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Look what you made me do I Chuck's World


Last updated 11/29/2017 at Noon

My son-in-law is 37, a professional musician with several Grammy awards to his name. He tours the world and has mingled with very famous people. He’s given all sorts of interviews, and taught all sorts of master classes.

This makes him an authority on something, I think, and probably several things. I treasure people like this, and tend to hoard them in an imaginary cupboard, keeping them accessible in case I have a question. And I always have questions.

I was visiting last September, and as he and I are both early risers, we took a walk early one glorious morning in Texas. He and my daughter live near a large lake, a few footsteps away from the back door, so we headed in that direction. We sat on the beach, drinking our coffee, watching the water, soaking up the warm sun, and that’s when I opened the cupboard.

“I have a question,” I said.

He took his time with this, staring out at the lake, obviously aware of the pitfalls that can pop up in conversations like this, with people like me. He eventually nodded, and I continued.

“I don’t really know who Taylor Swift is,” I admitted.

He raised an eyebrow. “What’s your question?”

“Should I?”

He took a little more time, and did some more stuff with his eyebrows. I sort of regretted asking.

Full disclosure: I am not an idiot. I haven’t been hermetically sealed off away from all things cultural. I don’t live in a cave, although a strong case can be made that I actually do.

But of course I know who Taylor Swift is. She’s young, and a singer of popular music. She’s absurdly famous for a human being on this planet at this time. She had recently been in the news, which is why I brought it up.

It’s just that it could have been Katy Perry. Or Adele. Or that young woman who did that thing on the thing.

Look, before you start in, I know Beyonce, OK? I know Lady Gaga. I’ve watched a few Super Bowls in my time.

I also married a musician and fathered another one, who in turn married yet another. For most of my adult life, I’ve been surrounded by people who’ve been actively involved in all things musical. I regularly go to venues unaccustomed to seeing gray hair, standing up in the back while we listen to some of my wife’s students venture out into the professional ranks.

In my imagination, I look exactly like a middle-school vice-principal chaperoning a dance. I usually hand out a couple of detention slips.

There’s certainly no shame in picking and choosing what elements of our culture we engage with, and age is always going to play a role. We’re overwhelmed with offerings anyway; I suspect most of us have long since stopped listening to people shilling for their favorite shows, or films, or music. Our plates are full, thanks anyway. We have enough.

But I heard from several readers last week, some of who are my exact age. I’d written about an encounter I had with facial recognition software, and how these lines of code had assessed a photo of me and determined that it was a random picture of an old guy.

I heard similar stories from my 59-year-old readers, then, from getting involuntarily upgraded to senior citizen discounts to being offered assistance in crossing a busy street. No one mentioned the aura of condescension that surrounds us when we try to buy a new phone, but that’s an old story.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, none of us are interested in belong to a club that would have us as members. We’re very much aware that we’re aging, because we all have eyes and ears, and knees that make interesting noises.

We’re probably all cognizant at this age that there’s no avoiding the mirror, and I suspect that most of us have inadvertently hit the reverse-camera button on our phones and seen the truth in real time.

“When I tell someone my age,” my wife said the other day, “no one ever acts surprised anymore.”

This is not about denial, then. I assume none of us are sliding toward 60 wearing skinny pants, dancing to the beat of a different drummer. We can’t really hear the drummer, especially out of that ear.

We’re just trying to age gracefully, to ease into this new stage of the life cycle, and it’s not helping when you push.

Or when we inadvertently push ourselves. Last week, following the passing of 1970s teen idol David Cassidy, a couple of my friends posted pictures of their Partridge Family lunch boxes, which apparently they kept.

These were men, too, once proud men who competed on the playing fields of life, and now they were getting weepy and listening to “I Think I Love You” on a loop.

So, my Beacon correspondents and I are forming The Resistance (I decided); I’ve already started working on the website. Our mission is to support each other in our attempt to not be old before our time, which might be in a few months but is definitely not here yet.

A big part of this will be just staying aware, if not actually engaged. So I asked my son-in-law if I should know about Taylor Swift, a question he took seriously.

“No,” he eventually said. Whew.

And honestly? I might have meant Katy.


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