There are few things on earth I loathe so much as the Mindset List.
It comes out every year to remind me of my gradual march towards cultural irrelevance and the grave.
I dread the former more than the latter.
Released by Beloit College, this list of 75 things that rising freshmen have always known or felt will make you feel comparatively ancient. I am just 6 years older than these people! But after finishing the list, I went hobbling over to this keyboard, wheezing heavily, to live out my last days in peace and quiet.
But this was to be expected. As a society, we age faster now. We live longer, of course. But we become unwelcome sooner. You do not see people lavishing care on their six-year-old brick-shaped cellphones. They do not come staggering in to the cell-phone repair shop (what an idea!) begging you to fix the original RAZR, if you can, at any cost. No! Newer is better! Gone are the days when you might have the same radio or dress or cotton gin for decades. Or whatever it was they had in the past. I am trying not to learn, lest people assume I was there.
Age is no longer the mark of wisdom and excellence. It is the mark of advertiser indifference.
I can say that. I am, at 24, an old curmudgeon.
I intend to spend the next six months filling out consumer preference studies while advertisers are still willing to listen to me.
Everyone seems to have an eye on the door, waiting for someone younger and more interesting to waltz in. “You remember *NSYNC,” they say. “You have strong associations with them. You aren’t our target any more.”
You're only as old as you feel, in which case I'm about to expire.
I remember the moment I realized you could talk to people born after 2000 and they might answer.
Or the equally bizarre moment when it dawned that I remember music from a decade different than the one I’m in.
Or that “The O.C.” has been off the air for . . . years.
There are several stages of grieving for your youth. I am in the stage where you moisturize constantly and spend a lot of time lurking outside middle schools, yelling, “WHAT’S HIP? TELL ME THE THINGS THAT ARE HIP!” as the kids walk to the bus.
I hate young people. They have such elan and they will be so fit when the Singularity comes.
But there is an upside to the Mindset List. It points out all the things the Class of 2016 does not remember. For instance, Kurt Cobain has always been dead. They don’t remember the Clinton presidency. Women have almost always been secretaries of state. They don’t use the radio. They’ve never had encyclopedias. “The Twilight Zone” has vampires, not Rod Serling. (“I’ve seen quite a few ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes,” countered some 18 year-old named Thorin Blitz to the Associated Press.)
But think about it this way.
Old age has always had one perk: the opportunity to lie to the young about the past with impunity. After all, they weren’t there. What do they know?
We can talk up the things they don’t remember. “Ah, telemarketers,” we can say. “Wonderful people! They used to call you during the dinner hour and engage you in just about the most interesting chat you can imagine.” Or dial-up Internet! (“Delightful, and so fast. The only reason old Web sites are just giant blocks of text is because we LIKED it.”) We can praise pencil sharpeners. (“There’s nothing like a good pencil sharpener! I could sharpen for hours, and the point would never break off the pencil, not a single time!”) We can even embrace the traditional insistence that politics were more congenial, fashions more flattering, and music catchier, back in Our Day. We read books then! Books we bought in actual bookstores! We sent cheery musical e-cards and people actually were impressed by them, briefly. Some of us even had AOL addresses.
Anything could have happened then, in those halcyon days when the grass was greener and the hipsters scarcer.
The only trouble is that now there’s a record. Those Angelfire web pages we made in our salad days still lurk on the Internet somewhere. And these whippersnappers can find them! So much for the joys of a bad memory. We can barely make up stories about our own pasts.
At least we hold one advantage over the Class of 2016. As soon as they were old enough to be on Facebook, there was a Facebook to be on. We had to wait for it to be invented! And nothing can take that away.
Except possibly Timeline.