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My Generation, The Gap and Shopping for CDs

by rock oakeson

If you are my age (and let's just say that I am still under half a century), walking into any CD store, even here in Utah, can be quite a perplexing and deflating experience. And I'm not talking about the CDs or today's music trends. I am talking about the young people there.

First of all, I just take for granted any more that I will continue to be bewildered by the way teens and college-aged people are still dressing after two decades. No matter what Tommy Hilfiger or Calvin Klein are up to lately, there is obviously a moratorium. I almost suspect a heterosexual/homophobic conspiracy of fashion setters who decided to keep men's clothes so baggy that anybody with same-sex feelings couldn't possibly know what goes on under all those layers, or bother to look anymore. Men's fashions as a Gay deterrent, hmm…

"That sense of mystery," so esteemed in my parents' day, was certainly gone with the form-fitting clothes of the '60s and '70s, but today's urban look is ridiculous. Besides, the girls' fashions are getting tighter all the time. Isn't there something sexist about that?

Next, after the shock of clothing trends has dissipated, I can't help but overhear comments made by various young people as I look around the store for any CDs I might find interesting. Here are three middle-school-aged girls now:

"Paul McCartney? I think I know who that is. I think he's the guy my dad likes so much."

"Here's one of his CDs. Apparently he was in a group called Wings."

"Oh, yeah! Now I know who he is. And I think he used to be in a group before that."

Yep. That sets my generational pride back a bit. I thought I was going to have to undergo a couple years of therapy just to find out who I am and if I am still on the planet I thought I knew so well.

Then it hits me that I am looking in the Rock/Pop section. No wonder there are so many young people here. No wonder I can't see anything I recognize. I only begin to identify names of artists and groups when I try the Oldies and Easy Listening sections of the store. (They used to be the Rock/Pop section. What happened?) But nobody seems to be looking there. I see the album-now on CD-of Percy Faith's Greatest Hits that I have wanted since 1969 and take it. Then I wander off to the New Age section, but remain there only until two teenaged boys come along, one saying to the other as he points to the New Age sign, "Damned yuppie elevator music!"

Embarrassed, I return to the Rock/Pop section and even mosey over to the videos. I rationalize a bit that it got lonely in the deserted part of the store. As I walk along the aisles, the are two young women, probably in their mid-twenties, who are talking about what to get their children for birthdays.

"Now that she is old enough to take dance lessons, I would like to get my daughter a CD of disco classics. She loves to do her little dance recitals for me and her dad, making up all the steps herself."

"But disco?!" asks the other in disbelief. "Why not techno, or house, or dance mix CDs? Disco is so twentieth century!"

OK. That did it. Aren't we still only months away from having been in the twentieth century? Why talk disdainfully of it, as if it were a century ago?

Now for the really challenging part: paying for my Percy Faith CD. The baggy-panted college boy with the blue hair at the cash register is amused that I am buying it, taking far too long before ringing it up. "Whoa! So, Dude!" he says in a voice everybody in the store can hear. "Like, you are still listening to Percy Faith, huh?!"

"Yeah," I reply angrily. "And you are still making a whole four dollars and thirty-nine cents and hour, huh, loser?" I pay for it and take my CD with me.

I drive home as I usually do from CD stores, feeling like all the accomplishments of great people of the past-musicians and fashion designers included-are already forgotten. But then I realize I am wrong. After all, the greats of the twentieth century have been captured on all those CDs and videos I saw in that store. The young people who shop there must notice them, don't they? Of course, I tell myself. They haven't given up on the past, as evidenced by what I overheard one pre-teen boy telling his mother as we walked out of the store together:

"If you and Dad would help me with my math homework more often, I wouldn't complain when you play your Elvis CDs!"

Such youthful support of the past, indeed!

Editors note: We caught Rock skateboarding indoors last week with his shorts hanging down around his knees. He was bustin' "Slim Shady."