I was born in 1979, which when you put it that way, sounds about as long ago as 1879 — that’s how disconnected I sometimes feel from today’s youth. Especially when I was watching MTV’s Video Music Awards last Sunday night. Admittedly, I only tuned in so I could savor some nostalgia via NSYNC. I kid you not, I was squealing like a 10-year-old when I heard Bye, Bye, Bye.
While I listen to Pop music plenty on Radio Disney (oh yes cuz I got kids y’all) and Z100, I still had no idea who some of these music stars were (I did know Selena Gomez — thanks Radio Disney!). The woman interviewing Austin Mahone looked old enough to be his mother.
But before that, I felt my youth ebb away like the rolling tide when Miley Cyrus jumped on stage. I found myself cringing and thinking of her mother. Not to mention, I had to look up the word, twerking. As much as I love the song, Blurred Lines, I won’t be able to listen to that song without thinking of Ms. Cyrus backing that ass up to 36-year-old, Robin Thicke. Miley got a lot of smack for that performance. She’s 20 and where else, but the VMAs, can you push the limits like that? Still, if you read the transcript between my friend and I over Facebook chat, you’d think we sounded a bunch of old biddies. Cuz we did.
In the 1990s when I was a teenager, watching the VMAs was a big event. I waited all summer to see my favorite bands (Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Tori Amos and yes…Britney) get on that MTV stage. I got chills watching Billy Corgan perform Tonight, Tonight in 1996. The black suit, the orchestra, his bald head — it was all so magical. I’m watching it now on YouTube and I still get goosebumps. It’s one of the greatest performances of my youth.
Sometimes I worry this disconnect I feel with today’s teens will affect my work. After all, I write YA and I want my work to make authentic connections with teens. But can I if I wrinkle my nose at the TV like my mother?
But then I think about it some more. I’m feeling a disconnect with today’s pop culture, not today’s teens. After all, I still get excited watching my favorite bands perform. My heart beats wildly. I sing loud. I may not get Miley, but I do remember what it feels like to get excited over new music and to intertwine my identity with that of my favorite singers. (I did stitch ‘Green Day’ with green embroidery thread into the front pocket of my Jansport.)
As a writer, the important thing for me to do is tap into my nostalgia and remember my adolescence as a way to bridge the gap between 1979 and….wait hold up, today’s 13-year-olds were born in 2000? Damn.
No, wait. I got this. *turns up the volume on Tori Amos*