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I'm Wide Awake on Memories: 1.17.13

Would someone please tell me why we must suddenly be so obsessed with 20-somethings? No, I'm sorry. Perhaps that sounded a little too capricious. Allow me to gently rephrase. Why on earth must we suddenly be so obsessed with this particular crop of current 20-somethings? Again, perhaps I over-react. Maybe this is the just the usual, periodic generational naval gazing running its course. Certainly it did with my own dear comrades, those lovably hateable Gen X-ers. But really. To state the obvious, youth is timeless. It's ageless. And, of course, it is ultimately wasted on the young. Every generation gets its own take on reinventing it all, bringing everyone to their knees with their fearless assault on the outdated and outmoded. But here we go again. Fine. I guess the Millennials get their perennial 15 minutes to shine. However, just this past Sunday alone I was practically blinded by the light. I found myself stumbling into the following:

1) This piece in the New Yorker. Don't get me wrong. I love coming of age as a motif. I mean 'coming of age' is totally my Netflix genre, not to mention a few bookshelves worth of my library. I adore my own fleeting youth and its vagaries and I could tell you endlessly amusing stories of my 20-something hedonistic abandon. But do I really need to be confronted by such nauseating quips as "Flightiness is the new aggression?" Hello, infallible hubris of youth. Flightiness among the young never has been and never will be out of style. This is not news. (I did, however, enjoy the commentary on FOMO and endless choice. 'Tis true; the idiot of the digital village is he who does not asses ALL the options and merely settles.) But still. Yawners.

2) And then there was this hideous article in the Sunday NYT, The End of Courtship. Oh, puhleeze. Whee-look at how these technological savants are tipping the scales on relationships! So craaazy, they won't even commit to making plans or reverting to something as old-fart as a "real" date. Rules? We don't need no stinking rules. All of this is fine, even endearing. After all, dating in your 20's IS supposed to be kind of feckless and fancy free. I mean, even the whole 9 yards down to the cohabitation and (gasp!) matrimonial dead end. I know--it's all there in my own 20-something archival footage and yep, I had a fair bit of fun in the process. But, no complaining among you, my dear, overly-entitled 20-somethings. I will hear no woe-is-me, 'we've lost our cultural compass on how to establish lasting and meaningful relationships' tripe. Nope. If you think dating in your 20's is trying, I cordially invite you to the gallery of horrors that awaits you if you are unlucky enough to persist in dating a good 2 decades beyond your shelf life. There be dragons there!

3) And finally, on Sunday eve, the second season premier of Girls on HBO. First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that of all the Millennial mavens, Lena Dunham has burrowed into a particularly bitter little niche within my soul. You see, her alma mater was the nemesis of my anticipated 20-something climb to my own great heights of personal success, namely one midwestern liberal arts college that rhymes with 'shmoberlin.' Yes, as a starry-eyed high school senior, I was convinced that this school's bohemian selectivity held the promise of all that I was meant to be. And, not to mention, also satisfied my Ivy Leagued father's academic expectations and my mother's creative aspirations for me - me, an entirely unremarkable, unfocused student who, when asked in my interview at said institution, "So where do you see yourself 5 years after your college graduation?" actually mumbled something about some sort of writing career, maybe even a starving novelist. I mean, what the hell did I know? Sadly, not enough to matriculate there. Ms. Dunham set her star ablaze by stripping while ranting in the campus fountain and airing it on YouTube. Who's to say I wouldn't have done the same had I simply been given the opportunity? (You think I'm making a big deal out of this here? Listen, in extremely poor taste but frighteningly keen awareness of my marathon sulking over this ONE THING for almost TWENTY YEARS, my own mother once remarked my epitaph will simply read: Rejected by Oberlin.) But anyway.

Rationally setting my Lena Dunham issues aside, I had gotten passably into the first season of her show. Yet I admit, as I lay in my semi-prone Sunday night sprawl (which to a 20-something I know is still as far off a reality as, oh I don't know, actually distinguishing Sunday from any other night of the week), I was again simply. bored. Oh, really? You seduced your post-collegiately outed gay friend? Snooze. You threw a party where a random constellation of guests briefly caught your attention as a brightly meaningful configuration of people that would, after that night, gradually shift out of your field of view, lost in a myriad of other distractingly interesting people you would meet? Yep, that's fun and all, but. so. what. That's the story of your 20's. Girls is not chronicling some secreted inner sanctum of youthfulness that's never been adequately revealed before. At least not for me. It's retreading familiar ground, granted with a nouveau soundtrack and slightly updated substance abuse opportunities, but nonetheless familiar. It's less provocative than it is oddly nostalgic. After all, the New Yorker piece stated that the largest viewing audience of the show is 40-something dudes. Well, duh.

Now all this buzz on the 20-something set was sort of funny to me because, as it turns out, I was already turning over this whole coming of age motif in my mind. Because in the last few weeks I had stumbled into the following:

1) Johnathan Lethem's Fear of Music. Now this is the sort of coming of age, self-obsessed, over-analytical kind of manifesto I can get down with. No pat contrivances here. And it's not simply becuase Lethem also happens to be a staggeringly brilliant writer. This little tome (it's pocket sized!) reeks of sincerity because its hook is one of the essential ingredients of any coming of age corner you turn: It is about music. I was a goner from the first sentence: "In the summer of 1979, in New York City, a fifteen-year-old boy sitting in his bedroom heard a voice speaking to him over the radio." Bam. That? Is American poetry right there. And then, I hung on, through every self-involved, piercingly distinct observation this labryrinthian narrative leads you through - all to invite you into the most exhaustive study of the Talking Heads' Fear of Music LP you might ever hope to stumble across. I can think of at least 10 more albums I would want Lethem to turn his attention to next. I could read this all day. And it's a hell of a lot more real than any 20-something expose' I skimmed through on Sunday could ever hope to be.

2) And then there was David Chase's new movie, Not Fade Away. In most respects, an uremarkable film by the Sopranos producer. Except maybe because I was coming off of the Lethem read, or a week of hanging around my own 20-something primo pal, something about this flick hit me and hooked right into my coming of age node. Yes, it met all the criteria of just the kind of movie I like with the story of the band and the boys and the bittersweet. But it also smacked of suburban adolescence, in the dreamy yet disillusioned way I think I had it happen to me, and the drive just to...well, drive. To get out, away, beyond what it is that corrals you in with the discomforting normalcy that just makes you antsy at 18. Again, so American, so true, so sadly nostalgic of any time, any place.

3) And finally, last Friday night. Approximating something of a Jane Goodall role, I had ventured out with some pals and willingly entered into this wild kingdom, the habitat of 20-somethings, a post-bar afterparty. Don't ask. But to look up under the wholly unforgiving kitchen light and see the look leveled at me over my shoulder by this kid, this law student kid. Well. That will jolt you back to feeling young. And even with my eye-rolling rebuff, 'You don't even know how old I am," muted by the pressure of his hand on the small of my back as we both leaned over the turntable out in the living room later, I knew how absurd it was. But sure, let's all stay up until dawn and toast longnecks over ridiculous bonds and talk and talk, I mean, why not? And it was a reminder to me that, even though I had done it so many times before decades ago and I really had no business doing it now, this dawn I was awake to see was just as new as any other I had seen younger than I am now. That light is always the same, exhilarating and exhausting, the night lingering as a memory just behind this next day that was arriving, as surely as you always knew it would.

reflect - reinvent ....rayclaire@gmail.com... what i used to think... what i hear... what i see... where i'd like to be...

the black apple... the girl who... sarah brown... thunderpie... evany... jenny b harris... posie... claude le monde... artsy... fartsy... jeff... random person in texas... another rachel... smitten kitchen... more of me... still more of me... even more of me...and yet still more of me...more of me but not for free...

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