Middle aged & still attempting to rock.

Internet buddy and friend of the blog efgoldman expressed some surprise over my love of Saturday’s “Killing in the Name” cover, which reminded me that I’d written an entire piece for the Dallas Morning News about people being surprised by this side of me, which led me to look for it, which led me to remember that the DMN website is now so entirely changed that my old pieces are really irretrievable. So I decided: What the heck! I’ll re-key it (type it allll out again), and call that a post! And that’s what I did. BEHOLD. (Just please don’t hold me responsible for the headline).

Chris Cornell/Audioslave. God, they put on a good show. Holy jebus.

THIS 40-YEAR-OLD WOULD RATHER BE A ROCKER THAN BE IN ONE.

(c) Dallas Morning News; August 14, 2005

Here’s a list of concerts I’ve attended, or will attend, this summer: Oasis, Jet, Robert Plant, Cake, Green Day, U2. Earlier this year, I saw the Donnas, Franz Ferdinand, the Hives, the Von Bondies. I’d go to shows twice a week, if I could, but once you add baby-sitting costs to the price of tickets….

I’m 40.

To clarify: I’m 40, I have two kids (one in diapers), I carry a mortgage and a car loan, I worry about property tax increases, and more often than not, I’ve got a pacifier in my pocket.

At what point does it become pathetic to love rock n’ roll?

This is the question that’s dogged me most singularly since turning 40 last September (my husband, five years my junior, likes to remind me that I’m actually must closer to 41). When people ask me how I feel about having achieved middle age, I usually say the only thing that really bothers me is losing social relevance.

But what I mean is: At what point does it become pathetic to love rock n’ roll?

I am absolutely no less fanatical, passionate and obsessive about music than I was at 17. Indeed, as I’ve gotten older, my tastes have gotten louder, so that I never actually listen to James Taylor anymore, preferring the likes of Jet and Audioslave. And when I go to these concerts — at which most of the other 40-year-olds seem to be chaperoning preteens — I don’t just hum along! No, no, I apparently feel the need to lose all sense of propriety and dance, dance, dance my little heart away. I shudder to think what might happen the first time one of my children sees me.

All of this often comes as a surprise to people who know me professionally. Most of my writing is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it tends toward the earnest, not to say tortured. I think people see me more in the Tchaikovsky vein. Or — oh, I don’t know. Some tortured classical guy.

I have wondered if my growing political anger has fueled a need for ever more raucous music, if I use other peoples’ voices to rant and rail in a way that I can’t. To quote the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan: “Despite all my rage/I am still just a rat in a cage.” It doesn’t really work on paper, but when Billy screams it in your ears — well, I won’t say catharsis, but there’s at least a little validation. Especially when I scream it with him.

To my great good fortune, I’m married to a man who agrees with both my politics and the fact that CD purchases are a budget necessity. But, as I said, he’s younger — and, it should be noted, a man. Somehow, something in our society (or my head — who can tell anymore?) says it’s ok for him to still love a good bass line. I, on the other hand, have produced and nursed two babies.

Shouldn’t I be humming lullabies? Missing references made by 15-year-olds? Telling them that, um, I still like REO Speedwagon? (Yes, I once did. I’m sorry). More than once, it’s true, the baby-sitters have popped their dewy eyes wide open and said “Cooool!” when I tell them where we’re going, but I’ve begun to suspect that at least some teenagers I know may think I’m a ridiculous old biddy.

One could counter with a sizable list of middle-aged musicians who are still making music that matters: The guys in U2 come to mind, but so do Chris Cornell of Audioslave, Liz Phair, and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They can jump up and down like idiots — why can’t I?

Oh that’s right: They’re rock stars. And I’m — what’s that word again? Oh yeah: Not. They have entourages and record deals; I have suburbia and a whole lot of Rescue Hero Action Figures. My friends almost never know whom I’m talking about.

The day will come, I’ve realized, on which I will be the only 50-year-old at the concert — and then, please God, the 60-year-old, the 70-year-old. If I’m not pathetic now, surely it’ll happen by then. It’s inevitable. I mean, look at Mick Jagger.

So I’ve recently begun to accept that I’m doomed: Either I can age gracefully or enjoy myself; suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous teenage opinion or be bored.

And, I remind myself: My father died at 35. I can only imagine what he would have given for the chance to be pathetic. Or 40.

But then, he was into baseball. That’s something you can carry into your golden years.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago.

*****

(Of course, Audioslave no longer exists, and at 47, the prospect of being a pathetic 50-year-old is bearing down on me with increasing speed. So it goes).

12 Comments

  1. Age is no barrier to the worship of rock. We, in our 40’s, carry the flame of the late 60’s/early 70’s rock culture. The youth of today have no idea how to rock; it is our duty to continue to teach them. The only people who are truly pathetic at rock concerts are those busy texting or trying to take video with their smart phones. These people need to get a clue, and we are the dispensers of clueage.

  2. efgoldman

     /  January 10, 2012

    Emily thanks for finding and re-posting this.
    Remember that I’m old enough to be your father! (Biologically, if not as a practical matter). Rock and I mostly agreed to stay stuck no later than the 70s or so. I also never got into concerts – I went to a couple in college, and found I had to leave the hall because the audio level was quite literally painful to me.
    But I did love the George Mason clip, just because, and also marching band and the girl in the red shirt…
    Also I expect the young Hausers are getting to the age where you’re going to be an embarrassment. Just [rock and] roll with it. They can’t help it – it goes with thirteen.

    • We actually watched a U2 concert film recently, and I demonstrated how I dance at shows. They (thank God) laughed with-not-at me, and later the boy told me I was awesome. And he’s nearly 12 1/2. So. Hope!

  3. Ash Can

     /  January 10, 2012

    Enjoying oneself and aging gracefully are by no means mutually exclusive. As you alluded to with Mick Jagger, many of the all-time leading rockers are in their 60s and 70s. Many of the leading blues musicians (first cousins to rock) are Methuselah. Who says they can’t have fans who are older than their grandchildren/great-grandchildren? They’re fans of each other, after all.

    I’m not into rock myself, but I find plenty of other opportunities to avoid acting my age. Having a now-12-year-old Bottle Rocket is perfect for that. I have as much fun as he does at Legoland Discovery Center. When we go to the Lego store, I buy little doo-dads for myself as well as for him. And my very responsible, very mature husband sets the TV reminder for Phineas and Ferb every evening. And these are only a couple of examples of how we shoot moons at established ideas of how people our age should act.

    So don’t think of being a rocker as a refusal to surrender the things of youth and to grow old gracefully. After all, if you don’t spend the time the aging process grants you enjoying the world around you and loving life, then who, or what, is the real winner?

    • Well, exactly. I’ve just decided that the fun part is way more important. There are things that aren’t fun anymore (festivals, for instance – eeesh) but if it’s still fun? I’mma be there.

  4. Darth Thulhu

     /  January 10, 2012

    To those about to rock, we salute you.

    (commence orthopedically-safe headbanging)

  5. Don’t tell me … you are the chick who always stands up (first) at any concert and starts dancing. Think of every rock concert film you’ve ever scene and every show has that one woman who always the first one to stand up and start “shaking her grove thing” well before everyone does.

    I can’t really enjoy large shows anymore. My suspicions are that I conditioned myself early on to associate a good time at a concert with “experience enhancement substances”. Since I no longer partake in those things I find I don’t enjoy larger shows. Now put me in a smaller setting with less than a couple hundred people, and I’m all set to enjoy myself.

    • No no no! I most certainly am not! Oh gracious, no.

      I am the chick who starts moving a little bit as soon as the music starts, but very surreptitiously, no arm movement, just feet and a little head bobbing, until at least ten other people (one of whom must be the husband!) are moving, at which point I commence a modified version of what the girl in red is doing in that GMU clip I posted — modified, because I do not have the emotional fortitude to do what she’s doing in public, and more’s the pity. And I stay within a small circle of movement, I swear! And I tend to get really annoyed at the chick you describe. Because I’m nothing if not full of contradiction.

      Also, and possibly much more to the point: OH MY GOD HI!!!

      :: waves frantically ::

      How the hell are ya, GP?!

  6. At least you listen to rock, which has a beat at a decent 4/4 tempo. Some of us seem to be destined to spend our life hung up on Techno, jamming to <140bpm

  7. taylor16

     /  January 10, 2012

    I am also a dancer at concerts, and have no plans to stop anytime soon. I fully intend to be the crazy old lady that the young’uns laugh at at shows someday.🙂

    Also, if you would like emailed copies of your old articles from the Morning News or elsewhere in Lexis Nexis or similar form, let me know. I still have university library access for a few more months, with back issues of most major papers going back 10-20 years. Let me know!