What exactly will I do if my child doesn’t inherit my love of old-timey things? No matter how much I try to cultivate this appreciation, I can see it being exactly the sort of thing that a normal child would heartily rebel against. I have a very specific vision of parenting that involves teaching my child to play gin rummy as early as possible and watching Yankee Doodle Dandy starring James Cagney every Fourth of July. And since we live only about two miles from D.C., Independence Day will also likely involve a journey to hear one of the armed services bands play some Souza marches in some sort of a parade or concert. (We’ll probably avoid the festivities on the Capitol lawn though, because this child will be inheriting agoraphobia on both sides.)
“Come on, Junior, let’s go look at the early toasters on display at the American history museum,” I’ll say, “And marvel and the hand-painted porcelain together!”
“Go to hell,” my child will respond, “I’m spending the day doing whatever is the 2023 equivalent of watching a reality show about the Kardashians. And then I have sportsball practice after that. Not any of the good sports; it’s an especially violent and boring game that hadn’t been invented yet when you had me. It’s absolutely mind-numbing to watch, but the risk of injury is really high so it’s worth it.”
“I understand,” I’ll say, “But isn’t hot jazz the best? Also, for your birthday do you want to go see Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore at Wolf Trap as a family? And do you want to take swing dancing lessons with me at the rec center? What about banjo lessons? I took both as a teenager but neither stuck.”
“You actually paid someone to teach you how to play the banjo and to swing dance as a teenager? You are the worst and I’m running away from home. Not to join the circus or a burlesque troupe, because I don’t like the aesthetic. I’m running away to live under a bridge and do meth full time.”
I’m only now understanding how my own mother, a cosmetologist by trade, must have felt when I hit adolescence. I had no interest in hair or makeup as a pastime. To this day don’t know how to use a curling iron or a flat iron, or any of the goo that’s supposed to go in hair to make you look like a respectable professional woman.
Would I like to go to the Lancôme counter at South Coast Plaza and see about some foundation? No, I’m going to stay here and watch Yankee Doodle Dandy one more time before I head upstairs to listen to my three-cassette series of “Those Fabulous Hits of World War II” and make a collage of comedy writers and novelists I admire. Because it’s the weekend, and this is what’s cool these days, Mom.