I wrote this back in May for OC Jewish Life after reading A. O. Scott's Week in Review piece in the NYT. Totally meant to post it back then, but you know what slackers all us Gen-X types are. Anyway, enjoy...
I had no idea that I was in the midst of a midlife crisis until I read all about it in the New York Times. In fact, it hadn’t yet dawned on me that I was even in my midlife, but at 36, I guess the math kinda works out. And besides, when the media tells you you’re experiencing something – be it concussive xenophobia, a text-induced decline in interpersonal skills or an insatiable addiction to international adoption, you better believe you are experiencing it.
A.O. Scott, a New York Times critic whose birthday is near enough to mine to be able to speak for me and all that I believe in, recently mused that a spate of books and movies has heralded the “Gen-X midlife crisis.” A crisis he is clearly not stockpiling canned goods against either:
“The Gen X what? I wish I could inflect those paired pop-sociological clichés with the requisite irony, but my air-quote fingers are afflicted with incipient arthritis,” he writes. “When they were confronting the precipice of middle age, the boomers got the bittersweet balm of ‘The Big Chill.’ What movie do we get? ‘Hot Tub Time Machine.’”
The trope, according to Scott’s terrific analysis, is that Gen X is so full of developmentally stunted slackers that we can’t even get our supposed midlife crisis right.
The Greatest Generation had good ol’ fashioned alcoholism and philandering. We have chemically faded “A-Team” T-shirts and the Wii.
But all is not lost, my Gen-X brothers and sisters (well, half-brothers and step-sisters). Hear me, as I Tweet from the Mountaintops: Just because we’re not all buying sports cars and hair plugs, just because we have spent more time cultivating our record collections than worrying about our legacy, just because most of us don’t even have a secretary to run off with, doesn’t mean we’re losers.
Nay. We are more like our fathers and our fathers’ fathers than we’ll ever know. If you doubt it, just download the ancient and liturgical “L’Dor V’Dor.’ (And just when you were wondering when this column was going to get Jewy...)
We sing “L’Dor V’Dor,” to make a promise that we will praise G-d “from generation to generation.”
The first line, “L'dor vador nagid gadlekha,” means “from generation to generation we will speak of Your greatness.”
This says nothing of our greatness. Or our lack of greatness. Or of the fact that we’re stuck in middle management with no real prospect of career advancement because Boomers are apparently made of 90% vampire flesh and will thus NEVER JUST DIE ALREADY AND VACATE THE CORNER OFFICE.
Nope. The “Your” in the song refers to G-d, a greatness that is always beyond us because it’s supposed to be beyond us. Because it isn’t us.
With apologies to Judd Apatow, there have been, from generation to generation, venerable writers, philosophers and man-children of all stripes who understood that growing older is kinda funny. You finally have license to eat cake for breakfast and jump on the bed with impunity; except, now that there is no one there to stop you, you find you actually don’t want to eat cake for breakfast and you paid way too much for that bed to jump on it.
John Cusack is no less immature in “Hot Tub Time Machine” than Groucho Marx was in “Duck Soup.” We didn’t invent anything (big surprise there, eh, Slackers?). Nope. L’Dor V’Dor, people have been laughing at themselves as they’ve gotten older. There are freighters full of “Over the Hill” tchotkes heading toward us from China right now to prove it.
And if any of those cargo bins includes a Strawberry Shortcake walker, I'm totally buying one.