Charlie's not cool. When I turn on any music not expressly made for children, his face crumples and he piteously bleats, "No, thank you." Eschewing his "My IQ is higher than the president's" T-shirt, instead he regularly begs to wear his duck speedsuit, a pale yellow onesie sprigged with ducks and the word, "quack." He is Bert over Ernie and fishsticks over sushi, every single time. He is a baby, with sweet, mostly simple enthusiasms. There is nothing even vaguely counterculture about him.
But this is not surprising. See, I am also a square. So square, in fact, in every dimension that I'm practically a cube. And while I would like to believe that square is the new not-square — perhaps the new rhombus? — I cannot deceive myself: I am not cool in the slightest. I will prove it with an anecdote.
Yesterday I was painting a room. I was painting the ceiling, and I was using a long extension handle on a roller. The paint color? Why, Benjamin's Moore's Runny Excrement, of course. (Charlie's room is the only one in the house that has not been painted a color one might find in a diaper, unless the diapered child in question had eaten a carton of Ben and Jerry's. And I don't mean a pint of ice cream; I mean the cardboard carton itself.)
So there I was, painting with my roller on a stick. I had on my iPod while I worked, having apparently learned nothing from that time I leaned over the whirling beaters of the Kitchen-Aid and practically garotted myself with the wires. And this time it was fine. I didn't strangle myself even a little. I worked, my labors lightened by music, my voice lifted loud in song.
And then a tune came on that demanded no less than my full commitment. I slung the stick downwards, the better to serve as my mic stand, remorselessly grinding against it like Prince deep into the '80s, and I opened my mouth to sing.
And ended up with a chin, jaw, and mouth full of Benjamin Moore AquaVelvet Eggshell.
Incredibly — I know! — that alone is not what makes me uncool, although it might have been enough. No, what makes me uncool is the song that made me do it: Michael Martin Murphey's 1975 #3 Billboard hit, "Wildfire (MP3)."
If kids derive even a scintilla of their sense of what's cool from their parents, either under duress, as David "Get Off My Lawn, Y'Damn Crazy Kids" Brooks insists in The New York Times, or simply through osmosis, with a dork like me for a parent, poor Charlie doesn't stand a chance. "[Children] should not be turned into deceptive edginess badges by parents who refuse to face that their days of chaotic, unscheduled moshing are over," Brooks fusses. Not to worry, Mr. Brooks; with me as a parent, I'm pretty sure Charlie's safe from any accusation of being the "hipper-than-thou" accessory of a mother concerned with her own waning coolness. First of all, I never had much to begin with. Second, I've found it pretty much impossible to find a Bread onesie anywhere.