|G-gap filled with baggy pants, tatt’s and piercings
The journey from child to teen to young adult to parent seems to have similar stops along the way for most everyone. My college years were during the “age of stupidity,” as a man I greatly respect refers to the 60s and early 70s. As a love-child, I was thoroughly convinced that I would be a different parent to any children I might have than my parents were to me.
Naturally, I had all the answers. My parents’ tastes in music, fashion, and politics, my Mom’s helmet style hair-do which required weekly visits to the hair salon, were all stupid, old-fashioned and ugly. It was inconceivable to me that they didn’t dig or see how groovy The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, or The Stones were. The fact that most of them died of drug overdoses escaped me at the time. So what if Mick Jagger and his remaining crew are still performing in their 60s, when our generation famously said not to trust anyone over thirty. It seems a lost irony on most of my AARP-aged contemporaries now.
So, when I became a parent, I was sure I would appreciate and respect my children’s tastes because they would probably just be the same as mine. I would enjoy their music, their hairstyles and their fashions. Of course, my brilliance and confidence about the type of parent I was going to be turned out differently. In essence, my parenting was just a repeat of my own parents’ experiences with me! As with most expectations, they disappoint.
First, there was rap, then tattoos and piercings. And, my favorite trend, wearing pants that fall down to the bottom of their butts. While my teen is not allowed to have tattoos or piercings, he makes up for it by coming home with tattoo sleeves penned at school, in class, by various of his friends. A tattoo sleeve, as the word sleeve implies, is a tattoo that covers the entire arm, up to the shoulder. Now, as parents we all know that we have to pick our battles. My teen son knows that tattoos and piercings are not going to happen in our house. In spite of it being against our religion, he’d love to have a tongue piercing, a death skull tattoo or, at the very least huge pierced earrings, as many of his teen friends have at ages as young as 14.
We all watch different screens, in our respective rooms or wherever they happen to be. They can watch movies on a 2-square-inch mobile device. Homework is done while multi-tasking, between texting friends, watching YouTube, and playing guitar. Ultra-violent and horrors movies are among their favorites; anything in black & white is unacceptable.
Watching my teen son pull up his pants to cover his boxers, non-stop, truly mystifies me. Is this really an inevitable part of life’s cycle? I suspect yes. There’s no doubt that parenting today has greater challenges than we presented for our parents’ generation. When I was in elementary school, in the late 50s and early 60s, they could trust that I could walk to and from our nearby public school with total safety; that the music I would listen to then (before the 60s began in earnest) would contain lyrics that wouldn’t corrupt my youthful ears, that the movies I would watch would also have values and heroes and villains that reflected a traditional sense of right and wrong. We watched the same television shows together, as the three networks were our only option, so when The Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan, I put up with the opera singer, the Broadway singer, Topo Gigio and the guy who spun the plates on a stick, before I finally got to see The Beatles and their shockingly long hair. But even with The Beatles, occasionally my parents would appreciate them, like when Paul would sing a song like “Yesterday.”
As for my kids’ music, most of the band’s names alone make me crazy. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to appreciate songs by groups or singers called Napalm Death, T-Pain, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Cannibal Corpse with song titles such as “Crack A Bottle,” “Hammer Smashed Face,” “Evisceration Plague,” “Chopped ‘n’ Skrewed” and “Stanky Legg.”
What happened? I was supposed to be the hip parent where all my kids’ friends would confide in me, say to my boys “wow, your Dad is so cool.” I’d play for them music that they’d never heard of and think it was so terrific, discuss classic movies and television, and have deep political conversations. Not a chance. I get the same rolled eyes and glazed over looks that I gave my parents. I guess it’s karma, it’s payback time, and it’s the inevitable generation gap.
Bruce Sallan was an award-winning television executive and producer for 25 years and is currently a columnist touching upon life experiences as a father. When his boys were quite young, Bruce left show biz to become a full-time dad. Shortly after his marriage ended he found himself a full-time single dad, in his late forties, as well as a returning single man to the changed world of cyber-dating. Recently married, Bruce Sallan lives with his new wife and two sons in California. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.