Sunday, March 25, 2007 posted by Jen at 3/25/2007 05:13:00 PM
True confession: I am not hip. I am pretty much where hip goes to die.
The hip boat sailed many years, many pounds, and many, many hours of labor ago. It’s okay, because hipness was never a quality to which I aspired. I was thrilled to get married, because it meant that I wouldn’t have to go out any more – not ‘go out’ as in ‘go out with different guys,’ although there was plenty of relief in that, too, but ‘go out’ as in ‘stay out late in noisy, smoky clubs pretending to appreciate whatever band people my age were supposed to like.’”
My idea of heaven on a Saturday night is a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and a TiVo’d episode of “Rome.”
I’m not sure my husband knew this about me when we plighted our troth. Then again, he waited until after he’d stomped on the glass to reveal that he was a Mathlete in high school. As far as I’m concerned, we’re about even, and most of the time, I don’t even notice how utterly lame I am until someone (my brother, my sister, a journalist) goes out of his or her way to point it out.
Anyhow, with my birthday approaching, my husband, no fool he, felt the need to Do Something. At my behest, he got out his credit card, and bought us two tickets to see Meat Loaf on Saturday night.
Yes, I like Meat Loaf. And meat loaf. Shutup.
We took the train to 40th Street, then took a shuttle bus to the Tower Theater. About ten blocks into the trip, I noticed that the other passengers were people in their twenties, the women with septum piercings and hair dyed the flat black of old vinyl, the guys in thrift-store plaid suits.
“They’re not going to the Meat Loaf concert, are they?” I whispered.
My husband said they were….just as one of the fellows in the plaid suits bellowed “Meat! Loaf! Whooooo!”
“They’re hipsters,” he whispered.
“Whoo!” went the hipsters. I cringed against the window.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “They are a gentle people! Sincerity is their Kryptonite!”
I snuck glances at the hipsters. “So they like Meat Loaf, but ironically?”
The hipsters got off the bus and announced that they were going to find a bar. Adam and I bought bottled water and found our seats. I looked around. The non-hipster portion of the audience was full of people even older than the two of us: plenty of high-waisted Mom jeans and scrunchy’d hairdos (and those were just on the men! Ba-dum-bump!); plenty of couples who looked like they wouldn’t be repairing to the nearest club after the encore, but would be hurrying home to pay the sitter. In other words, my people.
I felt old. Also, tired. And increasingly, painfully, cringingly uncool.
The lights went down. Meat Loaf took the stage. “The year is 1977,” read the video displays. “And it was Paridise by the Dashboard Light.”
At which point, I realized I am so old and uncool that not only am I unironically attending a Meat Loaf concert, I am so old and uncool that I am worried about the spelling on the video displays at a Meat Loaf concert.
We left at intermission. I suck.
I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’m finishing up another round of revisions on CERTAIN GIRLS.
Part of the plot involves Cannie Shapiro writing a novel, which becomes emblematic of what is known, in her fictional universe, as a “girlie book” (aka, chick lit, which I just couldn’t bring myself to type the requisite number of times).
As part of the research, I’ve been reading a lot of reviews of chick lit, and have noticed a troubling trend: when a well-respected, older, female author or critic girds her loins, holds her nose, and wades into the chick-lit thicket, it isn’t enough for her to say that the book’s no good (although that happens plenty).
It isn’t enough for her to imply, if not state explicitly, that the book is no good and the author’s somehow morally suspect, too (although that also happens a lot).
In many cases, the critique of the book bleeds into a critique of its readers, in which the affronted critic declares that the women who are reading that kind of book or living that kind of life are a bunch of pitiable idiots – a pack of navel-gazing, name-brand-obsessed, boy-crazy bimbos who should be taken out back and shot…or at least poked vigorously with their Jimmy Choos, presumably until they promise to only read books that the critic approves of, or has written herself.
That kind of those-crazy-kids eye-rolling left its greasy fingerprints all over Maureen Dowd’s recent pink-book-bashing column (“You girls today! Listen to me and my famous friend Leon Wieseltier! Quit reading about girls and shopping! Read about boys and war instead!”)
It showed up back in 2005 (when Dowd’s column might have been a tad more relevant) in Gail Caldwell’s review of Melissa Bank’s THE WONDER SPOT, when Caldwell writes that the book “will appeal to a whole stratum of readers, most of them female and young, who have traded in plenty of Matthews for Neils and still wonder about Chris, and who haven't found their way either out of Manhattan or into a publishing contract. What did the world do before the ChickLit (sic) phenomenon? More germane, what were all those young women immersed in? Some of them were probably reading ''Bright Lights, Big City" and thinking, Hey, I could do that. Yikes.”
Yikes, indeed. Who do these girls think they are, trading in their Matthews for Neils and thinking they can write books just like boys do? More germane, how dare they think they could approach the literary Olympus that is Jay McInerney? To the back of the bus with you, missy!
But the worst example I’ve come across recently showed up in Carolyn See’s pan of Jill A. Davis’ ASK AGAIN LATER.
“Think about chicks for a minute,” See instructs. “They are the nameless girls who wait for boys to finish their interminable rehearsals in awful garage bands. They are the wives who accompany their husbands to business dinners and the next day someone ducks into the husband's cubicle and asks, "How's the missus?"
They are the young honeys who get whistled at on the street and get mad about it, and then the workers stop whistling and they get sad about it. Chicks will grow up to be old ladies who send supermarket greeting cards and newspaper clippings that aren't relevant to anything. Chicks never get to have it their own way….But not in chick lit! Because these stories belong to the chick. Everyone else in the cast of characters exists only to glorify and valorize the chick….Being a chick means you have a shelf life from about 13 to 30. Then it's anonymity forever.”
At first, I was, I”ll admit, a little hurt….and more than a little perplexed.
Am I really almost seven years past my sell-by date? How did I miss out on the boyfriend in the garage band? Why am I not accompanying my husband to business dinners? Is anybody asking him “how’s the missus?” Does anyone our age say “how’s the missus,” except ironically, any more?
Have construction workers quit whistling at me? Did construction workers ever whistle? Should my books feature characters whose husbands are asked “How’s the missus?” who fret about construction workers’ approval and worry as much as See seems to worry, about getting old?
And who wants to imagine herself, thirty years hence, sending out irrelevant greeting cards and newspaper clippings?
But then it hit me: this poor dame is so arrogant and deluded that not only does she think she possesses the power to sum up an entire gender and generation of readers, she actually believes that, thirty years from now, when we chicks are old and gray (or middle-aged and menopausal), there will actually be newspapers from which to cut our clippings.
Whew. I’m feeling a lot less lame now. Thank you, smart lady author Carolyn See!
Welcome to A Moment of Jen, author Jennifer Weiner's constantly-updated take on books, baby, and news of the world. Email me at jen (a) jenniferweiner.com.