After the Super Bowl I felt like a cultural expatriate, an unsophisticated untouchable nebbish. So I went to Facebook wondering what people I knew were posting about it. I scrolled down, down, down but not one post about the Superbowl. That alone says a lot about my bubble.
There was one. A friend had posted a meme prior to the Superbowl composed of the headlining halftime performers. The meme read, “If you’re stoked about the halftime show it’s time to book your colonoscopy.”
The juxtaposition of GenX’s relatively elderly halftime performers with the Millennial and GenZ commercials was head splitting. Every commercial break felt like a stream of consciousness dream that leaves you shaking your head and wondering what the heck that was about. Individually some of the commercials were entertaining and comprehensible, but there was enough of the rapid eye movement ads with nonlinear ideas and graphics running together without even a split second in between, that I began to question reality.
That was when I felt like a cultural exile. I wanted to call my dog over and comfort her in the way that really comforts me. But I decided not to subject her to it because she likes to watch television and I wasn’t sure what the fast stream of manic, loud, reality-defying images and soundtracks would do to her. But I hung in because the game and the narrative surrounding it was entertaining and suspenseful.
To be honest with you, I haven’t even gotten used to being bald. I didn’t lose my hair until I was in mid to late forties. Over the course of the pandemic the drumbeat of aging has been getting louder but nothing prepared me for the Super Bowl commercials this year.
I remember an evening watching television with my mom and dad when they were in their late seventies and a commercial came on which caused me to wonder how the heck they were processing it. I was afraid to ask. I think it was one of those bizarre perfume commercials that used to run more often than they do now, the ones with scantily clad men and women trading non sequitur lines that were supposed to be sexy but instead left you scratching your head. My parents were the Perry Mason and Gunsmoke generation and had no frame of reference with which to navigate such marketing. I am not there yet, but man, I can see it coming.
When I was thirty-four I took a job that placed me on the campus of The Ohio State University and suddenly I felt old watching the first year students stumble onto campus. I soon recognized that sixteen years was a distance I had to learn to cross. Now, looking ahead to my fiftieth high school reunion this year, I recognize that I am on an ice floe moving away from shore and have a choice to make. Learn to better connect or continue to drift.
It is a choice members of each generation need to make, over and over again throughout their lives. Learn to listen, watch, and apprehend what new generations are bringing and connect with them — or not. I confess the pandemic slowed my efforts but now I’m getting back in the game.