Archive for May 6th, 2011
Today is my brother Paul’s eighteenth birthday. Holy shit.
Paul was my mother’s third child and her first born with her second husband. He was born during my freshman year of high school, specifically during the week of my first high school musical, Hello Dolly. This was right around the time of the 100 year flood in St. Louis back in 1993. And while all of this makes me feel incredibly old, it’s also been increasingly hard for me to put into perspective.
Paul is now four years older than I was when he was born. And yet when I think back to that time, I seem much older in my mind. But what really seems strange to me is how different his teenage years were from mine. I was a teenager from 1991-1999; Paul’s teenager years will be from 2006-2012. That’s a 15 year gap from their beginnings and ending. And wow had a lot changed in those fifteen years. These changes seem like a great topic for this week’s Friday 5.
Top 5 Specific Differences Between My Teenage Years and My Brothers
The most obvious difference is computers. Now I’m not one of those “when I was growing up computers were the size of a room and no one had them,” folks. I was actually part of the very first generation to have a computer at school. In grade school I learned how to make the turtle move on Commodore 64. My high school had a first generation computer lab which was where I accessed the internet for the first time. However, computers were still a long way from where they are nowadays. Despite having computers, I still had to use a typewriter for my high school’s typing class. Computers weren’t a tool yet, they were still pretty much an expensive gadget.
Nowadays, they’re inexpensive wonder boxes. And seeing how you’re currently reading this on some kind of computer, there’s no need for me to discuss the amazing things they can do at lightning speeds. What is striking to me is how much my brother can use the computer for pretty much all of his needs today: communication, entertainment, information, socializing, etc.
Paul turning eighteen made me realize the allure of eighteen has faded nowadays thanks to the computer. When I turned eighteen, it meant I could watch rated R movies, read adult magazines and buy lottery tickets. Thanks to the internet, Paul can watch any movie he wants, check out any porno he wants, and gamble anytime he wants. And for free! Really, the only thing he can now do that he couldn’t do yesterday is vote and buy cigarettes. Welcome to adulthood?
Paul has owned a cell phone for all of his teenage years. He primarily uses it to play games and text. Right when my sister and I entered our teenage years, our house phone was upgraded to call waiting. And it was awesome! Even better, a few of my friends had three-way calling! And while I often had to fight my sister to use the phone, I didn’t need to worry about getting off anytime soon. For a guy, I’ve always been chatty, so I would talk for hours without tying up the line.
I also find it astounding how easy it is for him to communicate. He’s never had to use a pay phone! He’s never stood around waiting for hours to get a hold of friend! I probably spent 20% of my teenage years trying to figure out where everyone was currently located. Granted, pagers did come into use during my teenage years. But the stigma around them back then was that they were only for drug dealers and doctors. And seeing as I was neither of those things, I couldn’t get one. I don’t think my brother knows anyone without a cell phone.
And speaking of my brother’s cell phone, it’s also always been his camera. His parents have a digital camera he uses, but he’s always had a camera located conveniently in his pocket. During my teens I had a cheapy little 35mm camera that only worked about half the time. Eventually it was replaced by an endless parade of disposable cameras. And while I probably used my disposable cameras as much as he uses digital cameras, the ability to immediately see how the pictures turn out is so much cooler. His teen years are like watching Blu-ray on an HDTV, mine look like watching VHS on old Magnavox.
I’m not gonna go on a “music today is crap compared to the music from back in my day,” rant. To paraphrase Chris Rock, people are always going to prefer the music that was popular when they first started getting laid. I’m no exception. What amazes me is how my brother has instantaneous access to anything song that pops into his head. FOR FREE! That blows my mind, especially considering how much of my time and money I spent acquiring music during my teenage years. I’d listen to the radio for hours hoping to hear a song that I heard a snippet of earlier. I’d also spent anywhere from $10-50 a week buying cds. I would actually buy a cd because I liked one song on the album. Even if it was used, it was still $5-8 for a song! That idea is laughable nowadays.
Once again, I’m not trying to compare the quality of show then compared to now. Honestly, it’s a mixed bag. I didn’t have to put up with crap like Teen Mom back then, but I also didn’t have amazing shows like Breaking Bad. What amazes me is how little effort is required for him to watch television. He’s been DVRing whatever he wants for years now and watching it whenever he wants. If I wanted to watch 120 Minutes on Sunday nite, I had to be home on time and stay up to watch it. It’s also amazing to me that he can download a whole previous season of a show and watch it in a few days. Anyone who missed the train on Twin Peaks or My So Called Life were pretty much SOL. Which seems to be the underlying theme when I look at my brother’s teenage years. He has access to pretty much everything all the time.
So here’s to you Paul.
Happy Birthday Bro!