What's Hot? I couldn't say.
In this issue, the Bulletin staff has taken its first-ever look at what's hot and what's not among college kids today. I suppose that this story should also apply to me--after all, at twenty-three, I would probably look right at home in a dorm room, sipping from a Nalgene bottle or playing beer pong. But, quite frankly, our reports from the trenches are just as confusing to me as to people twice my age.
For me, that confusion is nothing new. Growing up, I indulged in offbeat tastes, unconcerned with the popular trends among kids my age. In elementary school, I ignored popular acts such as New Kids on the Block, instead claiming Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as my favorite song. I wasn't trying to appear mature or urbane; I just liked the music.
I resisted popular fashion as well. In middle school, my mother bought me a B.U.M. Equipment shirt, likely thinking I would be happy to receive something that was popular among kids my age. I rejected it swiftly and rudely, and, to this day, I still feel a pang of guilt.
My tastes changed little in the intervening years. Throughout high school, I usually wore jeans, T-shirts, and running shoes, even in the dead of winter. My boldest fashion statement was tucking my T-shirt into my jeans without wearing a belt. I also resisted popular music. I avoided MTV and top-40 radio, preferring instead to listen to folk music from the 60s and 70s. The soft strumming and sweet story-songs of Harry Chapin were much more appealing to me than the atonal whine of Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy" or the melodramatic wail of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."
When I moved on to Elizabethtown College, I took my off-the-rack Sears wardrobe and my collection of folk CDs. There, I had the fortune of rooming with Jamie, a guy who, like me, ignored popular trends. Strangely enough, many of our offbeat tastes were the same.
Designer clothes? Cool water bottles? Hip music? None of that was to be found in Founders D-213, one of the few rooms on our all-freshman floor where trends never took root. Jamie and I knew to brace ourselves for the booming bass of the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic Planetary," as it could start thundering at any time, day or night, from the room two doors down the hall. Only once did my annoyance morph into outright retaliation--when I sprayed Easy Cheese all over the loud neighbors' door.
When I became a DJ for WWEC 88.3 FM, the Elizabethtown College radio station, I played oldies and folk-rock while most of the other DJs were playing independent, underground music geared toward the college crowd. Jamie and I often listened to the Wednesday morning show, hosted by a professor with a love for 1920s and 1930s jazz and swing. In the evenings, Gordon Lightfoot's gentle Canadian burr or Tom Waits's rough growl--sounds alien to Elizabethtown ears--could often be heard emanating from our room.
Growing up, I rarely gave much thought to my rejection of popular trends. I always followed my eyes and ears to find what I enjoyed, popularity and coolness be damned. Did it affect me much? Not really. True, I wasn't the most stylish person when growing up. I might have even had some whispers and chuckles behind my back. But, overall, I found that there is no harm in being un-cool.
I'll just have to wait for "I Love the 90s" to premier on VH-1 before I can speak authoritatively about what was hot during my youth.
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