Today I am thinking about Rogelio de la Vega—the telanovella star (and Jane’s dad) from the CW show, Jane The Virgin. Rogelio is an actor whose character can’t come to grips with the fact that he’s aging. His gorgeous silver hair and wonderful fashion sense often collide with his need to connect with his Twitter following and his young fans.
Much of Season 3 of Jane The Virgin had Rogelio clashing against Fabian—a much younger, more fit, actor. An actor his daughter (Jane’s) age, who looked up to Rogelio as both a father, and an inspiration. Rogelio couldn’t deal with this and even injured himself trying to keep up with Fabian’s youth and ability.
Rogelio’s inability to accept aging is not atypical among Gen Xers. I know, because I am one. But this blog post, while somewhat personal, is also a generational one. I have been watching as Gen X resurrects its childhood in a fit of nostalgia. AKA: A fit of inability to accept that almost every single one of us is 40+.
Gender Bending Ghostbusters. Resurrecting Voltron. Rebooting Star Trek. Resurrecting Animaniacs. The list goes on and on and on. Some of these have been successful reboots/resurrections and I have been happy to watch. Others have been total flops and have been painful to witness. And yes, I have watched many of them. Example: I have seen five of the six Spider-Man movies made in the past fifteen years; Homecoming was the best of them.
We are a generation that refuses to grow up. But why can’t we grow up?
We were the generation that embraced Punk. Yes, it was the Baby Boomers who invented it (don’t argue, they did). And some of the Baby Boomers lived that punk scene and still do. But when Nirvana rushed on the scene in 1991 with Nevermind, “Punk broke” as Kim Gordon said. It went mainstream, it went commercial. Rebellion became an expected part of teenage life; counter culture became a part of regular culture.
Who was the bulk of this counter culture? Who was rocking the flannel and the Doc Martens?
A lot of us (me included), haven’t given hung up that counter culture hat. We’re still as politically active as before. We listen to the same music, do the same things. We never grew up—we just got better jobs and bigger living spaces. We look presentable for work (if we go to work), and then wear our Doc Martens and flannel when we get home. We dye our hair, we hate our greys, we have kids, but we show them everything that we loved in our childhood.
We’re passionate about saving our lives so much that we recycle them.
I can’t deal with the fact that I’m aging. I turned 40 in April and I’ve accused my body out loud of “betraying me.” The lines around my eyes, earned from laughing and having a good time are hideous. No way am I smiling for a photo anymore. My metabolism has slowed, so I had to step up my workout and diet routine. I am obsessed with reclaiming my youth of even three years ago.
I don’t want a way-back machine to my 20s—I was a mess in my 20s; a little shit with a bad attitude. I want a way back machine to 37, when I had my life figured out and I didn’t look so old.
Nostalgia is something different entirely. We have a complicated relationship. As I age, I have more nostalgia than I did even six months before. I used to look back on my life and say, “I want to move forward, never backward.” And now I dig out my photo albums every couple of weeks and scan in pictures of my childhood, my college days, or postcards from art museums.
So much for moving forward.
Somehow I think that if I work out and eat right and use this moisturizer that I can stop time. That I will look like I did at 37: a capable woman, ready to take on the world. I’ll get carded for cigarettes again; I’ll get waiters to flirt with me. But there’s no going back, there’s no magical anti-aging device that can reclaim my youth. None of us can. No matter how many TV shows or movies we reboot or resurrect or gender bend, us Gen Xers still pushing 60, pushing 50, entering our 40s.
Maybe it’s because we live in an age of Internet Time. Where things come through and are forgotten in an hour. In college, that new album sound would last for weeks. Now I have to make it last, savor it on a walk, and only on a walk. The world is too distracting now; there’s too much bullshit demanding my attention, and I want it to, because I participate in putting it out there. (Like this blog post.)
Maybe us Gen Xers think that if we share our youth with Millennials or our children that we can connect with them. But we want to share our versions, make everything our way. We were the first generation that was told we could do anything, be anything.
I wanted to be an astronaut, even after I watched the Challenger explode on live television, even after I was told I didn’t have the math skills, I wanted so much to go into space. So now I do: I write stories about being in space. In May I met a real live astronaut, and I almost cried.
So I did it, just not the way I thought I would.
We’ll never recapture our youth, Gen Xers. We’ll be the Rogelio de la Vegas of the world, injuring our bodies and our pride in front of the younger versions of ourselves who only look up to us, have been inspired by us. And even if we’ve inspired no one, even if we’ve just been doing our thing, that’s alright—but we can never go back. No diet, no lotion, no potion will ever let us reclaim that youth. No new version of Ghostbusters will ever be the original, no matter how good or much better it is/was.
All that rebooting, resurrecting, and gender bending? I’m here for it. It’s fun, it’s silly. Would I like some new, original content like Arrival? Yes. But every once in a while, you just want to sit back and watch the sixth Spider-Man movie in the past fifteen years and laugh until you almost pee your pants.
Nostalgia is good, just make sure that you allow yourself to grow up, and appreciate the world and your accomplishments as you’ve earned them. At 37, I hadn’t sold as many stories. At 37, I hadn’t met so many great people. At 37, I hadn’t been to so many great workshops.
So, if pressed: Would I really, truly go back to 37? No. I’ve earned these wrinkles, these lumps and bumps. I’ve worked hard the past three years to get them. My body didn’t betray me, it grew up with me. It did what it naturally does.
So I earned it. I lived.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t still dream of stopping time.