When you’re the parent of teens and twentysomethings, you are hip by osmosis.
You text almost as much as they do, because they do.
You are not only familiar with skinny jeans in the laundry, you have some of your own.
You are able to converse about Jimmy Fallon YouTubes, iPhone apps and how TV Ted met his kids’ mother.
You know Facebook is out, Twitter is in and volunteering on organic farms in Europe is white-hot.
Lest you ever start feeling like you own this scene, it’s important to remember you are merely a bystander – a reminder that can come any time, like a high-volume text ding in church.
I felt my hipness confirmed when my 25-year-old son asked me to send my favorite pump-you-up songs to listen to as he trained for a marathon.
I didn’t realize until later he also asked all 1,016 of his Facebook friends.
While they submitted “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” by Of Montreal, I was busy typing “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone.
They offered this century’s “Black Label” by Lamb of God, while I suggested Bruce Springsteen and “Born to Run” from 39 years ago.
They said “anything by the Killers.” I suggested Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” produced in 1976, the same year Mick Jagger turned 34 and mood rings were in vogue.
Theirs were songs I’d never heard – nor even heard of – by bands I didn’t know existed. Mine were tunes from the dark days of 8-tracks and dial phones.
I felt the bloom come off the rose, the cat come out of the bag, the only real hip in my repertoire the ache in it after 20 minutes on the treadmill.
“Chris, do you think I’m hip?” I asked my son.
“Mom, you can’t ask this question,” he said. “People who ask this question aren’t hip. It’s not hip to want to be hip. If you know you’re hip, then you’re not hip at all.”
“While we’re talking about it,” he added, “never say ‘twittering’. You don’t ‘twitter’. You ‘tweet ON Twitter.’ ”
Lyrics from Tower of Power’s 1973 “What is Hip?” began repeating in my head like a cracked LP: “Hipness is what it is. Sometimes hipness is what it ain’t.”
I felt trapped in an irony, which apparently, pathetically, is something to celebrate: According to my son, irony is part of today’s hip culture.
Only thing, I didn’t feel ironic. I felt confused about my role and even my interest level, especially after reading a Seattle newspaper’s take on hip parents as intentionally cool people who “proudly display a (public radio) bumper sticker on their eco-friendly Ford Fusion while driving their kids and adorable French bulldog to play dates at Volunteer Park. (Hip parents) know the perfect combinations of fruits and veggies to use in their gluten-free homemade baby food (and never forget to compost the leftovers), have mastered the art of cloth diapering, and enjoy dinner parties at their home on Beacon Hill.”
Did I even want to be hip?
The online Urban Dictionary says hipsters can never rest, as they are constantly scanning the cultural landscape, looking for the next new-and-improved. Wikipedia says hipsters are expected to always be in the know, while Tulane American Studies professor and author Joel Dinerstein says hipsters must maintain a certain “vibrant urban energy.” Dinerstein also differentiates “hip” from “cool.” While “hip” suggests a certain “superficial edginess,” “cool” is associated with “equipoise and emotional self-control, with a certain stylish stoicism.”
There is, after all this jive talk, a small, but growing, thought germinating in my head, that hanging with hip can be fun. But actually being hip is way too much work.
I was probably a co-creator of what is hip once upon a time.
But the burden is on them now.
And that’s cool with me.