Friday, August 25, 2006

Rejuveniles in the pre-apocalyptic zone: Is anyone surprised?

Today someone basically gave a name to people like me. I'm a "Rejuvenile." w00h00. Someone's got my number. Someone's been watching me for the past 30 some-odd years. Yeah, Chris Noxon, preach on. You're preaching to the choir here.

A "Rejuvenile" is a person who's supposedly too old for things like toys, comic books, anime, cartoons, fantasy, and so forth, yet doggedly pursues them anyway. A "Rejuvenile" drives around in a cute little car like a Mini or a New Beetle or a Fit or rides a Vespa. A "Rejuvenile" bakes cupcakes or goes to a hip bakery to get them, and washes them down with Producer's Dairy chocolate milk...the stuff with Hopalong Cassidy still emblazoned on the carton. Don't look for it locally here in have to go to Fresno to find it. A "Rejuvenile" doesn't get together with buddies from the Alma Mater to play nine holes at Riviera, he gets together with his friends and plays kickball.

Is anyone surprised by this?

It seems like the "Rejuvenile" thing got mainstream in the wake of 9/11. I haven't heard official figures but the estimates were that 110,000 to 130,000 people attended San Diego Comic-Con this year. Last year's confirmed total was 104,000 people. It's not just the geeks and the Otakus that have rejoined the ranks of the "Rejuvenile." It's parents with kids and the whole family Cosplays.

What exists for those who are adults in this day and age?

As I wrote to the author of the book Rejuvenile as a response to a post on his blog:

No, I think that people are embracing a second childhood because the terrain of adulthood in the Third Millenium is a scary freaking place, and death is as real and palpable as the images burnt in our brains by the TV news on 9/11/2001 and 8/29/2005. (Hurricane Katrina is the second date for those for whom that date is not burnt into their cerebrums.)

The world is a more dangerous, scary place than it ever has been. Who the hell wants to be an ADULT now? People are looking for comfort wherever they can find it. What's more comfortable than eating cereal out of a box on Saturday Morning in your footies at ungodly-o-clock? What's more comfortable than a chocolate cupcake with rainbow jimmies? What's more comfortable than a pair of Vans' Off-The-Wall skater shoes, jam shorts and a faded old Led Zep T-Shirt?

We are becoming Rejuvenile because we crave what we lost as adults, and what recent history has taken from us. We are becoming Rejuvenile because death indeed lives on our shoulders now. For all of us, not just for Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda.

I am a geek, so much so that my identity online is "Ms. Geek" So many of the current Rejuvenile trends can be traced back to geek/nerd/Otaku tastemaker roots. And before this, to the Fandom that helped make Star Trek an institution and Sci-Fi reading material for a whole generation. Geeks and Otaku and Fannish Folk have always been the disaffected, the ones for whom the "mundane world" seemed colorless and a living tomb. None of us wanted to grow up because dammit, the grown-up world was screwed up. That's what it seemed like from the perspective of someone whose formative years were bookended by Vietnam and the rise of Reagan. And the truth of the matter is that aside from a brief shining moment of Clintonian optimism as the dot-com boom galloped and freedom seemed to be on the move in places like Russia and Eastern Europe, it's gotten worse and worse and worse.

People don't leave Mom and Dad's house because they want to stay there forever, unless you are an Italian male. People live under Mom and Dad's roof here in the States because they can't afford to strike out on their own.

People collect comics and lunchboxes and toys because it's a cheaper thing to collect than antiques and Expressionist paintings. The Rejuvenile lifestyle is not cheap-cheap unless you do things yourself and resist the temptation to blow money on that DVD box set or that Parks Sabers Luke Skywalker replica lightsabre, but it's a more econo lifestyle than others. Bling bling? Ka-ching. It's indulgences that people with lowered expectations and living with the reality of downward mobility can afford.

We know we're mortal. We know it will all be over someday. We dread the end but we dread the period before the end the most: the "assisted living facilities" and worse; the very real possibility of dirt poverty at one's twilight years, of cat food in a Single Room Occupancy hotel room. We know we're going to die and we know we are probably going to have a crappy old age. So why not postpone it all? Why not just cut out the boring, drudgy "adult" years and be a kid until our bodies don't allow us to anymore?

There is a dark reality to which the Rejuvenile lifestyle is a reaction. Does that mean it's dysfunctional? I'd say that people could choose worse and more maladaptive coping mechanisms than this.

The words of Tom Waits, in a song that could be an anthem for the Rejuvenile Nation, say it better than I ever could. Follow the link.