Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Don't Call Me Brah and I Won't Call You Dude

The first time it happened, I was sure I’d heard wrong. That 35-year-old guy could not be calling this 53-year-old guy brah.

Yeah, okay; we live in a college-saturated area, with callow youths slathering slang over their interlocutors like cream cheese on bagels. Some of it inevitably creeps into adult conversation, usually ironically. This wasn’t ironic; this was a heartfelt attempt at brotherhood. Or, I guess, brah-therhood.

Sooner or later, everyone gets called out by a younger person for AASA (Awkward Adult Slang Appropriation). If you’re 35, there’s just enough bloom left on the rose to shout out the latest hipster exhortation at a concert, or call your boyfriend bae on Instagram, and be seen as legit—I mean, authentic.

After 40? Not so much.

I’m a therapist working with young people; their trust is my stock-in-trade. When I laughingly spit out an I feel you! and the teen on the couch suddenly stops laughing, it might be weeks before she opens up again. So I’m pretty attuned to how out-of-touch I am.

“But you don’t understand,” I want to yell at her. “I saw the Pixies play before they were cool! I was wearing shorts and Doc Martins back when people thought that was weird!”

Yeah, well. That and two bucks gets you a cup of coffee, pops.

What to do?

If we old farts just banded together, we could co-opt one of the youngsters’ favorite moves, and accuse them of cultural appropriation. After all, brah comes straight outta Honolulu. Like 90% of slang, it's used most by people who a) have no idea what it means, and b) have no right to mangle such a vital cultural creation.

But calling foul is a dicey ploy. They could easily turn it around and start grilling us about all of our signifier words that showed the world how clued-in we were. Most were lifted straight from the African-American lexicon, without so much as a s'up!

Instead, I’ve come up with an unimpeachable solution: I’ve taken to hurling the language of my youth at my appreciative, middle-aged friends. “Yo, cuz, you look fly in that pale blue polyester trac suit,” I exclaim to my friend on the way to the ‘70s night at the local karaoke bar, smiling inwardly at my command of bygone jargon.

Like my grandfather said about his 1953 forest-green highwaters, “Harry, if you hold on to anything long enough, it comes back in style.” Sure, reedy hipsters smile sardonically behind their scraggly beards when they hear me. But, hey: they do that anyway. That’s their assignment.

I don’t worry. Someday, they’ll call their teenager brah, and get what’s coming to them.

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