Susan Walsh posted last week about the frozen margaritas she would make in her younger years, and how they complemented Friday nights with Mr HUS:
“we got in the habit of collapsing after a long work week with a pitcher of frozen margaritas and reggae on the stereo…We’d slurp our drinks and dance, and I always wanted to lead, but Mr. HUS would just stand still with his arms crossed until I stopped misbehaving.”
This is so charming and simple, and for some reason it feels so foreign and strange. I’m telling you, among the educated class in the Millenial generation there is so much damn pressure to be working and learning and growing and – here’s the kicker – being “cool,” that it’s almost bizarre to think a young couple would just drink and dance in their own house and enjoy it.
It’s like a cultural rat race pressing down on my generation. There’s this nonjudgmentalism fetish around the culture, but at the same time there’s so much pressure to not be a fuddy duddy. It even slips down to booze – instead of just drinking, we feel like we need to be drinking fine bourbon or top wine. There’s cultural cachet to watching heady HBO dramas or reading culturally-approved modern pop literature instead of enjoying classics.
Hipsters, of all people, have tried to make valor out of the pedestrian, and it’s not just about their clothes, it’s about their skinny-fit and intentionally-mismatched clothes, their consumption of offbeat culture and music and even their smoking, an intentionally self-destructive behavior that belies their epicurean subculture (it recalls one of Roissy’s later maxims that expendability is a DHV). All the hipsters I’ve met have been pretty nice guys, but on a macro level they are cultural badboys.
Someone at HUS recently mentioned Joan Holloway of Mad Men playing her accordion in an episode. Before the radio, housewives were venerated for their ability to play parlor instruments to entertain the family (creating the market for sheet music that WAS the pre-modern music industry). Today, learning band instruments is another activity of overscheduled kids packing their resumes for college applications.
I notice a lot of poker players in my generation (in a quest for socially-approved expressions of masculinity, with its attendant competitiveness and shit-talking), but also what seems to be a loss of more recreational card games like hearts, cribbage and euchre. My parents love to play cards with us kids and their own parents, it’s just a pastime with no greater meaning. No one laments the loss of time that could have gone into “classier” pursuits. But today card games and board games are seen as geeky and offbeat, a sort of countercultural statement. It’s like mindless fun isn’t OK, you have to put on an expensive wardrobe and buy expensive cocktails and have a soul-crushing night of forced socialization to feel like you’re having socially-approved fun.
I had lunch with a former boss last week, a late Boomer/early Gen X-er with a thoughtful eye towards social trends, and I mentioned what I saw as a pervasive fear of failure among my generation, which I believed was at least partly a fear of letting down our parents - who never let us forget what high hopes they had for us, nor the sense that they were relying on us to carry out and finish the dreams of their youth.
He replied that he had had the exact same discussion several times recently. He added that when he was young, it was understood that young people were going to make mistakes in work and life, that it was part of the growing process – but that today he saw a lot of people defined by their incidental failures with nary a chance to redeem themselves. Which I suppose validates my cohort’s concerns. I shouldn’t have to mention that politics – who know whom – is a big factor in escaping the scarlet letter.
Boomers are alternately lauded and mocked for their idealism, and for the failure of that idealism with divorce, war and economic strife that has followed them in adulthood. What the Boomers passed to my generation was the idealism, but stripped of the knowledge that idealism is messy, that it comes with failure and false starts and with suffering the consequences of your convictions (notice the trend of attachment parenting/helicopter parenting where parents take a direct role in shielding their children from the important lessons that failure and disappointment impart to young people).
Some of my cohortmates have responded to this subtle pressure of expectations with perfectionism, and the eventual neurosis that comes with it – spectacular burnout, depression, bitterness or self-harm.
Some of them, who never even tried to fake the perfectionism in the first place, turn the other way to a sort of primary fatalistic nhilism – a sequence of pornography, promiscuity, junk culture, lack of ambition or a belief that their work can contribute to society, self-medication, profligacy in pursuit of achievable material comforts against unachievable philosophical ones.
This modern neurosis, the first-world problem, of being afraid to get your ego bumped around, has to be scrapped to accomplish things. The only way to go from good to great is to destroy your ego and accept failure as a necessary step on the path – otherwise your self-consciousness and self-flattery will hold you back from seeing the dull points that need to be polished. That means giving up the comfort of things being consistently OK.
When I’m out about town and get rejected or blown out of a set, I immediately turn to the next woman and open her. I process the failure and learn from it, but I don’t let it define me except to become part of the knowledge base I use as experience. Same with a screw-up in my career. Did I do that? OK, I wasn’t born with that knowledge, let’s figure out how to do it right next time. In this way, failing actually moves me ahead of where I was before it occurred.
If we’re not ready as a generation to break out of our control-freaking comfort zones, and not as a society to accept some bumps in the road as the price of a building a capable and well-drilled cohort of people to handle the reins for the next quarter-century, then we’ve devolved and are not much better than dogs or horses, emerging from the womb as miniaturized versions of our adult selves – growing quickly into a vapid, animalistic existence driven by little more than our atavistic instincts and the subconscious social-validation layer that sits atop it.