So, maybe you’re starting to feel a little bit older.
Maybe you’re starting to sense your forties lying in wait for you, just over the horizon. Hell, maybe you’re just glimpsing your thirties as they begin to come into view and head steadily your way.
Or maybe you’re not feeling “old,” exactly. Maybe you’re just starting to realize that you’re drifting out of the central cultural focus, that the world is courting you, and you in particular, a bit less feverishly than it did a couple of years ago. It happens to different people, at different times, but it happens to everyone — and at some point, that vague suspicion all things youthful aren’t quite fitting you like a tailored outfit anymore coalesces into the realization that you’re … not old, by any stretch, but no longer young.
I can’t tell you when it will happen; I think most of us miss that actual moment. I can tell you, however, the day on which you will realize that it has already happened, and that you did indeed miss the moment when youth withdrew, forever, into your past.
For any pop culture junkie, in any year, that day is the day after the MTV Video Music Awards.
You won’t have watched the VMAs that year. If you’ve any level of taste or maturity, you will have stopped watching them between two and five years earlier, even for ironic semi-enjoyment. You will still have heard of most of the performers and nominees, and maybe like a couple of the featured tunes, but you just really haven’t been able to muster any enthusiasm for the annual proceedings in some time. It’s like that outfit — it hasn’t fit right in a while.
So you won’t know that America’s hype and marketing machines have resolutely quit catering to you on the actual night of the show. It will be the next day, when your newsfeeds are full of recaps and opinions and photos and videos, and when all of those co-workers with whom you never really felt totally okay about going to the bar can talk about nothing else.
Because you’re still a pop-culture junkie, you’ll take a little time to catch up. And that’s when it will hit you: whatever was being expressed or celebrated or sold the night before has nothing fucking whatsoever to do with you. At all.
You won’t be shocked by the teen-pop diva’s spectacularly ridiculous public sexual awakening. You won’t be offended by what passes for music these days. You won’t be surprised that people who have been convicted of a variety of distasteful crimes are as popular as ever. You won’t be amazed by the amount of ass, ass, ass, ass, ass. Those things never really change in pop culture.
You’ll just be disinterested, and maybe a little uncomfortable about your need to even know what happened, and, really, just sort of exhausted by the whole thing.
Because what’s changed is you.
That’s OK, though. It happens to everyone. And I’m having day-after-VMAs cards made next year. We’ll sit on the porch in the dark, and talk about the year Nirvana was on, and make sure nobody messes with the goddamn mailbox, and get through this together.