“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut.
I recently walked into a party full of folks I went to high school with and experienced a similar epiphany, though without too much terror.
The party came about when our high school-era garage band, whose members reconnected via Facebook, organized a reunion. The band, comprised of members from two rival high schools and two different classes, succumbed to the seduction of nostalgia and that difficult-to-quash rock star dream. I love them for it. I had blast at the party, and it gave me lots to think about.
As I watched my old friends strut across the stage rocking songs that these days are only heard on oldies’ radio, I realized we’re the folks Vonnegut was talking about.
My generation truly is running the country — made even more apparent by the fact that our new president is our age. The lovely Michelle Obama is my age exactly. We are now lawyers, bankers, teachers, entrepreneurs, managers and artists. Most of us are parents.
While much has stayed the same — our taste in music (“Free Bird!”), our personalities, our ability to imbibe too much bad beer (more on that in a future column), much has changed. I’d wager that the responsibility of parenting has forced a good bit of that change. In a good way, of course. Basically, we’re all fatter but wiser.
Not that I want to talk too much about the ravages of aging, but some obvious differences between us at 18 and us at 45 include more adipose tissue and less hair (less hair’s good in my case. I finally stepped away from the mousse and learned how to use a blow dryer properly). Face it, getting the abs you had back after three kids is like trying to climb Everest without oxygen. And those 25,000 beers we’ve drunk over the past 30 years? Some of them stuck around to pad our middles — making us more huggable, right?
Actually, I was surprised by how great my high school friends look in their mid-40s, although I’ll admit to having my Vonnegut terror moment when I first walked in and thought, “Who are all these old people?” I haven’t seen many of them in 20 or more years, (I left Atlanta in 1988), so these people’s faces reside in my head as they looked as teenagers. Several folks didn’t recognize me, which made me take a hard look at my face the next morning. I realized I like the laugh lines, the wisdom wrinkles, and the cheekbones (where did my baby chipmunk cheeks go? Oh, right. They relocated to my other cheeks), though I could happily lose the chin sag.
The band made fun of their creeping decrepitude by introducing themselves and listing their various ailments: “Hi, I’m John, and I’ve got high cholesterol and I’m recovering from knee and shoulder surgery. And I’m going to slash the heck out of this guitar for two hours.” Yeah, baby. The band also changed their name from their hip ‘80s moniker, Semaphore, to the more appropriate Semaphor(ty) Somethings.
Other changes? No recreational drugs (that I saw), a lot less smoking, and the room started clearing out by 11 p.m. People were, for the most part, dressed simply and not fancily (even though Atlanta is to Asheville as perfume is to patchouli). There was no misbehavior because some of us had to drive, many of us needed a decent night’s sleep and most of us had to get up and care for kids on Sunday morning.
Lots of folks brought their kids to the party, adding to the wholesome atmosphere. We now are those very people we rebelled against all those years ago. We’re the parents — the ones in charge, the responsible adults, the mentors. Oh my God.
A former band groupie’s story illuminates: In their glory days, the band was invited to perform at a school event, with the caveat that they submit a song list in advance. The principal made one deletion — there’d be no playing of Eric Clapton’s iconic ‘80s anthem, “Cocaine.” The band played the song anyway, but supplanted the word “cocaine” with the word “propane.” (Yes, we were geeks).
So when my groupie friend asked, “Are y’all gonna play ‘Propane’ at the reunion party?” The band’s response was, “Nah. There will be kids there.”
We’ve become those at whom we once snubbed our pert noses. I suppose it’s the natural way of things. Yes, we have clogged arteries and sagging muscles, but it’s our turn to be in charge. We’re raising kids who may be laughing at daddy’s mid-life crisis rock band (cheaper than a new car or a girlfriend), but with luck and some guidance, they’ll be here one day too, strutting across the stage of life, waving at their kids, who are sitting in the audience waiting for their turn on stage.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.