The Basic Problem with Middle-Aged Politicans Selling the “Cool” City Concept…

Editorial Cartoon -- Grand Rapids Press

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, June 26, 2010

When I was 8 or so, there was a family that moved into our neighborhood. They had a boy my age (I don’t remember his name), but his parents were much younger than mine. To broadly categorize his parents, I would say they were hippies. But that term brings with it some negative connotations, most of which I don’t think apply: I never witnessed them taking drugs or singing their virtues, they did not — to the best of recollection — add the word “man” to the end of every sentence, and they never publically wrestled naked in a mud puddle while listening to Hendrix. (I have a keen memory for “naked.”) Conversely, positive connotations don’t necessarily apply either: I don’t remember them being particularly open-minded, friendly, or willing to share their money.
No, they were more Sonny & Cher. Or more precisely, early 1970s Sonny & Cher: popular, hip, now, with clothing that had fringy material. They were, for the times, very cool parents. I cannot give specific evidence that this made them bad parents. They did have a “music” room that we were forbidden to enter. (It had shades, black-lights, a massive stereo, and lots and lots of velvet.) Ten points taken for that. But they also bought their kid a Mattel Vertibird and let us play with it on their kitchen counter. Ten points back for that.

Actually, my only problem with them was that they seemed so decidedly un-parental. That “coolness” thing (and maybe they were actually cool, I don’t know) just didn’t play for me. And it didn’t seem to play for their boy, either. Kids are perceptive like that — they pick up on these things. I decided then that I never wanted to be a cool parent. Nice, approachable, vaguely interesting: yes. Cutting edge of fashion, a friend first, stylish: definitely not.

This, then, was the feeling I tapped into for this week’s cartoon — the squeamishness of adults beyond a certain age trying to be and know cool. (So 10 points to me for knowing enough to look to my daughter’s iTunes library for a band to put on the young person’s shirt. And 10 points away for any sort of implication that Tegan & Sara are who I listen to in my velvet music room.)

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