Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I am not hip.

Just the fact that I use that expression proves my point, doesn’t it? No one uses the word hip anymore, except to discuss aches and pains and joint replacements. And I’m willing to bet that no one under the age of 40 uses hip that way either.

When I was much younger, we used to say that you couldn’t trust anyone over 30. They were necessarily “square,” and certainly not “hip.” Times have changed a little, but I still would not look for hipness in most baby boomers these days, unless they have grandchildren willing to show them the way. Alas, I am well over 60 and have no grandchildren yet. Which helps to explain why I am not hip.

Several recent experiences have demonstrated my “unhipness.” A few weeks ago, I was doing some stretches in a small room in the gym. The only other person in the room was a young African American man moving gracefully to music exploding out of a portable CD player. I loved the music, which I hadn’t heard before, and I took a risk. I walked up to ask the young man who the singer was. The look he gave me was withering, and the way he said “Rihanna” proved just how out of touch he thought I was.  

Then last week I spent a day at the local middle school, talking with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders about writing and about my newest books. The highlight of the day for me was a lunchtime gathering with 20 students who volunteered to share sandwiches with a writer. Things were going well until one student asked, “Who is your favorite singer?” This is a question that truly tests one’s hipness. My mind raced through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. Somehow I flashed on the name “Bruno Mars,” and offered him up. When I got the reply, “Oh, he’s pretty good,” I knew I had passed the first test. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

I began talking about a writing project I had coordinated in the mid-1980s, where I hired a group of talented children’s writers to develop small picture books and (aging person alert!) cassette tapes for pre-readers. I noted that one of the writers developed scripts for Reading Rainbow (which has luckily been around long enough that even these 11-13 year olds knew it). That scored me a small point. But I kept going. Another writer, I told them, had worked for a former Nickelodeon show made in Canada called “You Can’t Do That on Television!” Sure that show was old, but I thought I could make it relevant by noting that it featured a teen pop singer and actress named Alanis Morissette, who, as far as I knew, was still around making music. Nothing, Just blank stares. Not hip!

Alanis, then and now
I could go on, but I think I have made my point. Reaching the age that I have now reached doesn’t mean just losing my hair and maybe eventually losing my mind. It means having to pass tests almost every day to see just where you fit, culture-wise. I have concluded that I may still be cultured, but I am not hip.

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