Sunday, January 18, 2009

Exta Change; or, what to do when itunes recommends Debbie Gibson

18 Jan 09 Sunday

Today while charging my ipod, I was feeling tired of my music and wanted to look for something new; so, I browsed through the itunes recommendations. I feel a bit like I am in a rut, and thought a new song or album might be just the thing to reenergize me. Much to my chagrin, Apple recommended Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth. an album I abhorred when I was one of the youth she was talking to. I laughed at the idea of buying that album for the first time 20 years later. I didn't even recognize any of the songs.

Suddenly, I remembered a conversation I had with a group of my friends in high school when I was 15. We were talking about how sad it was when old people lose their cool (of course by "old" I prolly meant 25). I promised myself I would never be the kind of person who watched VH1. In it's early stages, VH1 was the "old people" channel, maybe it still is. I am not too sure what it is now, a dating service for washed up rock stars? Anyway, I remember promising myself that I would never let myself become too busy, too old, too whatever, to keep track of what was "cool." Of course at 15 I didn't realize that cool ages too. That what is cool for a 15 year-old isn't cool for a 36 year-old (thank god). I didn't know then that my definition of cool would grow up too.

Now, looking back, I don't think that promise was about always being cool. I think is was about being stuck in ruts. I think I was afraid of becoming one of the broken record people. You know who I mean: the ones who get stuck in time and can't seem to escape. I think I was less concerned with staying 15 forever and more worried about becoming a walking talking time capsule of my youth. I didn't want to become stuck. We have all seen those people. The ones that got stuck in an era. Usually 30-something women who look a lot like a much older twin sister to the girl they were in their senior portrait. Curled bangs. Acid washed jeans. Blue eyeshadow worn just so: 1992 personified. I have always been fascinated by these folks. I think it is because their looks often take a lot of effort. I am always pained by fashion victims. But, the ones I hurt for the most are those who have clearly put in a lot of effort. I am not talking about the people who have given up. The ones who slipped into sweats, tennis shoes, and scrunchies. You know the ones I mean.

I find my questions about this phenomenon have not lessened, but they have changed. I used to wonder where they got the clothes. Where do you buy acid washed jeans? Once, I asked my hair stylist what she does when people ask for time stamped hair styles. She said she used to try to suggest more comtemporary styles to her clients, but now she just does it. You want a red poodle perm with mullet bangs? Okay. But really, she said she doesn't have to deal with it all that often because usually those clients have a hair stylist that they have been going to for years.

Now, I wonder less about how they freeze time, and wonder more about why. What is it that makes someone hold on to a time so tightly. What happened to them that they hold onto that version of themselves? What, or who, are they holding onto? It can't be ignorance. It isn't difficult to look around and notice that no one else has mullet bangs anymore. One curl under. One curl up. Spray. Not a look you see all around you. Is it simply that they felt beautiful, confident, sure of who they were and so they just stayed there? Could it be that they stay where they are because they were/are happy?

I am a person who is terrified of ruts. So much so, that sometimes I mistake stability for a rut and have jumped off perfectly sound ships. My biggest fear is stagnation. But, today, as I thought about how there are those who still like Debbie Gibson, even as she keeps insisting that it is "Deborah" now, I wonder if perhaps I am the one who is wrong. Just as my 15 year-old self looked at VH1 people and said "god they just don't get it," maybe those that are "stuck" are holding on to something I haven't found yet: a best version of themselves