No, not date as in go on a date, but date as in reveal how old I am.
I'm not a teenager. I'm not even a young adult. I'm at least one generation removed from that age group. Factor in my advanced maternal age of 36 and 38 when I had my two sons and that's an even larger gap.
What's tough as an older writer of contemporary young adult fiction is finding ways to make relatable references to modern life without dating the story on day 1 let alone day 1000. You walk a thin line and it's a bittersweet one as well, knowing your popular culture references are no longer "hip" but are up there with aging Deadheads. And I hope you even know what a Deadhead is...you probably don't because I used the term to refer to those a generation older than me nearly thirty years ago. The wry line in Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" song -- I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac -- that's how it is for me now. A joke nobody gets anymore.
Other examples of references I've been called on or nearly used in error:
1. My kids have no concept of life during the Iron Curtain days, when athletes defected during the Olympics and all we knew of places like the USSR, East Germany, etc. was dystopian and scary androgynous.
2. Manual typewriters are now antiques, even the IBM ball ones. Nobody ever mentions Pica or Elite. We're all over the Times New Roman and Courier. Carbon paper? White Out? What are they?
3. Tonya Harding, Mike Tyson and Bruce Jenner as athletes; O.J. Simpson as an athlete, actor and tried murderer. One beta reader of my very first novel wrote in the margin, "Who is Billy Blanks?"
4. Wall phones and the lack of caller ID. On a university tour with my son, I noticed the distinct lack of any land lines. Makes sense but I gotta say I kind of miss the days when you could dial and hangup on someone just to see if they were home and retain your anonymity. Crank calls were a lot of fun. Kids today don't know what they're missing. Prince Albert in a can anyone?
5. Pong vs. Grand Theft Auto--like comparing Anne of Green Gables to Fifty Shades of Grey.
6. "Playing" outside vs. gaming vs. working out. The first used to encompass the latter two, which today gaming and working out are mutually exclusive unless you **maybe** blow the dust off your Wii Fit.
7. Long skis. When I was learning, the longer your ski, the greater your speed but the greater expertise required to master them. Today those 150 cm length beginner skis work even for the pros...at least the last time I skied. Maybe they've grown longer again. No idea.
8. Skimpy Speedo bathing suits...but only on Olympic caliber swimmers and divers, thank you very much, for the rest of the population, it's good riddance. The bicycle short and long john pants (skintight and made of liquid sharkskin) now prevail.
9. Paper-based banking. I've been paying bills online for years, but it shocked the hell out of me the other day when my ATM no longer took checks via a deposit envelope but by feeding it in like a dollar bill in a vending machine. Actually, the technology is better than that used for vending machines because you can feed a whole stack of checks in. (Yeah, I know...what are "checks"?) I liked it, but the whole thing was still a little disturbing, the whole optical character recognition. Probably should have just scanned it with my cell phone and saved a trip.
10. CDs (albums, 8 tracks, walkmans, boomboxes and cassettes)--music with a tangible element to it. It's all about the MP3 now. Even today's automobiles are more likely to support a USB drive than a CD deck. There are no B-side songs anymore or "deep album cuts". There are no surprise favorites. The album notes and cover scroll across the face of an MP3 player or smart phone now days. There's something wrong about John Cusack holding up a tiny iPhone to play Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes".
What dates you? Share in the comments your examples.
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