Sunday, November 26, 2006

Perverted Rebellions TK

If, like I once did, you thought the aging hip had limits on how insufferable they would allow themselves to become, look no further than this article in the Times to join me on the next plateau of comprehension.

The story's got a great lead:
Casey Bonham Leto, age 5 months, wasn’t to blame. Neither were his parents. Right down to his rock ’n’ roll middle name -- a tribute to Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham -- everything had been done to bestow him with rock-kid credibility at the earliest possible age: On the floor of the puff-cheeked baby’s living room in Jersey City were toy guitars and a set of Metallica nesting dolls. On his powder-blue onesie pajamas, in gothic script, were the words "My crib rocks."
Let us take the opportunity, before we lose it, to simply pause for a silent moment and acknowledge the phrase "Metallica nesting dolls."

(Silent moment.)


Well, Casey's crib might rock, but his parents most evidently do not.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not above a little onesie signage. I even bought my nephew a onesie that says "I Might Barf."

(Yes, I'm done writing "onesie" now. I know it demeans all of us.)

But while I'm happy to poke fun at my nephew's gastrointestinal amateurism, I'm equally happy to concede that by the time he's listening to music with anything resembling individual taste, I will be an irrelevant dinosaur to him. I hope some of what I like will have stood the test of time, and that he'll enjoy it, but come on. Have these clueless yuppie parents learned nothing from their own experience? They were probably against authority as teens. Would they have looked kindly upon being culturally imprinted before they could control their own bowels?

Let kids have kid stuff. How hard is that? Metallica is not for kids, whether in nesting-doll form or otherwise. Kids like anything with a beat, not the Japanese noise rock you might listen to because it was the last outpost of cool that you hadn't colonized yet. Kids like characters made of felt who express some joy, not whatever impossibly dysfunctional troupe is traipsing its way through the Todd Solondz movie you just Netflixed. Hell, sometimes they just like styrofoam boxes.

In short, kids who haven't figured out how to walk aren't painfully self-conscious about defining themselves, unlike many parents of my generation, who remain this way alarmingly late in life. Toddlers aren't fashionably dejected and resigned to it. (There will be time for that.) They're not a cool site for you to bookmark, or a new band that no one else has heard. Pitchfork's not going to give your kid a 9.4.

My parents' record collection included Anne Murray and Johnny Mathis and Broadway show tunes. They got to the bus station too late for the rock revolution. No, strike that. I'm not convinced that's true. I think they may have chosen to stand on the curb shaking their fists in the air while the rock revolution drove by and spattered them head to toe in mud. They think even the most melodic rock band is "noise," and I'm pretty sure my father still thinks the Rolling Stones (who are damn near his age) are considered cutting-edge. And on some level, I can understand my parents' musical development. When they were young, rock was tied up in notions of radical social change, which I find ridiculous, being cranky and anti-utopian way before my time.

I was lucky to fall in love with popular music at a time when it could be fashionable in a different way -- a nerdy, asocial (not antisocial) way. I wanted my relationship to music to resemble my relationship to books, and I consider myself lucky that my teen years were spent trying to figure out what Michael Stipe was saying, not taking the brown acid and thinking it would somehow correct the world's course. It allows me to feel less shame. Not much less, but less.

Now, though, even that (quieter) entry point to rock's charms has been around for some time, and kids will find a way to rebel against it, especially if their parents are crowing about it being part of the curriculum. Kids are smart that way. I console myself with the fact that children raised by parents who want them to be cool will almost undoubtedly pay the effort back double with perverted, unimagined rebellions:
"We’re undergoing a change in what it means to be a traditional parent," said Mr. Salem. "But I read somewhere that the fastest way to turn your kid into a Republican is to dress him up in a Sex Pistols T-shirt. That’s probably true."

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Anonymous lfw said...

You got a problem with Johnny Mathis and show tunes????

In spite of that, great post. Apparently the same doesn't hold true when siblings saturate you with their musical tastes from a young age.

5:33 PM  
Blogger ko said...

I rebelled for about a year (7th/8th grade) by listening to really bad pop music- but my older brothers and my mom had great taste and albums and I still listen to the music they introduced me to...
I guess in theory I see where you are going though- that Bonham kid will so be a no-good bum living off his parents (in their basement) late into his 30s OR an asshole Republican who gives them nothing but grief, ever. Either way, that will show them!

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Dave Leto said...

you guys couldn't be MORE wrong. making fun of me or my kids is cheap. you don't know us at all. and if you did, you would eat your words. we are a FAMILY, we don't sit around making our kids listen to MGMT records or ANIMAL COLLECTIVE 7 inches. We do things like play with toys, and color, and read books, and ride bikes. and no my son's bike isn't a fixed gear.
you kinda make me sick, bub. i don't have to defend my self, you just come across looking like the old hipster..

casey bonham's dad

11:49 AM  

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