A woman I used to work with years ago was pregnant, and we were discussing names one day. She was expecting twin girls, and as her due date drew near, she and her husband had narrowed down their choices.
“We’re going with Layla!” she declared one day.
“Great name,” I replied enthusiastically. “You guys must love the song!”
“What song?” she said, a blank look on her face.
I can single out that very conversation as the exact moment the scales were tipped, and I became one of the “older” people at work. I had just turned 40, so the timing was fitting, I suppose. I felt a great chasm widen between me and this person who was unfamiliar with what is probably Eric Clapton’s most popular song. Thinking maybe she was suffering from “pregnancy brain” rather than a disturbing lack of classic rock knowledge, I tried again.
“If you name one daughter Layla, you should name the other Lola,” I suggested, pleased with my own cleverness (and actually wishing I was an expectant father of twin girls just so I could name them after two great classic rock songs. Hell, I almost wouldn’t have minded triplets, so I could add Lorelai, too).
“I don’t know,” she said skeptically. “That one’s a little strange.”
“You know what else is strange? When you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola,” I said.
Blank look again.
Up until that point, I thought that everybody was familiar with The Kinks and their classic ode to a woman who knew how to make a man feel like a man. Well, I was wrong. And also officially old. And you know what? As the years have passed, that hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s actually worsened! It’s almost as if I’ve actually gotten older. Go figure. I now work in an office full of twenty-somethings. Last week, one of them was listening to “Stairway To Heaven” and could not identify the band singing the song.
It’s weird, this “being one of the older people here” thing. Throughout my working career, I’ve always been one of the younger people in the office. What happened?! Never mind. I know the answer.
Twenty years happened. That’s what.
Still, age is no excuse for not knowing classic rock songs. When I got my first real job after graduating college, even though I was young then, if a coworker had said “You should name your babies Peggy Sue and Barbara Ann,” I would have at least gotten the connection. When I was single, I desperately wanted to date a girl named Maggie. I didn’t know any girls named Maggie, mind you, so this was more of a generic desire than a specific longing. Other than the actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal, of course. Which actually would have worked out rather well, because we both have last names that are tricky to pronounce, so we could have bonded over that. I wanted to find a girl named Maggie and date her, just so I could roll over in bed one morning, tap her on the shoulder, and say, “Wake up, Maggie. I think I got something to say to you.” This was all under the assumption that she would have at least a passing knowledge of Rod Stewart, of course. If she didn’t, that joke would go right over her head, and I’d be feeling old again. While in bed. Which is a terrible place to feel old.
As a result, I find myself overcompensating. Going out of my way to show my coworkers that I’m still a cool guy, despite flecks of gray in my hair. One of them sent out an e-mail a few weeks ago, announcing that Matt Pond is playing the Doug Fir Lounge on September 3! You guys should go check him out! I was quick to respond to the companywide e-mail, “Matt Pond rocks! I am so there!” And, while it’s true that Matt Pond DOES rock – I’ve been familiar with his music for years, and even own some on vinyl – I didn’t realize when responding that September 3 is a Tuesday. Late night rock shows aren’t so appealing when you’ve got to get up early for work the next morning. Scratch that: late night rock shows aren’t so appealing when you’ve got to tet up early for work the next morning when you’re old. I know this from experience. So, I may not be as “so there!” as I originally declared.
What I should do is use my coworkers’ lack of classic rock knowledge to my advantage. Start spouting smart-sounding lyrics, and they’ll think I’m some kind of sage with mad wisdom. Like, the next time somebody says “I can’t believe it’s August already!” I’ll come back with, “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.” Whoa, man. Deep. They’ll look at me like I’m some kind of genius. In reality, Roger Waters is some kind of genius, but their lack of familiarity with Dark Side Of The Moon will work to my advantage here.
Which proves that there is at least one benefit to ignorance.