I’m off the train to cool town, and I love it

I was at dinner a few weeks ago when the cold hand of approaching death smacked me in the face.

The blow came as I looked at a picture of my husband’s friend, a guy I’d last seen 20 years ago.

“He looks so … old,” I thought.

Then, a horrifying addendum popped into my brain.

Do I look old, too?

I laughed nervously and glanced at a nearby mirror. The woman who looked back had gray hair and a body that no longer can be mistaken for that of a 22-year-old.

But old? No way.

I admit, having young children doesn’t help. Compared to them, I’m ancient, born in a time before cellphones and YouTube.

I remember watching a network TV show with my kids when suddenly one of them gave me a strange look.

“Why did the show stop?” he asked incredulously, having only watched shows on streaming services like Netflix, a seamless experience without interruption. “What’s this?”

“That’s a commercial,” I said, realizing that he had never seen one before, and I felt as old then as an abandoned Cabbage Patch doll, as old as a dried-up bottle of CK One.

Yes, there are plenty of people older than me — to most members of Congress, I probably seem as fresh-faced as one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends. But I’m still rapidly approaching the time when I’ll demand my kids get in here and help me figure out the remote.

One day soon I’ll be old enough that I’ll look at the lineup for a music festival, a Lollapalooza or a Coachella or whatever excuse young adults are using to drink too much and engage in ill-advised copulation, and I won’t recognize a single performer’s name. They’ll just be long lists of bands like Doctor Peppercorn and the Cheshire Lightnings, meaningless nonsense.

I’m not far away from that now. I already avoid music venues unless there’s a solid chance of being able to sit down.

I’ve always said that being cool is like riding a train. You’re watching the scenery go by, the hip music and movies and fashion, and you’re participating in coolness. You still occasionally pick up a new band and you’ll buy the “it” fashion items like crop tops or mom jeans. You refer to cool things as “based” and spend $200 to dye your hair from brown to gray.

You’re with it, you’re moving, you’re motoring right along.

Eventually, though, you must pick a stop. You must get off the train.

Doing otherwise is just too exhausting. There are too many things to do as an adult and the last thing you have time for is combing TikTok looking for the latest trends in AI DJs.

So, you’ll exit the train, maybe accidentally, maybe a bit wistfully, maybe intentionally and joyfully. Your hair will start looking dated and they’ll start playing your music on the “classic rock” radio station.

You’re officially uncool, forever, unless your clothes accidentally come back into style.

You’re off the train.

Maybe even using a “train” analogy dates me. I should use Uber or electric skateboards or exploding Teslas.

But you get the point. One day you’re with it, the next day you’re acid-washed jeans and mall bangs. Or maybe those are back in style. I have no clue. Because I got off the train years ago.

And that’s fine, because the alternative isn’t great. It’s tough to be young forever, and I don’t have the energy I once had.

There’s something encouraging about knowing where you belong, telling someone through your clothes and hairstyle and music where you came from.

Getting older isn’t that bad.

Honestly, it’s only looking at the pictures that stinks.


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