Thursday, January 14, 2016

Age, Wisdom, and Radio Pop

I woke up this morning with the phrase "grammatical relativism" in my head, which makes no sense at all because I had a dream about samurai, with lots of fleeing and hiding and beheadings and blood, and katana that moved through the air like seaweed swaying in an ocean current. Which also makes no sense. But I'm determined to work "grammatical relativism" into conversation at some point today.

If you're keeping score, the blog post proper begins here:

I am grateful that Adele's "Hello" has been supplanted on the radio by her "When We Were Young" not because I don't like the former and do like the latter but because radio repetition can make me react to even the best of songs the same as I might nails on a chalkboard. Not that "Hello" is the best of songs. Or the worst. I'm just saying, Jesus, do I have to hear it ten times a day? Similarly, why can't they play more Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats songs? That whole album is great, but all we get, over and over and over again, is "S.O.B." Why? Why you damned, rich music industry fat cats, with your pinky rings and cigars and...

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. For someone who famously names her albums for her age, and whose latest is 25, she uses a lot of phrases like, "after all these years," "we ain't kids no more," "when we were young," "that was a million years ago," etc. At first, I was like, "Girlfriend, please." Because, you know, I'm a 43-year-old white man from the suburbs who likes to appropriate as my own outdated pop culture tropes that I have no business using.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. Today it occurred to me: no matter how old we get, there will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great or as extensive as their own. I imagine in the nursing home, there will always be a 95-year-old looking at the 75-year-olds and thinking, "Punk ass kids. Think they know shit about how things really are..." Hmm. Wait a minute. "Someone" is singular. "Their" is plural. Therefore, my '80s public school education tells me that there is no agreement among my pronouns. I should have used "his," because it is the correct choice both for masculine antecedents and those of neutral or unspecified gender. The judgmental 95-year-old in my imagined scenario is not described as either male or female. I should have said, "[t]here will always be someone older, devaluing our age and experience because they are not as great as his own." But I recall vaguely somewhere some discussion that we are living in a non-binary world now, and assignment of the masculine pronoun when the gender of the antecedent is undetermined is a construct of the patriarchy, meant to keep women and the LGBT (LGBTQ? Are we adding a Q to that now? Sounds familiar...) population oppressed, silent, under-represented. Traditional notions of grammar be damned, much like the rich music industry fat cats! Singular/plural agreement isn't as important as human equality! So bam. Grammatical relativism, right there. Done and done.

Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah, Adele. You go on and be jaded and world weary, young lady. Your (or perhaps your songwriter's? Do you write your own lyrics? I don't even know) life experience is as valuable as my own. Hell, more so, because the older I get the only thing I know with more and more certainty is that the scope with which my knowledge and experience can be applied to real life situations becomes more and more narrow with every passing day, week, month, year. Perhaps by the time I'm a 95-year-old in a nursing home, I'll know that it doesn't actually apply to anything in the present or future at all, only the past. Which is pretty damned (like traditional notions of grammar and rich music industry fat cats) useless, actually.

Wait, What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Adele. I give her my permission to sing about the passage of time and the lessons it imparts, even though she is young. Also: I like Taylor Swift. There, I said it. "Blank Space" is a good song, I don't care what you say.

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