On Growing Old and Getting Your “Money For Nothing”

October 19, 2017

Earlier this week, I was finishing up the final season of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. If you didn’t watch the show, which you probably didn’t, you should. In one of the final episodes, one of the characters is looking through a collection of records for something to listen to. When asked what was taking so long, she replied, “Nothing feels right.” The other character walks over, grabs an album, and says, “Here. Play this. It’s perfect.” The record she grabbed was Brothers In Arms by Dire Straights. I don’t want to say anything that will be a spoiler because you totally should watch the show, but the first track, “So Far Away,” really is the perfect song for the scene.

I talked about this numerous times in this post, but goddamn do I love a perfectly placed song in a movie or television show. This is one of those songs. As such, the first thing I wanted to do after watching the episode was to listen to Brothers In Arms.

This isn’t an album I ever owned, but it’s one I’m familiar with. It didn’t occur to me why until the second track, “Money For Nothing.” As soon as I heard the “I want my…I want my MTV” refrain, I was taken back to 1985. I was a 7-year-old kid sitting in my dad’s car. Brothers in Arms was in the cassette deck. “Money For Nothing” was playing loudly from the speakers. I hadn’t heard the song in a while. My feelings about this song have come full circle. As a kid, I remember really enjoying this song. It had a novel appeal to me. Generally, music doesn’t date itself. Before rap, you didn’t often hear brands mentioned in songs. I remember being so intrigued by the “I want my MTV,” line because it went against what I was familiar with. Granted, I was 7. I can only assume I also thought it was cool that he was singing about MTV.

Speaking of MTV, there was also the video. It mixed those blocky cartoon characters with the live action concert footage. If you grew up during the 80s, it’s one of the videos you are most likely to remember.

Then there was that riff. That fucking riff. The “I Want My…I Want My MTV” refrain on repeat. Then the drum solo. The tension builds and then a moment of silence. Then that fucking riff. Even at that young age, I recognized its greatness. Growing up, I always wanted to be a rock star. Maybe this song was the inspiration for that. Who doesn’t want money for nothing and chicks for free?

I was still listening to the album the following day when something occurred to me. It seemed strange that my dad was still listening to new music in 1985. He was born in the early 50s. In my mind, I associate him with the music that was made during the late 60s and throughout the 70s. I remember listening to a lot of The Who, Beach Boys, Bob Marley, etc. In my mind, he seemed too old to be listening to new music. Then I did some math.

He was born in 1951. Brothers In Arms was released in 1985. 1985 – 1951 = 34. He was 34 years-old. For context, that’s four years younger than I am now. Me? The person who is always searching out new music. I couldn’t believe it. How is that even possible? When I think back to that time, why do I remember him as being so much older than he was?

Then I started thinking about aging and the way our perception of age changes over time. When I was 7, he seemed old. Even now, he still seems old in my memories. By today’s standards, he was young. I didn’t even have children when I was 34. When he was 34, he already had 2 children. The oldest of which was 7.

When I was 34, I didn’t feel old. Hell, I still don’t feel that old. Maybe a little physically, but not THAT old. And maybe that’s the thing. Maybe we never really feel THAT old. The thought of being older feels old. Being older doesn’t feel old though.

I had a similar experience when I became friends with my 5th-grade teacher on Facebook. When I looked at her pictures, I thought to myself, “Hmm, she doesn’t look as old as I thought she would look.” It then occurred to me that there existed the possibility that she wasn’t as old as 10-year-old me thought she was.

My 20-year high school reunion is this year. It’s still hard to believe that it has been 20 years. This is probably the sentiment shared by everyone as their 20th reunion approaches. How is it that I’ve lived more life since graduating than I did between being born and graduating? When I was 18, the thought of being 10 years old felt like another lifetime ago. Now? The thought of being 30 feels like yesterday.

For whatever reason, it the feeling of time seems to speed up as we age. Maybe this is why I remember my dad being so much older than he really was at that time. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel so old now and probably will feel the same way in another 10 years. Maybe even 10 after that. At some point, I have to imagine I am going to feel old.

When I returned home that day, I asked my 3-year-old if she thought I was young or old. She said I was young. It made me feel good. It also made me question my thoughts on aging. Maybe it was just me. Maybe not everybody perceives age the same way. I then asked her if our neighbor is young or old. She said young. He’s 95.

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