i want to be forever young

I struggle with getting older. Part of this is that, as a woman in modern Western society, I become more invisible the older I get. (A friend of a friend addresses this phenomenon in her comedy series, in which a woman’s age cannot even be heard). The rest of it is the fear of irrelevance. My sister in law remarks that she looks forward to being the kind of crone that yells at kids to get off her lawn. I have no problem with being an old cranky biddy telling people to remove themselves from her lawn (provided that it’s just a mild annoyance and not a climate change driven fight for precious garden related resources), but I do have a problem with the several decades that lies in between here and then.

Granted, irrelevance is not exactly a threat to me I’m GenX. Right now, GenXers have the most disposable income by household of any age group. Everything is reboots and nostalgia for our youth. It’s Nirvana shirts and 90s nights, brown lipstick and clunky boots, and constant, constant reboots of Ghostbusters. Most recently, it’s the show that taught an entire generation and a half of women the narratives through which to filter our relationships, for better or worse, the Sex & The City Reboot, aka The Great HBOMax Cash Grab. And I was here for it, even though I expected the show to make me feel even older than I already do, as I confronted the ages of the actors I last saw when they were the age I am now, a decade ago in the horror show that was the second movie.

And then I actually watched the show and came out of it feeling younger (note, not Younger, although I do love that show too). The central characters of SaTC have calcified into relics of the late 20th century. This is no doubt a key plot point, because they’re going to now evolve over the next ten episodes in Very Special Life Lessons where they will hopefully stop dumping their emotional garbage, guilt and microaggressions over every LGBTQ+ and BIPOC person available. (Miranda, I am so disappointed in you for constantly expecting your professor to validate your newfound wokeness!) Still, the central theme of the first two episodes seemed to be the women all saying “look at this crazy modern world where people listen to podcasts and also expect us to be all woke!”

What irritates me about this depiction of women in my generation and societal situation, is that there is a level of privilege and entitlement to not move past the era you came of age in. One has to be a person of means to be able to insulate yourself against a changing world. It annoyed me how the show was written in a way that kept the characters from having experienced discomfort or challenge. I realize we are all coming out of COVID, and we have all reached for comforting materials, whether that is a blanket, or our favorite album from the late aughts, but what about the fifteen years prior to COVID-19? There’s a level of discomfort to change that is to no one’s advantage to miss out on, and yet, these women seemed to have avoided any and all growth since 2004.

I am, however, the most smug about the contrast between how I spend time listening to my husband and how Carrie and Big spent their time listening to music. They spent their time listening to his record collection of music from the 1970s – which was depicted as a pretty serious wall of vinyl. My husband and I do much of the same thing, where we spend time listening to music together. In fact, we had been doing that on Wednesday night. The difference is that we had been listening to new bands, because we were debating whether we wanted to go out to either Mercury Lounge for WINGTIPS at Red Party or whether we wanted to go out to St Vitus to see Nuovo Testamento and Blu Anxxiety, all of which are new bands to us, even though they have nostalgic sounds.

Yes, I am listening to a playlist called Coffin Candy and proud of it.

I reflect a lot in my blog on the line between appropriate and overly consuming nostalgia, on how to differentiate between healthy reminiscing and an overdependence on the comfort inherent in the past. Avoiding the present and future is sometimes necessary for survival, and there’s times when the comfort in nostalgia is what it takes to get through the day. As proof of this, Spotify tells me that my favorite artists in 2021 are almost exactly the same as they were in 2006 (The Birthday Massacre, VNV Nation, Apoptygma Bezerk, BT and Hybrid. So perhaps it is a bit hypocritical of me to disagree with the way that a roomful of writers somewhere chose to depict women in their fifties as clinging to the comfort of the narrow views of their past, instead of moving out into the world.

Still, women in my generation have always expected these characters to represent us, to be our avatars on television. We expected them to speak for us in a way, to give us a narrative voice. I feel disappointed that their worlds, even their experiences of New York City, seemed to grow smaller, shrink wrapping them into views and relationships and experiences that seem reduced in scope. We are curious when we’re young, when we look for experiences that challenge us and grow our perspective. We agree to become irrelevant when we stop participating in the world around us so we can remain ensconced in the comfort of a fixed worldview.

Therefore, it makes me feel younger to not be represented anymore by the SaTC characters. They speak for women in a different place than where I am, and what I hope is a different place from where I will be in twelve years when I am in my mid-fifties. I hope my experiences between now and then will continue to make me think about all the perspectives I took for granted. I hope I’ll be able to keep up with technology. I hope I’ll still listen to new music and read new books. I hope I’ll go out into New York City able to take in and hear from the millions of narratives that make up this city, not just the stories of the people most like me.

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