“What is this photo of you doing jello shots?” my Mother asked me at a family gathering last year.
She was scrolling through my Facebook photos on her trusty iPad and happened to come by some shots of my recent birthday party. In my mid-thirties I’m well past the stage of trying to hide anything from my Mom, but I felt the need to offer some context.
“Well, my friend Gala, who has the same birthday as me found out that I’d never done a jello shot and she basically forced me to do one,” I explained to my dearest Mother.
What I didn’t explain is that I was scared of Gala. Yes, I’m a grown man and I’m scared of a woman. Once on Halloween I was dressed in a woman’s sexy kitten outfit, and Gala was dressed as a zebra. Gala often gets quite aggressive when she’s drunk, and I was easy prey. While doing some moves on the dance floor Zebra Gala ended up kicking me in the face, leading me to the bathroom for ten minutes while I tried to stop a profusely bleeding lip. So when she found out I’d never done a jello shot before and insisted I do one, I didn’t try to argue with her.
Sometimes I miss the days before every little single moment was recorded on social media. I come from the last generation who went to college before the social media revolution took off. Which is good, because college is for making mistakes, and realizing what type of mistakes you don’t want to keep making for the rest of your life. Having my college career on the interwebs for a future employer to see would have probably ensured I would have never gotten a job after graduating.
I also come from the first “screen generation”. One of the most thrilling moments of my childhood is when my parents gave in and bought my brother and me a Nintendo. We were obsessed with it, playing Super Mario Brothers and Zelda until our parents cut us off. Luckily, we were also into sports, and we had some exercise regiment to combat the stagnant lifestyle that often comes along with video games. Computers came along later, but up until smart phones and social media were invented they didn’t dominate our lives like they do now.
Yes, I come from the last generation of phone callers and note passers. The generation that remembers calling a girl’s house and the accompanying fear that her parents might answer. And making mixtapes for a girl, poring thought into each and every song. When the only way to access adult entertainment was stealing a Playboy from someone’s Dad, and hope to God you didn’t get caught. When people had pagers, and often used pay phones, and if you were lucky enough you would get a page that read: *69, which means you were going to get some action.
But I had no game then, I didn’t really know how to talk to girls until I was in my early twenties; I was as scared of them as I’m as scared of Gala in a zebra outfit now.
I did have pager, though. A couple of my friends, who were selling dirty brown brick weed, had pagers and I wanted to be cool and have money like them and sell weed. Problem was my Mom. She found the pager and freaked out. “Drug dealers use pagers,” she said.
I thought about trying to angle saying I was just hoping for a “star 69” but that wouldn’t work, and I lost the privilege of a pager.
Part of growing up in my generation means that I was alive when 2 Pac and Biggie were alive; these two rappers were both murdered in their twenties and to this day still remain cultural icons. (Their murders are still unsolved as well. WTF?) Just the other day a 20 year old I work with at my night gig at a local restaurant told me, “Dude that’s so cool, you were, like, around when Biggie was alive, what was that like?”
That could have made me feel old, but I guess I’m too young to feel old just yet. I think its cool that hip-hop is now the oldies, and the original living hip-hop pioneers are now graying and becoming grandfathers.
I do feel blessed that the obsessive recording of every single minute event wasn’t going on when I was young. I don’t need to see what you had for lunch on my Instagram. Speaking of Instagram, this same 20 year old, bless his heart, recently got busted at work for taking shirtless selfies in the bathroom during his shift. When another co-worker, a 16 year old, whose maturity pretty much is the same as the 20 year olds, noticed the photos on his Instagram feed when he was eating his shift meal, he made fun of him (as he should). He also called him out for taking the photo at work. The 20 year old tried to deny it, but the 16 year old called him out, “You’re wearing those same pants and the background is our bathroom,” he said. Busted.
I’ve never understood the compulsive urge to take a selfie, that’s where my generation and the current generation differ, but I can relate to being young and still figuring things out. Lately I’ve been hearing this idea that the decision making part of your brain does not fully develop for a man until around 23 years old (slightly earlier for women). This makes such perfect sense as I get older, and look back on how I lived my life during my first years of so-called adulthood. What a shame this is! We are forced to make many important life decisions before our frontal lobe in our brain fully develops.
These days there are so many more ways to get in trouble than when I was nurturing my young brain in all the wrong ways. Still, I managed to mostly come unscathed, my mind fully intact, and most of the photos of my college mistakes are tucked away in a cardboard box up in my attic.
I can’t say I’m all that different than some of these kids who didn’t know a pre-Facebook world. I like being liked, right swiped, favorited, re-tweeted, endorsed, and tagged. I just also remember the romance when you had to put yourself out there a little bit more, but I doubt any of the girls I made mixtapes for are still holding onto them. It’s an ephemeral existence we are living.
I think the main problem with all this new media and technology is thinking that Instagram photo is more important than the actual moment at hand. My best moments are when I’m away from a cell signal, and thank God those places still exist. Someday they might not. Or maybe some giant crash will happen and we’ll have to go back to the old ways of living. I think the years before cell phones were more romantic anyways. Either way, I’m damn sure I’ll never do another jello shot…unless Gala forces me to!
Check out my books, Climbing Out of Bed, and The Great American Dirtbags