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Tragically Unhip

by Carrie Friedman

Last night, as I dished out dinner onto my kids’ high chair trays (AKA the only time of day when they are immobile while still being awake), I turned on a little music and danced. When it comes to dance, I have two moves, old standbys. There’s the one that resembles a kind of giddy leprechaun skipping around a pot of gold and there’s the West Side Story gang-fight, complete with snapping and jazz hands. Tonight, I started out with a little leprechaun shuffle and I loved it.

Our younger child immediately started to laugh, like she was in on a joke I wasn’t aware I was making. The older one gave me a look I expect in her teen years, not at two and a half. Oh my god, Mom, you’re embarrassing me, even in the privacy of our own kitchen. For all that is holy, please stop.

“This is dancing!” I said with glee as I spooned out some zucchini. “Do you want to dance with me?” I shuffled toward them, this time with my arm in the air waving an imaginary lasso, surprising even myself with moves that can only be described as Southwestern Flair.

The younger one laughed harder, making me realize she was laughing at, not with, me. The older one put her face in her hands.

I shouldn’t be surprised by their reactions. I haven’t been cool for a while now. There are stages to “uncooling,” and I’ve been making my way through them, steadily, over the course of my 30’s.

It starts with denial – doing drumbeats with your hands while driving your midsize SUV (which I did, long before I even had kids to put in the back of my car). You catch yourself doing it but it’s too late – the driver beside you at the stoplight saw you.

Then you find yourself saying goofy things to people much younger than you. Case in point: before I had kids, my teenaged nephews were the objects of my attention and affection. I’d buy their music but I was perpetually 10 months to a year behind on all pop culture, as if I were reading back issues of Wired magazine or something. I thought being keyed into the latest fads made me a cooler Aunt. A hallmark of the bargaining stage. Sentences that have actually come out of my mouth include: “So, Dudes, how ‘bout that cool cat Bruno Mars, eh?” and “Anybody wanna dance some Gangnam Styles?”

And just like that, you’ve arrived at the next step: Adding an S to the ends of words or a The to the beginning of them. I reminded my nephews not to do The Drugs. And I tried new lingo on for size. Sneakers became Kicks, jewelry Bling.

Next thing you know, you’re A Full Phil. You’ve transformed into Phil Dunphy from Modern Family, entirely committed to the fact that you earnestly quest for coolness despite the time-delay. My nephews would wince but humor me every time, politely correct me when I called Facebook Facebox or repeatedly sang the chorus of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” wrong. (“No, Aunt C, it’s not ‘Pop some JAGS’ it’s ‘Pop some TAGS.’ –Oh! That makes more sense.”)

As you near the stage of acceptance, you give up style for comfort. Now, I wear cardigans, jeans that cost well under a hundred dollars, and very sensible shoes.

And the last milestone: The lasso move. My father’s favorite at my high school father-daughter dinner dance in 1995. The only thing that would have made his Southwestern Flair moves MORE embarrassing would’ve been if he’d had on assless chaps, too.

There it is. I’m uncool. It happened, a gradual, slow fade. So maybe it’s time to embrace the fact that I was that mom before I even became a mom. Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to show my kids that, like my wonderful father, I will get the party started by any means necessary, even – especially? – if it means sacrificing my coolness.

So, embrace it I will. Now who wants to dance to The Soulja Boys with me?

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