“Many describe a nearly frantic compulsion to remain playful, flexible and fun in the face of realities like fixed-rate mortgages or lawn care. Mitch Anthony, president of a branding and design firm in Northampton, Mass., is a full-fledged adult: he has children, a closet full of suits and a picket fence that cost $10,000.”
The New York Times, August 31, 2003
“What ever happened to ‘plain old crazy?'” Chris Rock
I don’t know how I became immortal. Never thought much about it. Can’t remember Lenny, the owner of this increasingly heavy burden of flesh we share, saying to me on any particular day, “You’re going to be twelve years old forever.” It just happened.
I was Lenny’s little secret. Never knew how many of us there were until I read this story, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up!” in the venerable–to grown-ups–New York Times.
“From childless fans of kiddie music to the grown-up readers of “Harry Potter,” inner children are having fun all over. Whether they are buying cars marketed to consumers half their age, dressing in baby-doll fashions or bonding over games like Twister and kickball, a new breed of quasi adult is co-opting the culture of children as never before. Most have busy lives with adult responsibilities, respectable jobs and children of their own. Call them rejuveniles.”
NYT, August 31, 2003
“Rejuveniles,” my asshole. Those freaks are freaks. Super freaks. I mean, me and Lenny, we know we’re “out there.” Way out there. We keep a low profile. We REMAIN HIDDEN. Nobody’s hurt by our little micro-Cosmic Order. It’s a secret, entre nous, totally irrelevant to YOUR business, so just turn around and keep walking. Know what I mean?
Lenny lives his part of his life, I live my part of his life. Works for both of us. He gets the wife, Gloria, and I get the kids, Jackson and Jillian (though usually I’d rather play alone). He goes to work, I play computer games while he’s there. Anyway, I’m not into the whole “adult responsibilities” scam, but since I never had one before, maybe one of you grown-ups can enlighten me: What does The Times mean by a “respectable” job, and what’s a “not-respectable” job? You can’t be all THAT “respectable” if you refer to one of the most important, influential people in your life as “Boss” and get all wobbly kneed when you see he’s in a bad mood.
“They are not stunted adolescents. They are something else: grown-ups who cultivate juvenile tastes in products and entertainment.”
NYT, August 31, 2003
You remember that old joke about the two alcoholic brothers, one rich, one poor. The poor one is a crud boozer bum with rotten teeth. The brother with deep pockets and Country Club membership “enjoys a fine wine with a nutty bouquet” blah, blah, blah. Same principle as “grown-ups who cultivate juvenile tastes” as opposed to “stunted, infantile American.”
Admit it. You laughed at Linus’s blanket because you empathized. You too were scared shitless of the world, but too young for booze, drugs, cigarettes or fire arms and you didn’t have the guts or desperation to carry around a fetish object to calm your rapid-fire nerves. Linus was too old for that damn thing, he should have kicked the habit like a man–which addressed another issue tackled in another of Schulz’s week-long “Snoopy Soaps.” It was funny because Linus was supposed to be a precociously neurotic seven or eight-year-old, not the humiliated owner of a fifty-something-year old bundle of head, limbs and torso that’s seen much, much better years.
Such is the tragedy for so many like Lenny, the urchin-abled–some call them maturity-challenged, but you know, who wants to be defined in the negative? I might even encourage Lenny to do a study on it: “Drama of the Gifted Inner Child in Midlife Crisis.”
I know all about this subject, having been twelve-years old for, oh, about 35 years. The guy with whom I share this gargantuan mortal coil, Lenny, is 46 and works some corporate job where they lock him up every day for ten or twelve hours and make him read and write stuff and someone usually brings him lunch, steamed veggies or something like that. Poor son-of-a-bitch. Makes six-figures at least but…how could he live without me? Surely he’d crack up.
I know I don’t really “exist” the way Lenny does. Though to be fair, I’m certainly not imaginary. My experiences DO reside in Lenny’s memory, I DID happen, but only up to a point, an age–eleven or twelve, thereabouts. Maybe thirteen. Some days I feel almost fifteen.
I’m Lenny’s little boy lost, his hide-a-way. He goes to his little cubicle at the office and when the boss ain’t looking I play with the games on his desk top; week-ends and play-time with the kids are my time. Makes him look like a terrific dad. As for Gloria, his (our?) wife–I let him have her too. I mean, I could stay up all night just gaping at those big, round titties or that hairy wet between her legs (looks like the mouth of a fly, to me, or some strange “exotic” fruit one might discover at the Specialty Mart), but that wouldn’t be enough for Lenny. Adults need to release tension, I understand that. We’ve worked it out well between us. But it’s not like we don’t KNOW we’re (Lenny, to be precise; after all, I’m just a kid; not even that: a grown man’s memory/fantasy of a kid) completely insane! Those rejuveniles, like…only in America. Who wants to hang out with such a posse of Disco-era atavisms, anyway? I wanna play, I wanna play with kids my age.
There’s the rub, though. Kids “my age” reached my age around 1976. Different world back then, Different toys, games, movies, television. Even a coffee maker of those days would be almost unrecognizable in the modern, plug-n-play kitchen. Not that I haven’t adapted to the new-fangled techno-gadgets they foist on Lenny’s kids during play-time, but really I’m a creature of my time. The music, games, fads, sports heroes, and general entertainment of 1976. I’m no child psychiatrist (pun), but you don’t need Freud to figure out that Lenny’s inner life peaked around thirty years ago. I mean, I don’t know. Who am I? I’m an anthology of days, a collection: The Best Of Lenny.
Same with these rejuveniles, only they’re too delusional, like the rest of the country (I may have stopped developing at twelve, but I read the news), to recognize their own withering faces in the mirror. This whole “society” is “in denial” of reality, or whatever the Best Sellers and Talk Shows call “freaking out” these days.
“Celebrated by market researchers and fretted over by social scientists, rejuveniles come in all ages but are mostly a product of the urban upper classes (free time and disposable income being essential in their lifestyle). Evidence of their presence is widespread. According to Nielsen Media research, more adults 18 to 49 watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. More than 35 million people have caught up with long-lost school pals on the Web site Classmates.com. (“There’s something about signing on to Classmates.com that makes you feel 16 again,” the “60 Minutes II” correspondent Vicki Mabrey reported.) Fuzzy pajamas with attached feet come in adult sizes at Target, along with Scoobie Doo underpants. The average age of video game players is now 29, up from 18 in 1990, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Hello Kitty’s cartoon face graces toasters. Sea Monkeys come in an executive set.”
NYT, August 31, 2003
Gone, gone, these people are. Long gone. I worry about Lenny’s kids growing up in a “culture” where lunatics are “celebrated by market researchers” and “fretted over by social scientists” rather than “soothed and sedated by professional healers.” And where do market researchers fit into all this (as they do several times throughout the Times’ article)? Is that the new thing? Trying to squeeze insurance or better yet, cash, outta the batty, the bonkers and the emotionally distressed by fixing the charts and pathology manuals to read “normal?”
“A 2001 market research study by American Greetings, the creator of Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, showed that “purchase interest” was identical among women who wanted to buy a doll for their child and those who simply wanted to rekindle a love affair of their own. ‘This consumer wants Care Bears in their life,’ Ms. Joester said. ‘And not just to share with their children.'”
NYT, August 31, 2003
They never mention the fact that nearly all the tchotchkes these rejuveniles cream over date back to their own youth. No shit. They’re not into kids’ toys, fads and clothes per se (I’ve never seen a rejuvenile with a game-boy; then again, I’ve never seen a rejuvenile at all, have you?), but the crap they remember from their own days in The Garden. So it’s not just wanting to have fun like a kid, it’s wanting to have fun while being a kid. Again. Reaching for seconds before their own kids experience their first taste. I always thought parents who drink and smoke pot with their teenagers were a bit “off,” but these people, these rejuveniles, are stealing youth and childhood artifacts from their own beleaguered tots. Poor Santa Claus can’t make sense of all this.. Just sits around the lodge, Thanksgiving, with a bottle of potato vodka, listening to “Alice’s Restaurant,” cursing corporate-media, post-modernism, the wretched Calvinism of his elves…
“While some marketers court rejuveniles directly–‘Who knew you and your daughter would have the same best friend?’ asked an advertisement for a revived line of Strawberry Shortcake dolls–others speak to the rejuvenile soul by simply selling to kids. The Honda Element, the Tonkalike mini-truck introduced by the company as a “combination dorm room/base camp for active young buyers,” has been marketed mostly at extreme sports and surfing events, said Andy Boyd, a spokesman for the American Honda Motor Company. But the average age of Element drivers, Mr. Boyd said, is 40. ‘That’s exactly what we anticipated,” he said. “It’s a new definition of the family buyer–someone who doesn’t want to give up their individual character even though they’re getting older.'” NYT, August 31, 2003
The Greeks had Philosophers to tackle the “big issues;” we have Marketers.
What’s with this so-called “newspaper” anyway? What do they send reporters out to scoop “hot” fads for advertisers to exploit? I suppose “someone who doesn’t want to give up their individual character even though they’re getting older.” is a good description, in this context, if your “family buyer” happens to be Snow White’s Evil Stepmother or Dorian Grey. Or Michael Jackson.
But most people have to change as life proceeds and they accumulate knowledge and experience (which include, though it’s not profitable to say so, pain). Those who can’t evolve, dissolve, like Lenny. They can go out into the grown-up world and get things done, but they forever remain lonely children in their parents’ backyards. Eight, ten, twelve years old, talking to themselves, or an abstraction of a recollection of self, an alias, on the swing-set. They live with ghosts of themselves, shadows of the Past.
Like me and Lenny.
But the thing about me and Lenny is we’ve been friends since the fourth grade. He needed me then, like he does now, but in a different way, and he liked me so much he decided to keep me, just as I was. Which is why he grew up and I remain just as I was, as we were. I have a feeling some or most of these rejuveniles are merely hyping and Romanticizing the past. Mainlining nostalgia.
What makes the past seem “better” than today is simply this: you survived. You lived. So if you go back to the past, you know that whatever happens, you’re gonna come out okay. Like the hero of a TV Cop show. The present and the future hold no such certainties. You can spin the propeller on your beanie all you want; death and tragedy can leap outta the evergreen suburban hedgerows before you can say
See what I mean?
“While there is nothing new about adults reveling in kiddie culture–Shirley Temple, Roald Dahl and Pee Wee Herman all had plenty of adult fans–market researchers say an especially strong wave of childishness began about two years ago.” NYT, August 31, 2003
So according to the “Paper of Record,” this Gamin Guerrilla movement started about two years ago. Now what, pray tell, happened two years ago that turned almost all Americans into frightened flag-waving children running to the school bully for “protection?” Please. These people are about as deep and complex as a “Li’l Lulu” comic book. Though somewhat less compelling.
Most people might say the rejuveniles are no sicker than Lenny. But I never thought of Lenny as “sick.” He has this thing–me, I guess–that he knows is a bit strange, a vice even, but it lets him get through his sorry ass existence, so he keeps it–me–in his own skull. Doesn’t let it interfere with what’s important to him. Like Gloria and the kids. He even integrated me, to the best of his ability, into his work and social life, such as they are. But he never pretended we were “plain old folks.” I’m sure he’d rather be rid of me, and he knows this, only he doesn’t have the will to let me go. He lives with himself (and me) as best as he can, tries to “do life” as best as he can.
But not the rejuveniles. Oh, no. They have to make-over the world. Turn their “alternative lifestyle” into a kind of party in the Hamptons, a hep-cat statement about the unspeakable. It’s not enough to accept your addiction to a certain pleasure, though it brings you pain, and either deal with it, or not. You have to keep the pleasure and get rid of the pain–as if the relationship weren’t symbiotic; you have to have it all.
I think this whole rejuvenile thing is about greed. Can’t have just one over-indulged childhood, you need two. I wonder how many adults who were abused as kids are rejuveniles? Or worse–in America–than a childhood of parental abuse: how many of these rejuveniles grew up dark-skinned and/or poor?
The U.S. power elite has nothing to worry about. Nothing. They can pull off any military/economic/legal scam they want and get away with it. Who’s going to stand up for people, Alfalfa? Bart Simpson? Buckwheat? Of course Californians drafted Gary Coleman for Governor. The Mainstream Media think he’s a harmless, grinning, slap-happy “boy.” And don’t forget about Arnold to bring in the under-eighteen crowd. The under-eighteens can’t vote? Lame excuse. Any decent Republican worth his ill-gotten capital gains can win California or any other state, with or without votes. Who do you think dropped Dubya like a duffel-bag of stinky diapers on our heads, the Stork?
Well, Americans are not my problem. Just like the New York Times is not my problem. And me and Lenny try not to be anyone else’s problem: we live our life and shut up about it. I went to the Times Web Site to check the weather forecast, that’s all. The headline sucked me in.
I won’t grow up, I’ll buy stuff. All the stuff my parents bought me 30 years ago I’ll buy again, not for my kids, but for myself, at seven times the price. The Peter Pavlov Complex.
Life is okay for me. Really. I provide Lenny with great memories, living memories. I am memory, living. Every time I pick up a baseball or quote a passage from “The Hardy Boys” a thrill zaps Lenny’s aging spine. His kids bring him joy. But the feeling of raising a kid just can’t compare to the–I’ll admit, adulterated–memory of being one. Most people accept their kids as a substitute for what is lost. The rare but creative lunatic, like Lenny, will find a way to have his kids and be one too.
I may have frozen in time when Chevy Chase was in the White House, but I read the news and other things (with Lenny’s extensive vocabulary–smart guy, Lenny, did real well in school ever since I showed up to occupy his diversions and save him from what could have been a killer Ritalin regimen) . I don’t know whether the “culture” is crumbling to pieces before my eyes; the new media tactic for steering people away from real issues like the environment, economy and Empire is to focus on the whims of a few crazed, wealthy white people; or the New York Times periodically makes up this kinda shit to drive Lenny and like-minded individuals to a level of lunacy beyond the capabilities of Bellevue Hospital, to the only place where they could possibly find honest help: Sesame Street.
Just say “NO” to Time. Visit ADAM ENGEL’s Rejuvenile Revivalist Patchouli Palace Head Shop and Emporium at firstname.lastname@example.org