When It's Finally Hip to Be Square

Let me first start by saying I always hated that song, and Huey Lewis and the News never did it for me.

Not even now, when the use of ’80s music can make a good indie flick even better and more ironic. (Witness 500 Days of Summer, although even that is somewhat dated now.)

I have a lot of friends who still happily set their XM radio to the ’80s on 8 and leave it there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — in fact, research says that what you listened to as a teen stays stuck in your head as a matter of physiology, and not just bad taste — but I like to think I’m still pretty hip.

Key words being “like to think.”

For example, my brother recently texted my husband and me that he was at a fancy schmancy software party and the Black Keys were about to take the stage — were they worth staying for?

Big Daddy and I thought my bro — who is three years younger than me — was pulling our chains. When it became clear he really didn’t know who they were, we couldn’t believe it. After all, the Black Keys tore it up at the Grammys, and didn’t that make them mainstream? Of course we’d first caught them a few years ago, when they were just an early act at a big outdoor music fest….

Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all hip on you there. And believe me, it’s becoming painfully obvious that my continued pursuit of cool is wearing thin. After all, there are many excellent reasons that my bro might not be totally up to date on the charts, including the fact he has two small kids and a job that has him flying all over the world.

And truth be told, that was probably the last big outdoor music fest I’ll go to as a concertgoer, and not as the driver. My kids are thisclose to taking my spot in the mosh pit, and nowadays I prefer my rocking out from a seated position anyways.

Plus there’s plenty of evidence of my waning cool cred in other areas, too. Take for example, my recent return to NYC, the place I lived out my 20s. I was happy to see my old West Village ’hood was even hipper than when I lived there, until I had a drink in the itty bitty bar that was across the street from my old apartment. The two bartenders, each with carefully arranged facial hair and wearing matching form-fitting vests, were clearly annoyed that my friends and I were taking up valuable bar real estate. The $20 “hand-crafted” cocktails tasted like rancid cat piss — seriously, I’m pretty sure I only like basil in pasta sauce and not in combination with alcohol that can rip the enamel off your teeth and double as an antiseptic. And the youngsters looked like extras from the Great Gatsby (a Baz Luhrmann production, coming again… and soon to a theater near you). Ironically rumpled and vintage but luminous and gorgeous anyways. All full of witty one-liners and sexual tension.

This girl is not that kind of girl. At least not anymore.

I knew it when my daughter went through my closet and told me to retire my mini skirts, combat boots, and a slew of worn concert t-shirts.

I felt it at Urban Outfitters when I tired on about 20 pairs of the latest skinny “cigarette” jeans and realized there’s nothing smokin’ about how I look in them.

And I laughed at it on a recent episode of Portlandia, when Roseanne Barr showed up as a temp mayor for Portland, as their actual mayor had suddenly gone off the grid. When she toured the city and noticed a 48-year-old guy on a skateboard, hilarity and inevitable old age jokes ensued. (“When you get to be his age you gotta leave fun behind and start concentrating on retirement and that kinda stuff…”)

OMG, did I just put a Portlandia reference in this blog post? Holy hipster Batman, it’s like a sickness! I can’t stop myself!

But maybe all this grasping at hip straws is just because I really don’t want to leave fun behind.

Then again, my definition of fun is expanding with my middle age waistline.

When I was in high school, you’d never catch me sitting in the front row for an assembly — I was way to cool for that. Cut to the other day, when not only was I clapping along and mouthing the words to the Gershwin tune the jazz band was playing, but I was also seated right up front. Easier to see and hear the kids from the high school my son will be attending in the fall do their thing.

Knowing that he is going to be somewhere that he’s going to have tons of extracurricular options, in addition to great academic opportunities, made me positively giddy.

As we walked around campus, my BBF and I were puzzled by the nonplussed attitude of our kids, particularly in the face of the “welcome incoming freshmen” hoopla that swirled around us. It was all so exciting, and yet all either of us could get out them were grunts and nods that yes, they were at least still breathing.

Too cool for school, I guess.

But later when my son and I were finally alone in the car, I managed to get a few additional sentences about how much he’s looking forward to next year. Normally I launch into a big motherly speech about all I think and hope for him, but this time, I decided to sit back and listen. Play it cool.

And then… awkward silence.

Until Little Black Submarines, by the Black Keys, came on the radio.

“I like this one,” he said.

“Me too,” I agreed.

As the quiet ballad launched into a Led Zeppelin-esque jam, I realized that there’s nothing cooler than having a moment with your kid, bobbing heads in time and kicking out the jams together.

So if you see me blasting the Black Keys in the carpool lane, just know that when my kids get in the car, roll their eyes, and turn the volume down, my work raising their coolness cred is done. And on the parental hipness scale, that’s off the charts, baby!

Now check out the Black Keys and Little Black Submarines — and rock on with your hip self!

black keysgetting my groove backhip mamamotherhoodparenthood