In a recent Salon.com article Amy Reiter interviews Sandra Tsing Loh, author of a book called "Mother on Fire" about the state of U.S. school system from the perspective of a freaked-out parent conditioned to fear public schools. But Loh also offers a dead-on summary of the experience of growing up in today's post-boomer, media-soaked, vaguely entitled age:
I think it's partly a generational thing. I'm 46. In our 20s, women in my generation, we all wanted to be Laurie Anderson. "Oh, she's playing violin on roller skates on an ice block in New York City and going directly from that to her Warner Bros. 'O Superman' tour." So we thought that's what you do: You stay true to your own artistic principles, you don't compromise anything, and then you end up with a giant record deal, all this money and a fashion spread in British Vogue. You go to college, don't get married, don't have kids, become Laurie Anderson, make all this money and sing your song. And then our 30s came along, and reality set in.
I can't speak for the people I went to high school and university with, but this sums up the attitude so many of us had in our youth. Most of all we were convinced of our specialness. We thought that the world would unfold around us in a way that would bring us our deserved destinies. I didn't want to be Laurie Anderson, but I wouldn't have said no to being Lou Reed (bah bah bah satellite of loooove) or Tom Waits or Thomas Pynchon or whoever. And that's not to say that I still couldn't achieve something grand, but somewhere along the way we all twig to the fact that we are uniquely, splendidly ordinary. We are not exempt from chance, stupidity, tragedy and the consequences of staying out all night. My back surgery, my wife's cancer, our shared struggles to find a proper direction in life, have shown us what it means to be ordinary, to be an adult in an unpredictable world. It is a kind of gift, even if it's one that my teenage self does not want to unwrap. And now that we've put on the ugly sweater vest of ordinariness, I think we can move forward.
That being said, I think the most important thing to take away from this post is that I read Salon.com. I also chuckle at McSweeney's, peruse the New York Review of Books when I'm of a mind to, eschew grocery store chains for the charming organic market, and of an evening I enjoy a nice pipe and the finest pornography that the mid-eighties had to offer.