Katy Perry tells us in Teenage Dream that “we can dance, until we die – we will be young forever.”
One Direction sing to us that we should “get some and live while we're young”.
Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars remind us that going out is the way it’s supposed to be, “living young and wild and free.”
Dance. Get some. Go out. Live. Be wild. Be free.
This is what it means to be young. This is the essence of life.
Or is it?
Youth is served up on a glistening platter through mainstream media as a vibrant, colourful experience pulsating with life and wonder: A group of friends packed into a Kombi van coasting across the seaside. Dancing by a pool with hundreds of good-looking friends who smile as they drink from those big red plastic cups. These are the images we are given, and this is where the coverage of life stops.
The gaps are huge.
We hear songs about pining for people before a relationship or regret after a break-up, but not a lot about committed, healthy relationships that last.
We hear songs about dreaming of the future or regret about years wasted, but not a lot about working hard and actually living out our dreams.
This narrow selection of subject material from mainstream media tricks us into thinking that being young is supposed to be free and easy, and that growing up and growing old is something to prolong and be afraid of.
Youth is tough, man! You’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, all while balancing schoolwork, crushes, hormones and other people’s opinions (which don’t really carry much weight, but when you’re young you think they do!). It’s a tricky time, and it’s not made any easier by this image of teenage-hood we’re given that doesn’t seem to allow for mistakes, rejection, or reality.
Life is a complex, difficult and beautiful mish mash of different experiences. People settle down, and it’s a good thing. People get jobs, and it’s a good thing. People get pets, pursue arts, join sports teams, have children, graduate, cry, eat yummy food, and it’s a good thing. People fail, get tired, have sick days and ask for help, and that’s OK too. It’s a good thing to grow up, get wisdom, and have fun while we’re at it.
This is why I really like Macklemore’s latest single, ‘Growing Up’. Macklemore (whose real name is Ben) is a dad now. The fun-loving thrift-shopper raps about life lessons he’d like to pass on to his child while grappling with the fact that he is 32 and now a father. It’s a truly beautiful song, and it fills a gap in mainstream music about parenthood.
Another gap-filler is the 2006 Australian movie Boytown. While a bit of a dud film, it was hilarious to see a group of middle-aged men in a boy band crooning their wives with such songs as Picking The Kids Up From School and Stay at Home Dad.
In their feel-good track Old Town Blues, Boy and Bear get counter-cultural and ponder the future with these lines:
"Cos I wanna be an old man too
I wanna be a role model to my kids
I wanna teach them how to love
But you gotta show me how to live."
I was a bit disappointed that in my hunting I couldn’t find any good examples of songs that celebrate getting older by women! C’mon ladies, we need to step up.
I thought about offering a list of my own song titles to the music industry that allude to a bit more life variety:
My Husband's Looking After the Kids While I Go to Uni to Study Medicine
You Give Good Hugs
Work Tired Me Out So I Didn’t Go to the Party
Joys of a Good Poop
I'm Making a Salad for Family Dinner
Saving Up For Kitchen Renovations
Have I Shown you Photos of my Grandkids?
Good Coffee with Good Friends
Growing up isn’t something to be afraid of. Just because mainstream media isn’t singing about it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We cannot, and will not be forever young. And there’s great beauty and wonder in that.
by Dani :)