Friday, June 22, 2012

My Aging Brain Is a Pop Culture Toaster

"Cheers, Old Man!"
Fifty isn't old, is it?

According to 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy, "Rich 50 is middle-class 38."

The problem is, I am 50 but I am not rich.

Yet, I do not feel old.  Although I get the occasional mailing from AARP, I do not sense that retirement or "slowing down" is around the corner.

But then I was asked this question while getting my hair cut recently: "Would you like me to clean up your eyebrows for you?"

Am I getting an old guy's unruly eyebrows? 

What passed through my mind at the moment was going off on the stylist like Julianne Moore in the pharmacy scene from Magnolia.

"You don't know me!  You don't know who I am, what my life is like!  You have the indecency to ask me about cleaning up my eyebrows?  Don't you ask me to clean up my eyebrows!  Shame on you!  Shame on you!"

Of course, that would be the version edited for public consumption.  In the film, Moore is a bit more raw in her emotions and language (her scene part starts at around 0:55).

Honestly, I did not want to go off on the stylist.  She is a nice person doing her job very well.  But it was the first time that question had been asked of me. It was an unwelcome milestone.

The event also made me curious about watching the scene again, to see what exactly Moore says.  In my memory, she yells at the pharmacists partly for calling her "ma'am," for treating her like an older person.  In my mind and in conversations, the scene had functioned as a kind of shorthand or icon for the fear and defensiveness of being treated like an older person.

But when I watched the scene again, I realized that she reacts to being called "lady," not "ma'am."  She gets upset at the anonymity with which she is treated, not at some insincere respect.  And this insult is on top of the apparent disapproval by the young pharmacist who does not know the details of her troubled life. 

We need two sniglets, which is another word for a neologism (new + word).  One for those mental film and music clips that instantly, perhaps even involuntarily, run through our heads when triggered by certain events -- "You can't handle the truth!" etc.  And one for when those clips are taken out of context and, essentially, misused, such as my "Shame on you!' clip.

Hmmm... The first phenomenon could be called a Mental Pop-Tart.  Pop-Tart is appropriate because the sound bite pops into your head instantly and it is drawn from popular culture.  The second could be a Mental Pop-Fart, with its similarity to a "brain fart."

So those are my gifts to the world today.  Use them wisely.