“How old are those guys? How old are we?”

Via Jonathan Rees on Twitter (he of More or Less Bunk, the blog for all worthy LMS/CMS and MOOC opinionation):

I immediately shared this with my husband (who a few months ago had a birthday ending in a zero), and he asked, “How old are those guys?  How old are we?

It was weird for me as a historian when I became old enough to recognize that parts of my life were a part of specific historical eras.  I think I was in my later 30s or early 40s when I started realizing that my youth was definitely a childhood of the 1970s, and then that my college years were specific to that part of the late 1980s, post-Rock Hudson/AIDS awareness, but definitely before the internet invaded everyone’s lives.  (We had email on an intranet, but no World Wide Web or internet yet.)

I’ve even got a little spiel for my History of Sexuality class about how going to college ca. 1986-90 was a Golden Age of Heterosexual Promiscuity, because private, secular colleges and universities were absolutely panicked about the possibility of AIDS infecting their young students.  There were gigantic bowlfuls of condoms left outside the student health center for anyone and everyone to use and enjoy.  Institutions were encouraging all kinds of open and honest conversations about sexuality–homo- and hetero.  (Being at a women’s college meant a lot of conversations about dental dams, an appliance of which I have almost never heard since the 1980s.)  But for the most part, it was all about the heterosexxay party time, because it’s always easier to be straight.  Have fun, and be careful, kids! 

(Some of you may remember this–there was actually competition among elite colleges to attract enough qualified applicants–those of us lucky enough to have been born into a baby bust–and they were worried about the PR and their ability to put enough butts in their seats to keep going as educational institutions with major legacy costs.  Ah, the good old days, eh?  For both faculty and matriculating students.)

No zero on my age yet again, but I’m old enough to remember tearing around Toledo, Ohio in the summer of 1984 with my friend Brian playing this song and the rest of the Violent Femmes’ debut album on “11” with the windows down (in his parents’ sensible Honda four-door.)  Brian was second chair on the clarinet; I was third chair in the band.  (First chair was a friendly Junior who ended up going to M.I.T.)

I went to see the Femmes at Cobo Hall in Detroit in the summer of 1986.  I don’t remember much–probably because of the pitcher of kamikazes from which I drank and then horked half of it up again back into the same communal pitcher.  I know:  rookie mistake, but then, I was a raw recruit at age 17.  I remember Gordon Gano performing in a skirt, and that the scene was pretty crazy.  All the fans were swinging from the rafters and singing along about the unsettledness of youth, and liberty, and time, the great avenger.

6 thoughts on ““How old are those guys? How old are we?”

  1. Not so long ago (OK maybe five years ago) I realized that I was old enough to be the same age as my student’s parents. This week I realized I was the same age as a junior colleague’s parents.

    I had a priceless moment when I was picking M up from daycare about a month ago. We were driving home and Blister in the Sun came on the radio. About two minutes into the song a little voice piped up from the back seat. M said with the utmost reverence and sincerity, “What a beautiful song…”


    • Love it! I hope she doesn’t understand all of the words, which have always felt more than a little creepy to me, but she’s right: it’s a catchy tune!


    • YAY! I love barrier methods for college students. (Or really, for everyone!)

      We had the AIDS scare, but not the horrible genital warts issues that our students have now. Here’s hoping that the Garasil vaccine has made some inroads now into our current population of students.


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