Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It’s official: I’ve completely lost the connection to the generation with whom I could have fathered (think Olsen Twins), and my incomprehension of today’s scene-makers is making me crankier than Mr. Wilson after a hot-foot from “Dennis the Menace.”

This cultural divide has been inching wider upon each passing day, and I have valiantly fended off its spread by wearing bell-bottom jeans, listening to the Black Eyed Peas, and reading US Weekly. But I can’t fight any longer. I’ve been broken, shoved aside, hurtled onto the seats in the mall reserved for the middle-aged codgers.

What ended my quest to stay current with the likes of Wilder Valderamma? What tamed my ambition to sit through a Hillary Duff movie, or listen to an entire song lip-synced by Ashlee Simpson? What made me stop discussing Jackass with neighborhood teens and start being called “jackass” by neighborhood teens? The answer: Nick and Jessica’s break-up.

I thought I knew them – America’s golden couple, the new Sonny and Cher, stars of MTV’s “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” – I thought they’d make it. Nick Lachey of boy band (98 Degrees) fame, and Jessica Simpson, a solo-singing phenomena in the glorious tradition of Tiffany, they came into my life as two beacons of hope – young, hip celebrities that I could actually identify with.

They were married and argued over dirty laundry, her frivolous spending habits, his desire to hang out with buddies and watch sports. They wore dirty sweatsuits and woke up with nasty bed hair and ate Buffalo wings (Jessica: Do buffaloes really have wings?) at tacky chain restaurants. She had meddling, overbearing parents and a needy kid sister; he liked to spend time playing golf with his monosyllabic brother. Other than the fact that they were wealthy beyond belief and extremely comely once cleaned up, they were much like the couples I knew – even my wife and I.

No matter how alienated I otherwise felt from people able to lip-sync Brittney Spears’ songs, I at least had Jessica and Nick – a lifeline connecting me to modernity, holding me above water and the aged depths that held polyester shorts, knee-high sweat socks, and the lease to a studio condo with efficiency in Boca.

And then they announced their separation of marriage on Wednesday, Nov. 23, one day before Thanksgiving. The news hit me harder than twice-baked potatoes smeared in blue cheese. My initial reaction was denial – considering it might be a hoax, a cruel joke played by that prankster Ashton Kutcher, the 21st century Allen Funt, the maestro of MTV’s Punk’d, whose practical jokes sent 20-something celebs into Mariah Carey-sized fits of bipolar rage and laughter. Kutcher was something of an anomaly in my mind, a charter member of the white ‘gangsta’ crowd. But when television station after television station confirmed the break-up, I knew that even Kutcher’s massive media tentacles could not pull off such a large-scale ruse.

It was true – Nick and Jessica were no more, and with their dissolution as a duo came the realization that my last umbilical cord to hip couture had been cut.

Now what? I’m still too young to retire and live on cruise ships, yet I’ve passed the meridian where a metal stud on the tip of my tongue or a tattoo depicting barbed wire wrapped around my sagging bicep looks anything more than lewd and pathetic. I covet a Blackberry, but consider it the height of rudeness to jabber loudly on a cell phone in a public place. I have a satellite dish and get nearly every television station in the universe, but find myself watching the Weather Channel exclusively.

But the battle to remain youthful and cool is, indeed, over. It’s time for me to fade into the comfortable haze of premature senility – a place where Friday night at the Home Depot is a wild time, and my holiday gift wish list contains a blood pressure gauge. It’s time to set my car radio stations to easy listening and slip orthotics into my hiking boots.

Nick and Jessica, by parting ways, have provided me with the cold water slap I needed to part ways with my other half that is no longer relevant, the part of me that once was, holding me back from a future of what will be. Goodbye Nick and Jessica, hello Lawrence Welk. – John McCaffrey

John McCaffrey, Hoboken resident, is a frequent contributor of the Current. In 2004 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is currently at work on a novel.


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group