It’s hip to be square

How did I, Richmond’s least-cultured citizen, end up writing a pop culture column? With a little luck and a lot of the internet, I manage to stay only one step behind. Okay, two at most.

“What? Did? You? Say?”

Each word was its own question, to emphasize the importance of the whole inquiry. Or, more accurately, the importance of the answer that I was about to give.

“Um, well, I said ‘Aren’t Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin the same band, or something?’”

“You can’t be serious.”

My teenage son hung his head, shaking it from side to side, as if I’d just told him that he was adopted. At that very moment, I’ll bet he wished that he was.

When I told my boyfriend about the Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin mix up, he was nearly as incredulous as my son.

“How are you a pop culture writer?”

I pulled up my big girl panties, sniffed, and answered: “I don’t come at it from an angle of expertise, I come at it from an angle of curiosity.”

Good one, Jennifer. Good one.

There’s something that I really need to get off of my chest. I don’t know stuff.

Monkees songs? Patty Duke Show episodes? Dylan Thomas poems? Lines from Julie Andrews movies? Julia Child recipes? These things I know. These are the things that occupy my headspace along with customer encounters, parenting guilt, worry about writing deadlines, and your favorite color. But regular things that regular people know like commonly referenced music, television, movies, and books? No matter how hard you look up there, no matter how many brainstones you turn over, most of those things just can’t be found.

I can’t really explain why I lack so many cultural touchstones. Part of it, I guess, is that I have a horrible memory. Even those things I did know about at one time long ago, evaporated in my brain like an ice cube in Death Valley. Another part, probably, is that I have interests that differ from Jane Doe. Jersey Shore? Hunger Games? Kardashians? The Bachelor/Bachelorette? Skrillex? Kony? These are all things that I had to ask the internet to explain when I heard people talking about them. I’m crap around a water cooler on a Monday morning when other people are discussing the previous night’s Mad Men because they first have to tell me what Mad Men is.

Most of it, though, is that I just haven’t experienced many things that the average adult person has.

I grew up semi-religious and fully poor. The movies, music, and television shows that weren’t vetoed by Jesus or Dad were just not available to me. When they were available, I was more interested in sticking my nose in a book or my diary. Consequently, there are holes in my personal cultural foundation that you could drive a truck through.

Make no mistake, I’m not one of those cool nerds–one who doesn’t know about the Twilight books and movies but can quote the heck out of Lord of the Rings, or one who can discuss how Rush’s synth phase was different from, but just as good as, their other music. Oh no. I know those nerds. In fact, I admire the heck out of them, with their esoteric knowledge and glamorous spectacles, but I am not part of their tribe.

So it was in earnest that I attempted to learn more. The kid had chalked me up as a lost cause, so I prodded the boyfriend, by text message, for further information.

“Okay, but aren’t they at least both British?”

“Yes, but so are Dame Edna and Winston Churchill.”

Not much help on the music front, but good to know. I saved that text.

While I might not be hip enough to quote Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or even Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m kind of thrilled about it. After all, I have all of those great things still ahead of me, should I choose to experience them. Besides, who can brag that they saw Casablanca for the first time last week,1 are reading Little Women like it recently hit The New York Times Bestseller list, and just listened The Wall? Nobody cool, that’s for sure.

Yep, I’ll take curiosity over expertise any day. Note to self, though: Google “Dame Edna.”

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. I loved it! Did you guys know its a great movie? 
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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. scguthrie on said:

    How could you have forgotten to give credit to Huey Lewis and the News

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