"I was the first old person here," mopes my friend Shawn, from some few years beneath me. "And I was afraid they weren't going to let me in."
So this is what it's come down to? Perforated but easily discernible lines drawn in the rock & roll sand, separating the relevantly involved from the tragic generational tourists? A little bit of dazed and confused bar leaning, while phrases like "I get older and they just stay the same" linger on your breath with cigarette tar and liquor? How embarrassing.
Just two hours ago, I was curled up in my downtown bungalow bemoaning male pattern baldness and wondering aloud which "blouse" would make me feel young and pretty. Now by choice, mind you I've dropped myself square in the middle of an all-ages hipster convention for a self-defeating study in contrasts starring me as a gray (and loose) hair in what is effectively an overdyed ironic mullet of progressive musical tastes. Sure, I'm here for the music (Summerbirds in the Cellar and Tilly and the Wall are performing tonight at the Social), but inevitably I'm here for the overwrought social criticism that the brain beneath my dwindling '80s rock comb-over requires.
So, here I wander, stepping on the toes of a blotchy new-rock hair show, while girls in rhinestone-studded "Botox" shirts and white boys with Mohican afro-puffs measure their indifference by the amount of irony not alcohol that they are drinking. A blue-light cell-phone glare illuminates nearly every passing, unsculpted face and I'm quick with unnecessary observations.
"Oooh, everybody's in their rehearsed uglies," I mutter to nobody in particular.
"No, you're ugly," a silent voice of reason comes back.
This is fun. I think I just dropped a hair.
In order to better assimilate, or "have fun," I decide to sidle up next to a group of pretty girls that I know who just so happen to still narrowly populate the demographic in question. I may be a 33-year-old man, but inside I'm an alcoholic 18-year-old debutante, so it's not really much of a stretch.
"I get the feeling that there are girls here who haven't even been blessed with the gift of leg hair yet," I stubble.
"Boys, too," my 21-year-old friend Anna plucks back.
Then, characteristically, the conversation drifts to the fact that I'm nearly twice the age of 17 which appears to be the mean age of this emo throng and that I probably won't be making out with anybody at tonight's senior dance. Mostly because I'm in a relationship, but also because it would just be gross. My friend Carlie informs me of one particular 17-year-old who already asked her to "hook me up with Billy Manes," which is flattering, but only brings to mind awkward scenes of botched virginity thievery that is nominally against the law.
"I can see myself at 4 in the morning, stroking a pasty shoulder and saying things like 'It's nothing,' 'You were fine,' 'Just pretend I'm your big brother.'" I act out the unthinkable and pretend to wipe old-man sweat from my brow.
Thankfully, our conversation switches to the act of using MySpace as a verb "He was totally MySpacing me when I full-on MySpaced out" and then completely fizzles out into some retro-active discussion of my generation's fear of nuclear fallout and the Challenger Explosion.
"Let me tell you a little something about fallout," I kick a hairless dead horse.
Following a stunningly beautiful set by Summerbirds in the Cellar, Anna and I segue to the lofty white heights of SKY60 and talk about the death of mischief, or something, basically deconstructing past exploits and writing them off for their utilities: Cocaine is just a laxative, etc. A dance mix of the Killers' revisionist pop is bouncing in the wind, and the conversation is both indulgent and satisfying kind of like cocaine used to be but ultimately convinces me that I just felt another hair leave my head, and that I might have to poop.
Instead, we make it back to the Social just in time for Tilly and the Wall's inspired Omaha shenanigans. Anna heads to look for a leg-hairless blond boy, while I decide to act my age next to an old acquaintance and music aficionado, Aaron. Rather than simply enjoy the breezy conviviality of the performance, we set into a round of ear-leaning, knee-jerk word association, because, presumably, that makes us feel involved in the proceedings.
"It's kind of Bananarama meets Bow Wow Wow," I smug into his ear. "Or Bright Eyes meets the B-52's."
"No, it's the Osmond Family meets the Partridge Family," he returns the favor. "Or the Manson Family vacationing with the Branch Davidians."
"There's a little bit of Clydesdale in there," I offer as the girls stomp their feet.
We think we're very clever, but by the time we're exploring the mullet-bang lineage of one of the singers Karen O, back to Chrissie Hynde, then, inexplicably, to Patti Smith we're clearly just showing our age and our asses.
After the show, we bump into one of the Tilly girls (neither Meg nor Jennifer, ha!) and I, predictably, decide to show my prowess at asinine verbal impressionism.
"You were great!" I effuse, and should leave it at that. But I don't. "It was kind of 'I Want Candy' meets 'Cruel Summer,' with Malcolm McLaren geniusly invading Conor Oberst's nethers to produce a Manson family that frightens and a Partridge Family that pleases … all tambourines tied around ailing Clydesdale necks in a poop parade of irony … that … that … that …."
And then she kisses me, if only to shut me up.
"I've never heard such a well-rounded description," she offers before obviously having to escape me. "Thank you!"
"I can't believe she kissed you," my friend Shawn kicks my shin. "I'm the one that's in love with her!"
Yeah, but I'm older.