Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kids These Days

I hardly know where to begin. Maybe my first stop should be a caveat about how the public institution where I spend a small part of my working life attracts patrons of all ages, from 1 to 101. Rarely does a day pass when some child does not throw a temper tantrum, an embarrassed caregiver desperately shushes said child, and some third person, usually someone over 50, remarks under his breath that in his day, children weren't allowed to behave so abominably.

The third person—or rather, people, because they are legion—drive me bats. I know perfectly well that in their day things were not so wonderful as they misremember. In their day, children threw just as many temper tantrums as they do now, and caregivers tried just as desperately to shush them. In their day the child was probably more likely to get smacked for misbehaving, but I'd rather listen to a kid scream until light bulbs shatter than see one get hit, so I'm glad I live in my day, not theirs.

So I have no patience for people who start their conversations with, "In my day. . . ."

And yet. In my day. . . . 

I wore my John today. John is the last in a long line of college tee shirts. I'm not sure why he's held up so well, maybe because the plastic or whatever it is his giant head is made of reinforces the fabric. For whatever reason, John is still with me. I love him dearly and will wear him until he's in tatters, when he will be placed lovingly into the storage tub with all my other favorite tee shirts that have become little more than fragments. I'm sure the Billie Holiday tee shirt will welcome him home as a long-lost friend.

Now you may not have noticed it—I know I certainly didn't at first—but this photo of John bears a superficial resemblance to another contemporary pop culture icon, a certain orphaned wizard we all know and many of us love. The first time I was in a grocery store and a 6-year-old pointed at my shirt and yelled "Harry Potter!" I was surprised, but not for long. It's the round glasses, you see.

So even though I hadn't been planning a pop culture lesson, I was a little more prepared when I wore John to after-school tutoring and five kids simultaneously pointed and screamed "Harry Potter!" (Seriously, they all scream. Harry Potter apparently engenders the kind of emotion in children not seen since teen girls fell in love with the Beatles themselves.) "No," I said, "This is a musician named John Lennon. When you get home tonight, ask your parents if you can listen to some music by the Beatles. No, not like the bugs. Seriously, just ask them. I'm not kidding." If even one child got to hear "I Want to Hold Your Hand" that night, I feel that I've made the world a better place.

This evening, though, when a 20-something clerk, a young woman with dyed black hair and a nose ring, a young woman who is clearly working so hard to be hip and alternative, looked at my tee shirt, my John, and felt compelled to comment on a recent Harry Potter marathon on TV, I was not prepared.

When did our culture get into this state? When did our young adults forget about the "long-haired hippies" who paved the way for their nose rings? When did the youth of today forget about the original "alternative" music? Where are their parents?! 

In my day, any teenage rebel worth her salt could recite the entire White Album. In my day, even when we were listening to Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers, we still remembered who our rock and roll ancestors were. In my day. . . . 


Something has to be done. I'm proposing that we all celebrate Beatles Day. July 10, the anniversary of the day the Fab Four returned to Liverpool after they "conquered" the United States in 1964, is the official Beatles Day, but I don't think we can wait until July. We need the Beatles now!

So find your Abbey Road CD, or dig through that old box of cassette tapes if you have to. If you have kids, please, please, for the sake of our future as a nation, as a culture, as a world, please sit them down and explain the British Invasion. Explain to them that the Harry Potter stories are great fun, but what John, Paul, George, and Ringo did was nothing short of revolution.  

Me, I'm going to start celebrating immediately. "Rocky" was always one of my favorites.

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