she was in high school was back, but she wasn't.

I have been waiting for that moment since Brynna was born. The moment when Brynna wants to borrow my Chuck Taylors or my Docs and a flannel shirt for a '90's party. The moment when I catch her raiding my CD collection digging out the Nirvana and the Green Day. I've wondered what will survive. What will make it into the caricature of our time. What about Kurt Cobain's green sweater? Or cat's eye glasses? What about "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or Oasis. What will be the impression that other's take of my decade.

I didn't understand until I was an adult that the 70's was undoubtedly more complicated than punk vs. metal vs. disco. It was never simply bell bottoms and headbands. It was more than Dazed and Confused. And what will happen when I am watching my kids try to relive something they have never lived. Will I try desperately to explain what it was like? Will I roll my eyes when she is amazed at what my CD collection doesn't contain? Will I try to sell her on what I think is better music from an era past?

I definitely appreciate my mother's position on the '70's more now than I did then. I understand more what it must have been like defending her teenage self to her teenage daughter.

But for all that clarity and reason, I thought I had YEARS to go before I had to deal with that. At least a decade, right? Wrong.

Instead of my daughter growing to care about the music of her mother's era, her mother's music has come to her. I have spent months searching for a kid's They Might be Giants CD. Because it's funny. It's funny that this band that I loved and obsessed over is making kid's music. Is singing the theme song to Higglytown Heroes and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Is making the world of preschool music much, much tolerable to moms of my generation everywhere.

In short, I thought it was cute, an aberration. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, we got a Lisa Loeb CD from the library. Brynna loves it. She sings camp songs, like Father Abraham and Peanut Butter and Jelly. Her signature glasses are still on her cover art, but the short skirt with the thick tights are gone, the insecure yet sexy is nowhere in sight. I wonder if she sometimes still sings "Stay" at concerts. Just to give us moms a thrill.

Additionally, I've found out that Presidents of the United States of America (or POTUSA) has come out with a kid's album under the new name of Caspar Babypants. (I guess Pot USA was a little controversial for the kiddies.) Devo's got a kid's album out. And Dan Zanes (who I kept thinking - I know that guy on Disney channel) is the former lead singer of the Del Fuegos. Los Lobos and Leadbelly are weighing in, too. And that's just people who have done full albums, I could write pages of people who have done a single song for a compilation or appeared with one of these guys.

I'm so old that the bands I used to listen to are making kid's music. That's worse than Ringo being on Thomas the Tank.


Cathy said...

You have to understand that I was "country when country wasn't cool." (Yes, you should know where this comes from.)...Mom

Jessi said...

Barbara Mandrell. I do remember watching the Mandrell sisters on TV. Although, I can't remember the other ones' names. Have you heard the Kenny Chesney cover? It's not horrible.

Mrs. Allroro said...

I love love reading your blog. I found your link on facebook. I hope you're not sad about that. :-) Anyway, one of my favorite songs by They Might Be Giants is "Why Does the Sun Shine?" which begins, "The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas..." It's a kid's song. I have it on a "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" CD, I don't think it is from its own kid's CD. But anyway I love it. I think there might be a POTUSA song on there, too. Oh, no, I honestly just realized I was thinking of "Cherry, cherry, in my tree..." and mixing it with "Peaches for you, peaches for me" in my brain. I don't actually know who sang the cherry song. Could be them, who knows. Anyway, I love that Sun song. The end.

Jessi said...

I love Why Does the Sun Shine! A lot of their regular songs were really educational, like Istanbul and even Particle Man. They were a natural to do kid's music.

On the POTUSA note, I actually thought that Brynna and I could both enjoy them, so I pulled out that CD and we were grooving right along to the Kitty song (which, I know is kinda sexual, but not in any way a four year old would understand) and then they said the dreaded F-word. I couldn't seem to hit the button fast enough. So, we put that away... I just didn't remember that part.