|This could be me|
Back in the 20th century when I started writing a regular column, I did several pieces about trying to become cool. Teaching fourteen-year-olds every day, I saw that most were obsessed with the effort. My generation was too at that age, and the standards for what was cool and what wasn’t kept changing over the years. So I asked my students, if I tried hard enough, was it possible for a [then] forty-something guy like myself to ever become cool? And if it was, what would I have to do? Some told me it was impossible and I should forget it. Others advised that if I had to ask, I’d never make it. Eventually I took their advice and gave up the quest.
A few years later, when students were saying “Dude” all the time, I asked if they thought it possible for somebody nearing fifty to become a dude. “You know, someone like me.” They looked me up and down and said, “Nah. That’ll never happen.” Others felt sorry for me and offered hopeful suggestions like: “Well, in some senses you already are. A dude is a guy and you’re a guy, so you’re a dude.” That was sort of encouraging, but I soon gave up my quest for dudehood as well.
After that, I considered trying to turn myself into a “Sensitive, Nineties Kind of Guy.” I tried listening to women when they talked about their feelings, and not interrupting them with suggestions about how to fix things they were upset about. I worked hard to maintain eye contact, wrinkle my brow with concern, purse my lips and nod once in a while, stroke my chin, squint, say “Mmm” a lot. I hugged a lot of people, even people I hardly knew, but I never really made it.
Then the year 2000 was fast approaching and I imagined a whole new model of popularity that I would call a “Millennium Man.” People were tired of hugging and feeling other people’s pain. The Millennium Man would be aloof and do risky things like rock climbing, ice climbing, extreme skiing, hang gliding, and other dangerous stuff like that. They wouldn’t feel other people’s pain. They wouldn’t even feel their own.
I’m kind of glad now that Millennium Man stuff didn’t last too long. I could have killed myself. Now that I’m in my sixties I have to look for a trend that’s more laid back, and I think I’ve found it. I’m going to explore the idea of becoming organic. I know, I know. It’s not exactly new, but around Portland, Maine where I’’ve been spending time lately, it’s the way to be.
As part of my research into things organic, I’ve been visiting Whole Foods. The parking lot is packed every time my wife and I go, and there are lots of Obama stickers. She keeps fabric shopping bags emblazoned with peace signs in her car, and I figured I could maintain my cover if I carried one into the store. Inside, posters for the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine were all over the walls. I think it’s like Fryeburg Fair, but for granolas. I googled it on my iPhone and saw lots of workshops for things like “Goat Hoof Trimming” and “Processing Acorns Into Flour” and “Pagans and the Earth” put on by someone named Salem Stormravyn. Maybe I’ll check it out this summer.
On other signs around the store were words like: gluten-free, recycled, sustainable, renewable, organic, alternative, wellness, holistic, and green. If I’m really going to do this, I have to start working them into everyday conversation right away. And, organic people say “amazing” a lot. They stretch the A’s so it comes out sounding like “Amaaaazing.” I’m going to talk like that too.
One sign showing an organic child advised “Grow Up Strong and Harmless.” It goes along with the peace thing, I guess like — eat organic granola and don’t play with toy guns. Customers were quick to yield the right-of-way in the aisles and in the parking lot as if aggressiveness were a foreign concept. I wondered if they’d still be so nice to me if they knew I owned guns and voted Republican, but I had a peace sign on my shopping bag so they never suspected it.
Organic people encourage riding bicycles, but I’ve noticed not many do that in wintertime — thank God. I have a bike, and after it warms up I’m willing to peddle it around some more if that’s what it takes. But I don’t want to wear spandex or the funny helmets.