I usually shun being labeled or categorized into a specific group, like "metrosexuals" or "yuppies." I hate being stereotyped, and the traits that people in any group supposedly exhibit rarely do an adequate job describing a person. I share a lot of tendencies with some groups (nerds, Generation X, Democrats, ENTP's) and a few commonalities with others (punks, rednecks), with a sprinkling of other traits mixed in (ninja, Bonapartist, Wookie). I openly defy the marketers of the world to pigeon-hole me...go ahead, sell me somethin', bitches!
Then I read this article about a new phenomenon among adults my age who aren't really acting...well, like "adults." The author named these people "Grups," which is an arcane Star Trek reference (instantly credible in my book) to a world populated only by kids in a state of extended prepubescence. His central claim is that the gap between generations is eroding, and that it's becoming rare for people my age to put aside the things they loved as a child in favor of the traditional uniform of adulthood. Reading through the article gave me a shiver of concern; am I a Grup? It sure seemed like it. Some examples of Grup behavior the author sited included:
- walking around all the time with an iPod plugged in your ears (check)
- regularly buying clothes at Urban Outfitters (not recently, but there isn't one close by)
- taking a toddler to a Happy Hour for parents (check)
- staying up until 4 AM because I can't miss a New Pornographers show. (last year...it was awesome)
- spending $250 on a pair of artfully shredded jeans (not in a million years...I'd much rather spend that money on Amazing Spider-Man #129)
- decide that Sufjan Stevens is the perfect music to play for your child (check...last Sunday)
- wear sneakers as a fashion statement (sneakers are a fashion statement? Cool! I didn't know I was fashionable!)
- kick-off work in the middle of the week to snowboard (how about to go to a beach house? That counts? OK, check)
- wear a Misfits t-shirt (I prefer the Offspring and Palomar, but check)
- make my infant wear a Misfits t-shirt (see above, and check)
Needless to say, it was a bit of an eye-opener to read that, either consciously or unconsciously, I've been aspiring towards tenure in a newly-defined demographic which fit me pretty well. Thankfully, there are still things that don't match up (David Arquette and I have a similar fashion sense, and I still haven't shed the bonds of corporate servitude...yet) and god help me if I ever get so smug about this that I enjoy the smell of my own farts. But where the article got particularly interesting to me was it's take on Grup parenthood. Here's it's lead off on the topic:
"Here’s the bad news about kids: They’re not cool. Especially little kids. Like, 2-year-olds? Forget it. Left to their own devices, they don’t dress well, they have no sense of style, and frankly, their musical taste sucks.
Here’s the good news about kids: They’re defenseless. So if you want to put a Ramones T-shirt on your 2-year-old, you don’t need his permission. All you need is for someone to have the great idea to make a 2-year-old-size Ramones T-shirt. (And trust me—someone’s had that idea.) And if you want to play the Strokes for your 4-year-old son, what’s he going to do? I’ll tell you what—he’s going to learn to love the Strokes."
There's a fixation on "being cool" in this thinking which I inherently reject, but under the surface there's also a recognition that, as parents, it may be harmful for us to lose our identities. I'm sure I'll be a healthier person taking my daughter to museums, concerts, and events that I enjoy, too, and I can be a better parent because I'll be less likely to resent Dora and Tinky-Winky if Fozzie and Wile E. Coyote are also in the mix. That doesn't mean I become a "buddy-parent" who can't enforce discipline, and I recognize that she may be more ready for Free to Be You and Me than Akira. At the end of the day being a smart parent will always trump my selfish tendencies...they key is remembering that they aren't mutually exclusive.
The real danger is that we don't go overboard and project our identities onto her. She needs to grow up with a passion for life and a desire to carve out her individual place in this world. I'm here to enable her, to encourage her, and if I can provide some guidance along the way ("Sweety, wouldn't you rather listen to Beth Orton than Mariah Carey?") then I'm happy to do so. The article ends with an interesting thought, which I hope applies to all of us who find ourselves in this situation:
"Being a Grup isn’t, as it turns out, all about holding on to some misguided, well-marketed idea of youth—or, at least, isn’t just about that. It’s also about rejecting a hand-me-down model of adulthood that asks, or even necessitates, that you let go of everything you ever felt passionate about. It’s about reimagining adulthood as a period defined by promise, rather than compromise. And who can’t relate to that?"
If that's how we define it then yes, I'm a Grup. Are you a Grup?