“J&B. You always come back to the basics.”– whiskey print ad
It’s not everyday you realize that you’re a lot more conservative than your parents.
It’s enough to make you think about the teenage rebellion years when you took great pride in being irritated with them, and them towards you; thinking that your newfound ‘identity’ will somehow liberate you from the perceived ‘squareness’ and rigidity of the old folks that you live with. Along with that cocky certainty that whatever you’re becoming is certainly an obvious improvement over them. Hence the “devil-sounding” loud music and perpetual ‘I hate everyone’ scowl.
Puberty is like that, apparently. And I wish I could tell every little kid I come across that you can outgrow it, and eventually live a life free of turmoil, insecurity and indecision. But like what Kevin Spacey said in that Sam Mendes movie, I don’t want to lie to them. Least of all to my own son.
I don’t know about the rest of the population who belongs to the same age bracket as I do, but I still feel like my mental age is that of a perpetually stuck up 15 year old who still sneaks up to his father’s belongings hoping to get a glimpse of those nudie rags that cannot be saved from an adolescent with raging hormones even if it were hidden in an underground bomb shelter.
Of course there’s the job and financial concerns—typical headaches for the ‘matured’, grownup, and productive member of society. The office clothes meant to distance you from the ratty ones you still prefer because it made you look like your favorite rock star or your 15 year old self, the social graces that are expected of a person of a certain age, and the social pressure from both peers and your own bloated ego to make something out of yourself and be recognized by society as someone who ‘made it’. Then post whatever you have accomplished in social networking sites and feel miserable again after your temporary gloating and the adoration from people who wants to see you drop dead more than anything else in the world for dumping something on top of their own egocentric post in the damned newsfeed.
And stepping in the very platform my own parents found themselves a long time ago—young adults starting a small family—I can accurately conclude that I am, in many ways, more uptight and rigid than they ever were. Not so much in terms of the many truths or ideals that I cling to, but mostly in the kinds of decision I make and how I carry myself with the people around me. If you put me and my then-30ish father in the same stage, you’d look at him and think he’s a cool laidback guy with his roundneck shirt, his khakis and rubber shoes and me as a flat-topped, tie-wearing Republican horn-rimmed conservative, complete with the pens in the shirt breast pocket, black trousers pressed, and newly shined shoes .
Lightyears from the grunge thing I was trying so hard to emulate back in the day.
That’s about the closest approximation or description that I can come up with in terms of our different orientation or preference in life. That sons aren’t necessarily carbon copies of their fathers (or mothers for that matter). And my mother, who, for all appearances and demeanor, would readily strike you as a traditional fundamentalist by virtue of all the Catholic accouterments she’s had with her since childhood—a bishop for an uncle and a succession of attending a string of Catholic schools during the strict, conformist society of the 50s—is anything but. Simply put, my parents are more relaxed and—God help me—more daredevils in terms of decision-making than their own son. I tend to over-analyze things to the point of immobility, but my mother has a tendency to just say ‘fuck it’ and disregard any thought about the possible consequences as long as a decision was made. Part of it is their own personalities but I suspect going through their impressionable years during the late 60s when the hippie counterculture arose as a protest against the rigidity and strict conformity the previous generation hammered its youth made a big impact on them.
Both embraced the sudden, radical intellectual flareup that came through in science, spirituality, modern philosophy and various art media like music (The Beatles experimenting with mind-altering substances and abandoning their cutesy boy-band image), literature, and lifestyle during that time. All the rules of the strict, almost puritanical era they grew up from suddenly flew off the window heralding a new age where you are the master of your own life; and giving the finger to whoever told you how to live it. While I’m proud of being a member of Generation X, I always envied the Baby Boomers. Theirs was the coolest.
This is the same carefree attitude and willingness to jump off a plane without belaboring if the chute might open or not that defined them even when they had a quasi-rebelious adolescent in their care. For all its purposes and appearance, a parent is a parent. Even Ozzy Osbourne, with his fondness for biting heads off bats onstage and defecating on some asshole’s car hood, is a parent. And to most children on the onset of puberty, parents defined what you do not want to become. Rock star or famous personality be damned. At least in my observation and experience.
But my mother had a little theory (Or not. She probably read it somewhere.) she told me several years ago when I was already in college. That your children will grow up to become what you’re not. Or glaring opposites of who you are in a very significant way. Not in terms of career paths, or way of living, or even financial strength or weakness. But on the general perception of things; or the real person underneath all the bullshit, glamour and façade you show to the world. There’s no right or wrong about it, just different. She added that my own offspring/s will exhibit the same characteristics. It’s just the way things are, apparently. I didn’t pay much attention to it then.
Guess that explains the whole rebelling against your parents thing. And here we are. Overly critical and trying hard to make it through with the least amount of controversy for my actions. My father was quite the rock star himself during his time; inviting conflicts from his outputs that didn’t sit well with the dimwits he worked with because of his uncompromising stance in his art. While I turned into the ‘you breakum, we fixum’ Mr. Rogers prototype of a long forgotten era that espoused this very same stance in life. That little conversation with my sister confirmed that, yes, even they think I’m more conservative than they are. And again, there’s no right or wrong about it. Just confirming a basic truth about people and their children.
You go, my boy.