Having kids is always interesting. There is that reflective thing going on where you teach them stuff, and they teach right back. This is nowhere more true than when they are semi-adults. They bring in things from the outside world that you have long ceased to pay attention to. They want you to update. One trend pushed on me was ankle socks that barely make an appearance above the shoe line. My wife sneaked some into my drawer trying to update me. They were uncomfortable, like they were perpetually falling down. When I was a kid, such socks were called GIRL socks and you would not be caught dead wearing them. I did what any red blooded man would do. I gave back all the short socks and told them don’t bother. Fashion or no fashion, I will be wearing my usual long socks.
The other things that is funny to witness is the physicality that is being demanded in this new generation. They are of course in the digital age, and have found it not to their liking. Too many things imaginary and existing only in cyber space. They need a perpetual screen by which to encounter the world. I noticed with my youngest daughter. She got an (apparently expensive) turntable so as to collect vintage albums, and new albums which are being pressed like vintage 33’s just for novelty. Apparently it is a common choice now. Physical world or imaginary world? No thanks, I’ll go for the real thing I can hold in my hand. Hence passing by her room I can see her perusing the pictures and lyrics that festoon any well put together old-fashioned record jacket. It had to be compelling, and provide some enduring interest about the band and some obligatory lyrics so that you won’t have to hum the parts you can’t get by ear.
There is a host of things which are reverting to retro. First of all, artefacts from my own twenty-something wardrobe have resurfaced. Like my old OCA jacket that reflects the Ontario College of Art before it became OCAD University. It has been confiscated by one of my kids now. Polaroid cameras and real old film cameras are also making a comeback. Again, my youngest showed up with an old fashioned Pentax SLR camera and wanted to know how to use the focus and light meter facilities. She was shocked that I knew. Before the days when phones replaced pretty much everything, there was a charm in items which were built specifically to function and required a bit of skill and knowledge to use. I get the sense they want life to be a bit more nuanced with some real physical dimensions and challenges. The list goes on. I note that the old Nintendo they did not play with in ages, is now nostalgia and their friends unearth them in the basement in their search for artefacts.
Retro candy is also a thing. Back in the day there were a slew of things that were sold seriously even though the price tag was a penny. Now with all the brouhaha about sugar, candy is on the list of forbidden things, while pot is not. Which perhaps explains why my kids have little interest in cannabis but revel in buying expensive retro candy.
Go to any antique store now, I start seeing things that were commonplace when I was a kid in the sixties. My wife is particularly guilty of this nostalgia, perhaps remembering her parents’ furniture. Lots of chipboard and veneer. I don’t like it, fashion or not. I find it somewhat discomfiting to discover parts of my own memory are now considered quaint, antique and perhaps not to be taken seriously. One thing I noticed, was electric typewriters are now considered very campy and are commanding some money. We had them as teens to the purpose of typing official resumes and cover letters before all those word processing functions were subsumed by computers. Old fashioned typing. You can alway tell someone’s age when the put two spaces at the end of a sentence. We had typing class in grade ten, and I remember that it was jokingly called secretary class. It could be used to question your man status. I can type pretty fast. I credit my dad for this. He had an old railway typewriter and he told us that if we could type a sentence blindfolded he would pay us a quarter. So we set out to learn. His method was actually pretty good because it was gradual. After locating the keys by sight, he started covering up one key a day until you couldn’t see any. You had to type blind based on what you had gotten used to. Typing may be the one useful thing I remember out of high school.
Guitars are another thing. We were invited to one of my daughter’s ballet functions, hosted by another parent. Their basement was full on retro, filled with mechanical pinball machines this guy had picked up for a song and fixed. He was reliving his head banger days all over again but with a bigger price tag. He also had some retro guitars hung on display and lighted to good effect. I understand that some of those guitars came with a pretty hefty price tag.
My knee jerk tendency is to like things that are old because they are familiar. But more than that, I really like the physicality we grew up with. When I was in high school, computers did not exist except in that ridiculous form like on Batman where it is a wall of beeping lights and ticker tape.
Activities are even on the list. I think kids are positively flabbergasted that there are things you can do which do not involve the phone or the internet. I remember when the lockdowns began, things like victorian parlour games began to resurface on the internet as some form of novelty for people to enjoy all over again. They seem quaint and yet they teach us that it is possible to be inventive and to make your own fun.
Retro cartoons will also never lose their appeal - the real animation that does not involve characters that are shiny and dimensional and look way too realistic to be whimsical. Their charm is suddenly erased with so much definition. Like a nude beach in Europe, there can sometimes be too much of a good thing.
If there is a cease and desist clause in this arrangement, it comes with hair. Hair does not age well. There is a stage where most men, if they still have hair, will start to resemble an oversized dandelion. Seeing any fifty-something or beyond sporting the same mullet or worse that he wore back in the day is never a good thing. I has at times tempted me to carry a pair of scissors on the side to deal with such things as man pony tails that affront your eyes because the guy is also balding. Trust me fellow men... it is a bad look. Better to go full on Kojak than pretend.
I guess it must be true that everything old is new again. It is good news for someone like myself who really doesn’t want to change. I can hunker down and just wait for the same old things I am used to, to resurface again with renewed respectability. It’s especially good news for that old favourite shirt your wife wants to make disappear, the one you had since forever and wear all the time. I could be fashionable all over again without even realizing it. I’ve got news for you kids. I’m not just retro, I’m retro on steroids. Be advised.
Kids? They are nowhere to be found. They are likely out thrifting. What used to be considered an old fashioned virtue, has now apparently become a verb.