My daughter and I sit in a coffee shop near her college campus. She has just turned 20 and I watch her drink a mocha latte topped with whipped cream while I sip herbal tea infused with antioxidants. She wears skinny jeans and a lace tank top, her blond hair swept back into a smooth ponytail. I have on Bermuda shorts, but I am sporting my new denim jacket and I have remembered to flat iron my hair so it is only medium frizzy.
I am surrounded by 20-somethings. They order complicated coffee drinks with ease and carry heavy backpacks with confidence. Some of them wear knit caps made of wool and eyeglasses with black frames.
I love this quintessential college town. It oozes cool with its locally owned restaurants, funky art galleries and live music venues. It reminds me of how my husband and I lived when we were in our 20s, before we moved to the suburbs to raise our children. It reminds me that I am tired of chain restaurants, manicured lawns and cul-de-sac streets. I want my cool back.
“So what’s the deal with the kids wearing caps and glasses?” I ask my daughter.
“Hipsters,” she says.
I decide hipster must mean cool. I assume it is a cross between hippies and the beat generation; it must mean good music and social causes and great literature.
“You know,” I blurt out, “Dad and I used to be cool. We were the original hipsters.”
I want her to know that I was not always a middle-aged mom with over-processed hair and fluctuating hormones. I want her to know that her dad did not always have an achy back and goofy dance moves. I want her to know that we were totally cool.
“Uh, it’s really just about what they wear Mom, but I’m sure you and Dad were cool. We should probably leave now,” she suggests.
Clearly, she is not getting it.
She goes to her classes and I drive back home. My 16-year-old son comes home from school and I meet him at the front door.
“Hey, I just found this old tape in the back of my closet. Will you listen to it?” I ask.
It is a cassette tape of course; we were way too cool for eight-tracks.
“It’s your dad’s radio show when we were in college,” I tell him. He was a DJ!” (Weren’t we cool?)
My son politely listens to the tape while I point out that the music his dad played was very avant-garde.
The tape ends and my son says, “Aw, Dad sounded so young! That was weird.” He forgets to mention cool. Clearly, he is not getting it either.
The next weekend we all decide to explore a nearby city. We find a vintage record store with rows of vinyl and it even has a display case housing turntables from the 1970′s. It is a beautiful sight.
“A record store! Cool!” my son says.
Then he makes a beeline for a separate section in the back; the section that has all of the newly-released CDs. This is disappointing; now he won’t be able to see how cool his dad and I look perusing the rock n’ roll album section.
“I feel right at home,” I say to my husband.
“Yeah, me too,” he says. “I remember spending hours in record stores when we were in college.”
He picks up an album and flips it over to read the back, just as he always did when we were younger.
“I can’t read this,” he says. “Was the writing always this small? I’m going to the car to get my glasses.”
While he is gone, I walk through the store. I am wearing a new scarf, tied just right, and I think that it is billowing nicely as I stroll down the aisles.
I find an old favorite album. I rush over to my daughter, who has just wandered into the vinyl section.
“I listened to this all the time when I was around your age!,” I tell her.
“Aw, do you want me to take a picture of you holding it Mom? Here, let me fix your scarf first.”
She makes major adjustments. “There,” she says, “much better.”
She snaps the picture and shows it to me.
“Aw, that’s sweet. You look nice,” she assures me.
She goes back to the CD section to join her brother and I find my husband. He is reading the back of an album cover. He can see the writing now that he has on his 3x reading glasses.
He has just turned 51 and I watch him standing there in his Bermuda shorts and checkered shirt, cute as ever. I think about the years we have spent raising our two children, who clearly have kind hearts. I think about how, against the odds, we have been happily married for 28 years.
And then I think we are totally cool.