Everything old is new again. Plus, Dad Joke winners. And, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I think I skipped a lot of 1990s pop culture because I was super-focused on journalism, law school, and starting my career.
But all work and no play isn’t good for you. So, when I started looking for contributors to Understandably, I realized it’s not just that I want to lighten the load a bit. It’s also that as a workaholic 50-year-old dad living in a suburb, I want to read (and share) perspectives from people with different backgrounds and experiences than mine.
With that, meet Conor Bezane, a Chicago-based journalist and former New Yorker with bylines in MTV News, VICE, WebMD, AOL, and more. He is a regular contributor to The Mighty. He’s also the author of the book, The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober Is the New Cool.
Unlike me, he didn’t miss the 1990s. Although, maybe he’s missing them now.
Fear of Growing Older
by Conor Bezane
I am 42. Born in 1979, I qualify as Generation X, just barely.
Recently, I’ve been struggling with something I couldn’t quite describe. But then, thanks to that revolutionary Generation X invention, “Google,” I found the term: gerascophobia.
It’s “fear of growing older,” or FOGO.
Between 4 and 6 percent of the population has “excessive” gerascophobia. While it can occur at any age, it often presents around the time of a mid-life crisis.
Is that what’s happening to me?
Most people around me are coupled up, many of them having kids. By contrast, I’m a single gay man, living in a culture that idolizes 25-year-olds with gym bods.
Those of us who are not that, are quickly seen as irrelevant. Maybe I’m feeling it even more now because we’re in a summer of 80s and 90s pop culture nostalgia.
I loved this era—loved it enough that I made a career out of it: first with almost a decade at MTV News, and more recently as a freelance journalist writing about pop culture and entertainment.
But now, it’s all new again. Sort of.
I just finished Chuck Klosterman’s newest book, The Nineties, about that bygone era, and it feels like ancient history. Meanwhile, throwbacks like Top Gun: Maverick shatter box office records.
A reboot of House Party, with LeBron James as a producer, will be out soon.
Kate Bush’s 1985 single “Running Up That Hill” was featured prominently in Stranger Things 4; Bush, now 64, she wound up with the most-streamed song globally on Spotify.
Another crucial storyline in the series features the music of Metallica; suddenly, thanks to millennial and Gen Z viewers, the band’s 1986 thrash-metal monster “Master of Puppets” is its most famous song.
If you’re at a concert this summer, it might be one of the retro tours. Hair metal stalwarts Mötley Crüe, Poison, Def Leppard and odd-woman-out Joan Jett are traveling together. The soundtrack to Thor: Love and Thunder prominently features ‘80s Guns N’ Roses.
Vinyl says stays in vogue; even cassettes are making a comeback; even rollerblades and Trapper Keepers are trendy.
But to me, it all feels like borrowed nostalgia, made for a new generation that didn’t experience it the first time.
I lived through it so deeply.
I was growing up as a closeted gay kid in Chicago then: an antiestablishment punk rocker, hanging out at smoke-filled hardcore shows in my early teens.
I’d always known I was different. Years later, I learned that undiagnosed bipolar disorder might have explained some of it. Also, I was robbed of some of my youth because of addiction and recovery.
Now, I look at old vacation photos from back then, and I look so different. It’s like I blinked recently and I am suddenly old.
Ten years sober, and with an ironic beer gut—mocking me since I no longer drink..
I used to cover the Grammys as a producer for MTV News, and so I find myself still watching it every year. But tuning in this year was like watching a tedious political soliloquy on CSPAN.
I don't understand much of today's music: Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Drake, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Cardi B or most of the new guard. Much of it is so downtrodden, auto-tuned and fake.
I don’t understand why there are 10 Fast & The Furious movies.
The result is that the new retro pop culture is a guilty pleasure for me, but also a kick to the cojones, reminding me of my fear.
I bleach my hair blonde now—not so much to hide the grays, although that’s an added bonus—but to replicate the punk look I had in high school.
And I like to think I'm not completely stuck in the past: I love Jordan Peele's avant-garde horror flicks, and I was euphoric when I listened for the first time to Lizzo’s new album “Special.”
Even though I mostly write about mental health these days, it makes me happy to see younger generations experiencing what I grew up with.
Allow me to do the most Gen X thing I've ever done, perhaps, which is to end this essay with a quote from Ethan Hawke as the intellectual slacker Troy Dyer from the 1994 movie Reality Bites:
“There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details.”
I hope I’ve grown past that, and if not, that I will. The journey isn’t over yet.
I soldier on, looking for the next bit of culture that I can feel as connected to as the things that brought me here in the first place.
Apparently, at least according to the response to Friday’s newsletter, people out there in the world seem to like groan-worthy Dad Jokes as much as I do.
So, how do I handle the fact that I somewhat paradoxically promised these jokes only to the free members, not the premium members? (Like parents of multiple children, I love you all, but we also know there's a favorite!)
An idea: Let's do this. Let's put together an ebook of the best (worst) Dad Jokes we can find! Let's make it free for premium subscribers!
(Note to Tom, who helps out on every newsletter: We'll talk later today ...)
Winner #1: How do you get a farm girl’s attention? A tractor.
Winner #2: Where do Pirates get their hooks? Second hand stores.
Winner #3: I only get sick on Wednesdays. I have a weekend immune system.
Runner-up goes to Laura Ingalls:
This was my dad‘s favorite joke when I was growing up: Pete, Pete and Repeat were on a boat. Pete and Pete fell out. Who was left? Repeat. Pete, Pete and Repeat were on a boat. Pete and Pete fell out. Who was left? Repeat…
Scott, Greg and Laura, I'll be in touch with a prize. Thanks so much everyone!
7 other things worth knowing today
Biden tests positive for COVID again, will restart isolation (despite no new symptoms). (CNBC)
A series of high-profile security incidents is rattling members of Congress and prompting Capitol security officials to take major steps to shore up lawmakers' security. (Judges too!) Threats against lawmakers have risen precipitously in recent years, and many of them are still reeling from the violence of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Axios)
Pope Francis admitted Saturday he needs to slow down, telling reporters after a six-day trip to Canada that he cannot maintain his pace of international travel—and may have to think about retiring. "I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to save myself a little bit to be able to serve the Church. Or, alternatively, to think about the possibility of stepping aside." (France 24)
Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed communications officer Uhura on the original “Star Trek” series, died Saturday night in Silver City, N.M. She was 89 years old. She once explained that she had planned to leave the show after one season for a career on Broadway, but during a chance meeting with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he convinced her to stay on TV. Bill Russell, the NBA great who anchored a Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 titles, also died over the weekend. (Variety, YouTube, Yahoo Sports)
A new pair of smart glasses has been launched for people who are deaf or suffer from hearing loss. The glasses, called XRAI Glass, use augmented reality to transform audio into captions that are instantly projected in front of the wearer's eyes. (Daily Mail)
Hitler's watch sold for $1.1m in a very controversial sale. An open letter signed by 34 Jewish leaders described the sale as "abhorrent" and called on the Nazi items to be pulled from the auction. (The Independent)
Welcome to the world, George Jetson! Some very dedicated fans of the 1960s TV show believe the patriarch of the clan depicted in the series was written to have been born yesterday: July 31, 2022. So, it's now 40 years, max, until we all have flying cars. (People)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Whoever took that fair use photo on the set of Reality Bits. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here. See you in the comments!