“DERP?!?” The word leapt out of the conversation slapping me in the face like a wet fish. My co-workers turned to look at me quizzically. “What does derp mean?” I asked.
“It means to mess up or do something stupid,” replied the expert who had just used it. She went on to explain that she was the mother of teens and so had “learned the lingo”. For a moment, I felt like I was an archeologist marvelling at an ancient relic that provided insight into a hidden culture. Then a realization hit me: I am the ancient relic.
When I was younger I always thought that I would grow up and stay cool. I wouldn’t be one of these adults who lost touch. I wouldn’t have trouble communicating with teenagers. I would be the cool relatable adult in my Polo shirt and stonewashed jeans smoking my pipe and trading jibes with the youth (a bit creepy but that was my picture of a cool adult when I was a teen). One “Derp” later and I realized that not only had I lost my groove but I didn’t even really want to get it back. I didn’t have a desire to learn and then use sentences like the following:
“I’m gassed about the Bieber concert. His songs are so H. It’s going to be tite!”
(Translation: I am excited to go the musical performance of Justin Bieber. His songs provoke intense emotion and I think the experience will be worthwhile and enjoyable.)
“I can’t believe you photobombed me in that shirt! You are such a noob! Well, I gotta bounce.”
(Translation: Your choice of apparel has ruined the photograph we were taking. You are not current in your taste or understanding of trends. I need to hasten my departure.)
I felt like I would sound like an alien trying to use these phrases. I was sure that it would come off as lame and only reinforce my “noobiness” (see? I can make up words too).
That isn’t to say that I am not a trend follower. I just resist some things for awhile before caving into them. It took me a couple of years to finally join Facebook and it wasn’t until I was bored at last year’s Superbowl halftime show (sorry Madonna) that I finally joined Twitter. I learned to resist brand names at a young age when my Dad was forcibly choosing my wardrobe at an Army and Navy store. The next day I showed up at school and was made fun of for wearing a “fake” Batman logo sweatshirt. Something was wrong with that system and I decided that I was not going to let brand names and media dictate my choices. Wishful thinking.
While it’s true that to this day I still disdain clothes with a brand name splashed across them, I have definitely become more of a slave to fashion than before. While living in Thailand years ago, I was influenced by the attention paid to style that I saw in the young adults there. There was a definite European influence that was ahead of the trends in Canada and stood out from the sloppy hoodie and jeans style back home. I began to enjoy expressing myself through my clothing. That coupled with how cheap (and copyright infringing) everything was there led to an inordinately large shoe and watch collection. Not being afraid of my feminine side (I believe the term is metrosexual) means that I can get excited about new shoes or a funky tie.
However, as much as I would like to think of myself as an individual, I must admit that I am still heavily influenced by marketing and a desire to fit in. Take the case of my recent phone purchase as an example: It was the classic showdown between Apple and Android. I debated the pros and cons ad nauseam. Back and forth the battle raged – quality, freedom, customizability, camera quality, speed and on and on. In the end, Android triumphed for me. I don’t like how proprietary Apple is and a few features exclusive to my Nexus swung it for me. I am very happy with my decision yet the incredible branding of Apple has continued to tug at my conscious periodically. Their commercials and brand just come across as, well, cool. Their fanboys are so smug and so many people have them that sometimes I wondered if I made a mistake. Then I shake my head and smile at how much I am influenced by trends and peer pressure.
As I get older, I still have a desire to stay hip and young. My age sometimes sneaks up and surprises me like an unexpected weather pattern or hunger pains an hour after a meal. It’s sometimes hard to believe I’ve crossed 30 and I feel like I am straddling the line between cool thirtysomething and try-hard lame-o. I want to age gracefully but I also want to keep my “cool”. So, despite the fact that I seem to be on a one way trip towards middle age I can still express myself and stay connected to the trends and language that are meaningful to me. I may not fit in with teenagers (nor want to) but it doesn’t mean that I have to say last rites to “cool”. Now if I could just fit into some skinny jeans...
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