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The advantage of not getting it

August 15, 2013

Recently, I wrote a blog post in which I said I don’t get Pinterest.

The truth of the matter is, there are a growing number of things I don’t get any more. I don’t get football jerseys that don’t have sleeves–they look awful. I don’t get most of the music my son listens to. I don’t get the attraction of a Korean guy dancing like he’s riding a horse. I don’t get a lot of what passes for politics today.

I don’t expect this trend to pass for me. In fact, I expect it to increase. The simple fact is, most of the people targeted by today’s popular culture were born after the decade I did get–the 80s. Now that was a decade. It had Cheers and Magnum, PI and decent music and people didn’t get their news from Comedy Central. No one blew up the Boston Marathon–the biggest scandal was Rosie Ruiz cheating. And there weren’t insect-sized drones rumored to come spy on you eating the last of the Chunky Monkey.

Mine never overflows that top like that.

There was time to breathe. Everything wasn’t due two days ago, and you didn’t have email to keep up with both at your job and outside your job.

This isn’t unique to me. I expect it’s happening to a lot of the people who came of age with Atari gaming systems–and to almost every generation before that.

The point is, back in the eighties, or even ten years ago, I didn’t get the feeling of being passed by. I couldn’t write about it. If you were older and you weren’t keeping up,  I thought that was on you. There’s no reason to not keep up. If you don’t feel like it, that’s a personal decision.

And while all that is true, it’s also a way of life.

To be sure, I’m not a total stick in the mud. U2 is my favorite band, but I like Fun. and there are songs by Gotye and Fall Out Boy and a few others I enjoy. Mad Men is great television and there are a lot of other great shows I’d watch if I weren’t trying to keep time set aside for writing.

But I have more appreciation now for people who don’t get it, who feel the world is too fast.

As a writer, it’s my job to try to get it, even if I don’t. It’s my job to not pass by the people who don’t get it as old and irrelevant (or to pass by the young people who did get it as shallow and distracted by shiny things). I have to step out of my perceptions and comfort zone and try to understand that which isn’t comfortable.

The things I don’t get are a valuable tool for me as a writer because they help me realize that on some level, I need to try to get it. Or at least get the characters who get it.

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