Dirty Thirties and the Land Before Time

We of the era of cassette tapes and no cell phones. When you actually had to fast forward and rewind to hear your favorite song again and again and when you made plans you had to stick to them, because there was no other way to get in touch after you'd left the house. When I was younger, it was hard to imagine what technology would surpass the CD. What new gadget would throw us back to the age of the dinosaurs in the eyes of the new generation? Having only just turned 30, I hardly feel old. However, teaching middle and high schoolers, I've gotten a different perspective. They actually think I'm like... old.

In the Friday activities art class I teach with the art teacher, the group of too cool for school middle school girls constantly ask us question, delivered in that special blase tone of teenagers, "Wait, were you guys around when there were tapes and stuff?" We mention musical groups like The Stone Temple Pilots and Weezer and they stare back with expressions filled with skepticism, clearly doubting that anything we like would be good. Instead, they respond, "When you guys talk about "back in the day," it makes you seem old. Only old people sit and talk about how it used to be." Then a red alarm goes off in my head. "Did they just say old???" I think, "How is that possible??" I came from teaching 1st-3rd grade, who didn't know what age I was, and where I was endlessly cool to my kids for cracking corny jokes and knowing a few of the songs on the radio. Middle school is clearly a tougher crowd.

The art teacher, who has a love for punk music, tries to talk some sense into them. "We're going to start doing music appreciation," he says, "You can't go to art school and listen to Britney Spears or any of that junk. They're going to just make fun of you!" The middle school gaggle stare at him with eyes ready to go into a roll at any minute. They slouch over the table, sharing ipod headphones, hoodies pulled over their heads. I laugh, thinking of the day when they are older and a young teenager says to them, "You were around when there were ipods!! Man you're old!" That will be the day when musical devices are surgically implanted into kids' ears and the mere thought of a song with cause it to play.

The girls continue to sketch out their drawings for the set of Grease- the musical our school is doing this year. They try to imagine the 50s. "Wait, they didn't have cell phones then, right?" they say, trying to envision high school hallways void of texting teenagers. Then one of them asks, "Ms. Varlet, do you like, have any clothes from the 50s?"... and that's when I have to put them in check, "I am not that old," I reply.

Popular Posts