Wednesday, May 12, 2004

time, time, time, see what's become of me

For my friend Julie, who has been thinking about the passage of time:

Moving on from 'young and hip' doesn't necessarily mean moving into 'old and unhip'... it just means finding a new label, if you require one, for the fire within you that you previously thought was the mark of your youthful hipness. You should find some joy in the realization that you were wrong, the whole time, about the connection between spirit and age... something you've proven by being someone who defies your own definitions. Let them go.

There's not really anything you can do about the current batch of young hipsters who feel the same way you did when you were their age... right now, the joke is on you, but give them another 20 years and they'll figure it out as well.

When I was at university I never really thought about my age; I always just assumed I was one of the crowd. I should note that aside from people who are very young or very old, I can't really tell the age of most humans by looking at them... if I try to guess, I might be off by a decade or more, which tends to piss just about everyone off, so I don't even try anymore. So there I was, blissfully unaware that in reality I was about a decade older than most of my peers, to all of whom this age discrepancy was quite apparent.

I studied Japanese as hard as I studied calculus... I actually studied and practiced the dialogues that we would pair up and deliver in front of the class. My dialogue partner was a young woman who never studied; she was very afraid of speaking in front of other people and had apparently decided that if she didn't learn the words, she couldn't be forced to say them in front of the class, so her part of the dialogue usually consisted of staying silent until the teacher said the line for her. There was always a freeform Q&A period afterwards where the teacher would ask us questions pertaining to the dialogue and we would reply in Japanese; this was the roughest part for my partner, who would usually just blush her way through it saying as little as possible.

As the term came to an end, my dialogue partner had progressed to the point where she could usually break through her embarrassment enough to squeak out a word or two, but overall she was very insecure and had learned very little, and it was rare that she would complete a whole sentence in Japanese. One day the subject matter of the dialogue was 'dating', and during the Q&A session the instructor (who had given up on getting my partner to speak, resorting instead to asking her questions that were likely to make her squirm even more) asked my partner if she would ever go on a date with me. For a moment the poor girl looked terrified, but then in the most assertive voice she had managed all term, without the slightest trace of embarrassment or hesitation, in perfectly flawless Japanese, she said "oh, no... he's much too old."

Hrmmph. Young people... what the hell do they know anyway?