Rich Roeper’s column in last Thursday’s Chicago Sun-Times is ostensibly about the coming-soon name change of Chicago’s landmark department store from Marshall Field’s to Macy’s. Lots of Chicagoans are upset about the change and Roeper examines the “issue” but has a brilliant insight near the end of his column. I say it’s brilliant because he hints at something I’ve been trying to wordsmith in this space for some time. Here’s what he says:
Part of it has to be that for some people, the departure of Field's is yet another sign that time mercilessly rolls on, and that the iconic images of our most prolific years will eventually disappear -- as will we. One day you're a 20-something, brimming with enthusiasm and rarin' to take Chicago by storm -- and the next thing you know, you're walking down the street with much younger people, explaining that that parking lot was once a nightclub, and that store used to have a different name, and those condo lofts used to be a factory, and . . . they're barely listening to you. Of course, one day they'll be in your shoes.
We're angry at the world for turning so damn quickly, and we take out our anger on the out-of-town suits that don't respect the names that are synonymous with our city, our youth.
It's not entirely rational, but it's perfectly understandable.
I’d like to expand on this a bit. The way I see it, there is a part of your very early adulthood, say between the ages of 17 and 25 roughly, when you establish a sense of “normal”. That is, the way things are during that part of your life are as they should be and to some extent you expect they will be, even if only unconsciously. As you travel through time, things inevitably change and, as Roeper so eloquently points out, it is somewhat unsettling when the world morphs, in slow motion, into something increasingly different from what it was in early adulthood.
At 45, I often find it disquieting to look around and not see and hear and feel what I did 20 or 30 years ago. Roeper, who by the way is the same age, I think feels it too. He can just articulated better.
This also brings up a related topic I’ve wanted to get to. A month or so ago I was listening to the Mike Wilson Show on WMAY. Wilson was yammering on about how it was a bad deal for Ashton Kurcher to be dating or marrying that that old hag Demi Moore who is in her early 40s. Well, maybe. I’m sure Ashton will be OK but it got me thinking about how his (Wilson’s) comments reflected on his age. He’s what, 27, I think. At 27, early 40s looks pretty damn old AND pretty far away. I know I thought so when I was 27 (and in radio shooting my mouth off too, I might add). But here’s the thing, the numbers are deceptive.
The distance in years between 27 and 40 is 13 years. The same as between 14 and 27, right? Well, no not really. Going from 27 to 40 happens REALLY fast. Going from 13 to 27 takes a long time and is full of new experiences and life changing events. Actually, that’s precisely why 13 to 27 seems like such a long time while you are living it. But going from 27 to 40 takes no time at all. It’s truly shocking. In your late 20s you are still very much attached to “youth”. By the time you cross the 40 year line, you’re deemed “middle aged”. That was culture shock for me. Except for some worsening eyesight that everyone goes through at about 40 (you can’t read the dates on coins unaided anymore), I was the same person and didn’t feel older. So I would just offer this caution to late 20-somethings that think 40 is old: it’s going to happen to you very soon. Really.
UPDATE: Be nice to Mke Wilson tomorrow. I just saw where this happened. Poor Ashton. Poor Mike.