Monday, June 28, 2010

Random Reflection from a (Formerly) Cool Attending: Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Me and Mom circa 1970 . . .before we lost our cool stock
(How rad is Mom's afro? I'm just sayin'!)

The Generation Gap. . . .

I used to pride myself on being a "cool" attending. Like, I was always familiar with the pop culture that permeated my learners' lives, and even received compliments on a fairly regular basis for the things I'd wear to work. There's something nice about having a 23 year old medical student ask you where exactly did you buy your shoes. I'd somehow managed for all of my thirties to stay ahead of that curve, reveling in my "cool" status.

It all started going downhill with me not being on Facebook. That was when I realized that I was the only person my students knew who didn't know what it meant to use the word "friend" as a verb. Somehow, I convinced myself that, despite this, I was still cool, telling myself, But look at your cool shoes, Manning! Come on, you still have it. You SO have it.

I still discover every day how much older I am than my residents and students -- like how none of them have any recollection of when MTV was just for videos, or can't recall when the non-buff Madonna writhed around on stage singing "Like a Virgin". There's also the moments when we discuss the point where we were in our lives when a particular song came out. . . . .they remember it as a pre-school memory, while I remember it as a high school after school dance anthem. And of course, there's the things like the aforementioned Facebook lingo that must be explained to me, or like how the students used Google images and Wikipedia to help me get what a "hipster" is. Regardless of all that, in my mind, I have maintained my cool position, and for the most part, stayed in step with most of my learners without actually feeling, well, old.

That is, until 40 started gaining on me. With the big 4-0 less than six months away, the generation gap has started to widen bigtime. . . . .and with that gap comes a few ticks down in the "cool" stock.


The end of cool as I once knew it. . . . .

I was rounding with my residents on the ward one day, and was in a rather playful mood. We'd all been full of giggles that morning, but had managed to stay on task enough to get through our eight new admissions. We listened as Dorothy, one of the students, presented the final patient.

She'd told us all about this gentleman who'd been admitted with an exacerbation of asthma. Fortunately, he was now doing much better. Dorothy reached the 'social history' -- the part where we discuss bad habits and living arrangements. "He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke"--

"What does he do?" I interrupted quickly while letting out a goofy snicker. (Okay, yes, I know this was not the most professional thing in the world for an attending to do on wards, but I just couldn't resist the joke after such a perfect segue.)

"Pardon?" asked Dorothy.

"Don't drink, don't smoke--what do you do?" I sang with an accompanying finger snap. I chuckled again and kept snapping. . . . waiting for someone to join in. My dorky finger popping slowed down to an eventual halt.


The team just stared at me incredulously, wondering what on earth I could be talking about. Not one person nodded in acknowledgment. In fact, they all gave me these uncomfortable, tight-lipped smiles; almost like they felt sorry for me for my unfortunate old school outburst and for this revelation that I was actually not a cool attending at all. . .but instead, quite the contrary--a lame one.

"Adam Ant?" I queried, "Adam Ant, y'all! Goody Two Shoes? You guys don't remember Goody Two Shoes?" I started snapping again. "Come on, y'all! That was a popular song!"


Um, yeah. Popular in, like, 1982. Turns out that not only had they never heard of Adam Ant or the song before, a fair number of them weren't even born yet when the song was on Billboard's 100. Wow. My "cool stock" clearly fell 100 points that day. Turns out that I was "talkin' 'bout my generation" -- literally. (That's what I get for being unprofessional on rounds.)

Jay Z (not T.I. and not LL Cool J)

The Generation Gap continues to widen. . .

It gets worse. Tonight I was watching the BET Awards with my mom, dad, sister and husband. T.I., a rather famous rap star, was on stage performing. Mom said, "This hollering on stage is really annoying. I can't see how you guys stand this."

"That's because you don't know what you're listening to," my sister replied dryly.

"Yes I do," Mom shot back, "I know who that is. That's JJ Cool Z." She was 100% serious.

JJ Cool Z? Wow, Mom. Really? And I thought I was lame.

(That was so worse than the Adam Ant outburst.)


These days, I've been redefining what it means to be cool. I've started wearing my "grown woman" status as a badge of honor, taking pride in what I've never heard of and enjoying the hairy eyeballs that my students and residents offer me after hearing me belt out the song of some one hit wonder from the early '90s. Anyways, it turns out that Huey Lewis and the News were right: "It's hip to be square."

Oh, and for those who don't get the reference, that's too bad. I'm talkin' 'bout MY generation, not yours. :)


Adam Ant singing "Goody Two Shoes" from the early MTV video days. . . . yes. . .this used to be a popular song, people!


  1. Still laughing at JJ Cool Z! Haaaaa!!!!

  2. I love Adam Ant! I guess that's cause I'm an old cat lady on the inside...

  3. That's so hilarious..because I swear I'm funny and cool with my jokes during appears that everyone is laughing and I am definately in the forefront for the "Last Comic Standing", but's all in my head..hahaha.
    I do feel old sometimes with these young 'whipper-snappers'..ok did I jus date myself again :-)

  4. One of my favorite movie quotes for such a situation comes from The Muppet Movie, when Fozzie, dying onstage in a nightclub, says "Am I too hip for the room?" Of course, quoting The Muppet Movie (1979) doesn't do much to reinforce my with-it status.

    (sorry I couldn't find a video clip online. But it's another opportunity to watch the entire movie!)

  5. I mention stuff to my students ALL THE TIME, and they have NO CLUE. It's worse tho because they are super young, so they barely know who Tupac is...



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