Tuesday, November 28, 2006

30 is the New 20

Yesterday I read a review of Jay-Z's new album, in which the 37-year-old "retired" rapper proclaims that "30 is the new 20." The reviewer notes the lack of precedence for aged and experienced musicians in hip hop and wonders whether Jay-Z is really going to convince 16-year-old white kids that he's as cool as whoever the currently cool twenty-something rappers are. I had similar thoughts last year when I bought the newest album by Common, who's been making records since 1992. Rock has its Mick Jaggers and pop has its Chers, but hip hop is so young, and so fundamentally associated with youth, it's hard to imagine how it will age well.

Maybe Jay-Z has it right, though--it's not so much that hip hop is growing up as America is simply refusing to grow up. 30 is the new 20. I can't really compare because I wasn't alive fifty years ago, but I can't help feeling that I'm less of an adult than 27-year-olds were a generation or two ago. Yes, I'm married and I have children, which forces me into more adult roles than some of my unmarried peers take on, but at the same time I'm very concerned with adolescent obsessions like music stars and superheroes, I'm working in poor-paying part-time jobs (the only time I've had a 9 to 5 was the summer before I got married, when I worked for Provo Parks), I'm still more worried about looking cool than I care to admit, and I'm still in school. In my case, it seems education is to blame--the fact that success in the 21st century requires several years of college education lenghtens the purgatory of adolescence in which people are neither children nor adults. In 1906, a librarian would likely be running his own library by 27, not jumping through hoops to get a degree. (Though I'll admit, in 2006 a librarian could have his or her MLIS by 24 if the detours I've taken are avoided.)

In the case of people who don't get married at 22 (read: most people besides me), the extension of adolescence seems to come from a combination of changing expectations (most people nowadays don't get married and start a family before entering their thirties) and unchanging social definitions (perhaps not quite as much as in Utah Valley, but even in Seattle there seems to be some sense that adulthood equals marriage and parenthood). The result is a lot of 37-year-olds like Jay-Z, who may be mocked by younger rappers for wearing Birkenstocks, but still devotes a lot of energy to proving that he's cooler than anyone else and encouraging "strippers and aerobics strippercisers to bounce their asses." I don't know whether the problem is in the changing expectations or the unchanging social definitions, or even if it's a problem at all. I'm living proof that getting married and having kids does not equal growing up.

All I know is that I'd better not be selling fancy dishes to old ladies for barely more than minimum wage when I'm 37.


Th. said...


You and me both, brother.

G'pa Bob said...

I was alive 50 years ago. I think it was the next 10 years during which we young ones voted-in (with our wallets) muscle cars and Elvis and rebels-without-causes and LSD. My wallet was always empty (I worked for $12.50 a day during the early part of it and could occcasionally be seen hitch-hiking 25 miles to get home from work).

Though married-with-children at 23, I grew up emotionally some 20 years after that (around 44).

I wonder if we agree that being grown up means, at a minimum, not contributing to the deliquency of our country and at a maximum actually advancing it as a better place to live? By that I mean advancing the ideals that the Preamble to the Constitution put fourth: a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and all the blessings of liberty for us and our posterity. Liberty oin law, I must add.

My best to you, G'pa Bob

Kristeee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's so funny - until I read your post, I never realized that I don't think of myself as an adult. Hmmm, I'm 25 and married...so perhaps I'm just in denial.

Anonymous said...

I read once that one of the mileposts to cross to achieve adulthood was to cook your own Thanksgiving dinner. I did that at 18, and I felt like an adult.

Now, at 32, I am perfectly willing to let other people cook Thanksgiving dinner, just as long as I can make a pie or two, and I even feel less like an adult.

But, it's nice to know I have eight more years to practice at being a grown-up.

Bawb said...

I have nothing insightful to contribute.

I agree, though.