Back When We Were Cooler

I used to be a lot cooler. I studied obscure bands and had a vested interest in all things rock. I wiggled my way into conversations with wacked-out people who might enlighten me with original life-experience. I made their stories my own. I knew the back-doors of the right bars. I knew how to crash Oscar parties and get in to sold out shows. My hair was always black or red or platinum blonde. Always short and styled in some kind of sideways-headband concoction. I spent every night at live-music venues and dive bars, tipping back vodka tonics, shooting pool. I made mix CD's for all my friends, introducing them to the hottest new bands. I went to all of the festivals in Europe and America. I spent much of my time becoming familiar with international indie-rock. I made friends with the bands and even went on tour with some rockers I met while traveling. From Bristol to Newcastle, tagging along in the back of the van, straddling an amp, hair tangled in the plug-in wires, like some kind of Medusaesque roadie. (Better than hitchhiking, no?)

My wardrobe was made up of band tees and jeans, big earrings and heavy eye-makeup. I was a groupie, but not in the obvious sense. I liked to watch from the back of the room, the back of the bus, the back of the venue. I was cooler that way.

My friends and I took road trips to San Francisco and the dessert and to secret shows. We'd go and sing along to all the songs. Sometimes when a band was really good, we'd even cry. (*cough* Low *cough*)

When I met my husband I was a little sad we didn't have the same/similar taste in music. He's a trained classical musician and always thought my "three-chord-rock" was well, "three chord rock."

He was never into my music collection or knowledge or dresser-drawer of ticket-stubs.

But it didn't matter. I had always listened to the music that moved me. Made me feel. Think. Dance. And some of the greatest moments in my life have been slathered in "three-chord" indie-rock ballads and "three chord" feel-good dance-tunes.

Saturday night I went out with some friends. Dinner and drinks. Chatter. People watching. My cousin was visiting from San Francisco and we met up with some other old friends who just moved to L.A.

"Let's go somewhere cool, Bec!"

"Okay! I'd love to!"

It was silent.

"Oh. I don't know what's cool anymore," I said.

"Hmm. Well we can go somewhere uncool, too. That's fine."

"Okay, good. I'm clueless these days. I don't really go out anymore, you know.

As the only person in my group of friends (and family) with a child, this is often shocking to hear and I have to admit, sometimes shocking to say. If you would have quoted my now-self to my four-years-ago self (when all of these photos were taken) I would have laughed, rolled my eyes and then gone back to digging through bargain bins at Amoeba.

Today I realized that the last time I even purchased an album was over a year ago. The new Cat Power in support of my wacked-out girl-crush.

While out on the town with my people I was approached by an old friend.


"Hey Jen!"

"It's been FOREVER!"

"I know it!"

"How's the baby."

"He's good. And you?"

"Good! Very good! This is my boyfriend so-and-so and we're just about to go see The So-And-So Band at the El Rey."

"The So-And-So-Band?"

"Yeah. You know... The So-And-So?"

I shook my head. "I've never heard of them."

Her eyes went wide and then she shrugged. Her boyfriend gave me the "you're so not cool" eyes and I felt myself curling at the edges like an old photograph.

"I haven't really kept up with the music scene. I'm super busy and..."

"Well, they're really good. You should check them out. You know, if you have time or whatever."

"Yeah. Okay. Have a fun show."

They turned and walked off in their skinny jeans and skinny ties and tapered jackets and visible tattoos, leaving me alone on the pavement wrapped in my pashima. I felt like a hipster bomb exploded, leaving me, a sore-thumb IN A FREAKING pashima on Sunset amidst the ashes of Parliament Lights and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I may as well have tattooed MOM on my forehead. I was a tourist in my own town. I was on the outside. And even if I wanted to back into a corner with my cigarettes and my sunglasses, it was too dark, too late, too different.

Eventually the student becomes the teacher. The cool kids sell-out, or settle down or don't have time for their old lives, but I don't want to end up alone without my soundtrack. I don't want to end up one of the people who don't have time so just this morning, I tuned in to Pandora. I revisited Sunny Say Real Estate and Tindersticks and Stratford 4 and Matt Pond PA and Looper and Mojave 3 and The Delgados and all of my favorite bands and let Pandora introduce me to the new stuff I've been missing out on over the past three years. (Thanks for the reminder, David and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my brilliant, beautiful brother.)

Because regardless if I'll ever be as cool as I used to (think) I was, there is always time for record stores and college radio. Because it's important to me. Music isn't just something else to hear. Music is a big part of my life, er it was, I should say, BUT I'm ready to rock again. I may have grown out my hair and outgrown my party-girl days but not my boombox taped with band stickers.

Just because I have a child doesn't mean I can't be independent. Just because I'm a mother doesn't mean I should hide my favorite punk-rock CD's from the stereo and tune in to Classical KUSC every single-dingle day. It's all about the mix and what sounds good.

Growing up doesn't mean growing out of your favorite shoes, not if they make you happy, not if they're good for dancing.

I may not have the hair or the wardrobe or know where the back-door bars are or have insider information anymore, but I still want to rock out. With my tattooed kid as my dance-partner and my decaf coffee and the uncensored content of life.

Because life is all about the mix. The deleted tracks and the B-sides and the occasional cover. The remixes and the imports and the bootleg tracks you have to really hunt for.

Go ahead and take my cool, but please let me keep my music.



Anonymous | 2:19 PM

You can pull the child out of the girl...but you can't pull the music with him.

motherbumper | 4:48 PM

I was cool back in the day. I was a non-groupie, I always knew the latest indie bands and best spots and all that stuff. I was a cool party Holly Golightly right into my thirties. Four years ago this week I was at the Brixton Academy for Basement Jaxx and finishing the morning at the Bug Bar. Then I met Bump Daddy and along came Bumper. And up until recently I still thought I was cool until one day I realized that when the kids look at me now, they see: MOMMY. You are so right: don't take away my music because I can live with not being cool (bumper makes up for all that AND a bag of chips) but I can't live without my soul. Another wonderful post.

Anonymous | 5:14 PM

Sniff. I got all nostalgic and rather weepy with this. Back in the day, I was a big supporter of live shows and local bands. Now my ipod is peppered with that music—Dinosaur Jr. Consolidated. Southern Culture on the Skids. PJ Harvey. Buffalo Tom. Pavement. When I was pregnant with the little man, I brought him to the Pixies riunion show in the hopes that he'd somehow know his mom was into cool music once, even though the whole time I worried that this five-month-old fetus was going deaf. Sigh. Crank up the Justin Roberts.

Anonymous | 5:26 PM

I don't think I was ever cool, not in that way, but it goes for everything. You can't go all the way back - but partly - yeah sure. It does a body 'n soul good to keep hold of some of the old you.

Fairly Odd Mother | 7:25 PM

Ha, Mrs. Q, I remember that Pixies show b/c I was pumping breast milk in the car immediately afterward. Ahhhh. . .good times.

GGC, I was never, ever THAT cool but it makes me sad that my (faux) fur mini skirt and black skinny shirts are now in my daughters' dress up box. It does, however, make me happy to see them dress up in them and want to listen to 'mommy's crazy music'---the circle goes round and round.

Anonymous | 7:52 PM

I used to be... something. I'm not sure if it was cool. I thought I was black. I earned the nickname "homey." Now I find myself defending my love for the Dixie Chicks and listening to friends who are still black (because they actually ARE) say things like "the old JJ would know the new Jay-Z song." Well the new JJ can't listen to that crap with the kids in the car. Although the other day I was breezing through the stations and stopped on an old familiar tune "I love it when they call me Big Poppa." And yes, I threw my hands in the air. Once a true player, always a true player.

PunditMom | 7:57 PM

GGC, Cool pics! And you're still cool, but it just takes a temporary back-burner to the motherhood thing (at least that's what I try to tell myself).

Back in the day, I was a cool radio DJ. I knew all the cool,hip, new music and had the LPs (yes, there actually was a time before CDs). Now, I just listen to NPR in the car. But if you're up for some good tunes, check out Aimee Mann (you probably already have). For her, hubby and I are still groupies! :)

Anonymous | 8:51 PM

We are one in the same friend. Only I am 6 years into the fading cool thing and therefore quite thankful for the link to Pandora, of which I didn't know existed.

Anonymous | 8:59 PM

At least you're not going to lose your hair. Nothing sends the "I'm really, really old" message to the universe better than a shiny, bald head, which then can receive messages from the kids who say, "yep, you're really, really old."

foodiemama | 11:19 PM

uh, we have too much in common, haha.
and low, ahhhhh those were the days when a band covered a joy division song without wanting to be them and sounding like emo a-holes.

Unknown | 2:27 AM

Youre still waaay cool Bec!!
I have these moments sometimes. You saw my recent identity crisis didnt you? Piercing/tattoo/blue hair!!!!

And I love your hair the way it is now. x

Anonymous | 6:10 AM
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Anonymous | 6:13 AM

Woo-hoo! thanks for the inspiration:) I too recently realized that I was through being cool... I traded in my fashionable wears for nursing bra's and babyslings and didn't quite see it happening...

We pull out the stash off ol' punk rock records every now and then and Xavier is apparently a budding indie snob... next week I'm taking him with me to see Morrissey so I think we're getting back on track.

For what it's worth I think you're still pretty cool...enjoy that music.

Anonymous | 7:57 AM

This hit home for me way more than you know. Thanks for the post.

Unknown | 8:37 AM

Pandora is, as all the crazy kids say, "the shit".

Anonymous | 9:30 AM

Dude, you're far more cool now than I ever was, even in the height of my attitude days. I just didn't have it in me.

I'm glad you're taking back your three chord rock. A girl's gotta have limits, and I bet Archer would rock out right there with you. He just needs the right shoes.

Kristen | 9:30 AM

Wow. Your life four years ago really *was* cool. Cool like you'd see in a movie. The quintessential cool.

Jonathon Morgan | 9:32 AM

Fuck yeah. There's no need to drop who you are/were just because parents "aren't supposed to [insert the stereotype here]"

Speaking of bands to be into, given the above post, check out:


Jessi Louise | 9:51 AM

rock on. i actually wrote my latest post about that same feeling of not wanting to lose yourself just because you become a mother. very familiar territory!

moplans | 12:49 PM

I was never homecoming queen but I was cooler. I hate that feeling that you just aren't cool anymore because you are a mom.

Green | 2:21 PM

I'm so confused. I'm thirty, single with no kids, and I have no clue about any of the proper nouns you mentioned. You don't have to go to clubs to be cool. You don't have to listen to the latest music to be cool. I'm much more impressed with people who are confident in whatever they're passionate about.

*Just to be clear, I don't think I'm cool at all.

Anonymous | 2:36 PM

Just the other day I actually caught myself saying to someone, "HHHhehheeeeeeyyyY!!! I used to be cool!" - in a really really indignant way.

ms blue | 3:06 PM

The photos of you are stunning and oh so cool. Being cool means that you don't have to try. You've got that in spades.

Yet I still hang on to the days when I made my way into the Spin party, hung out with the headlining act at CBGB's, gone to the after parties... I only hope that my children think I'm cool.

kittenpie | 4:20 PM

Heh. I know, this guy at the library was mining my brain for punk bands for quite a while and finally he asked if I had any new names for him - and I drew a blank. A BLANK, people! Sigh. I realized I haven't listened to radio or checked my fave label's website for new stuff or even watched bloody MTV for ages now.

Then again, even though I listened to that, I was always too shy to be really cool. Perhaps if I could ever have figured out how to use eyeliner like that...

crazyladybugg | 5:59 PM

just the other day i introduced my 3 year old to my fav "new wave" people... the cure, D-mode, the smiths. he just loves to dance and a song about a caterpillar girl seemed to tickle his fancy. i guess that's when i realized - i'm an un-cool mom but happier than i ever have been before. is that what "growing up" is about??

Leigh C. | 6:40 PM

Two things I'm finding I can't do now that I'm Mom:

- wear my "Nads", "Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo", or "Fuck Censorship" t-shirts

- listen to the "Office Space" soundtrack, albums by the Beastie Boys, John Lennon's "Acoustic" album, my Liz Phair albums, or anything else that has cursing in it, whenever I want to, since my son is SUCH a parrot.

As it is, I may have found a happy medium in James Brown's 20 Greatest Hits album, with the exception of "Get Up" and "Hot Pants". I now live in slight worry that one day, the little guy will start singing in Montessori school: "Stay on the scene (Get on up)/ like a sex machine (Get on up)".

Hang on to the music. One of these days, Archer will discover it for himself, and it might well shape his musical tastes. 8-)

Kacey | 7:50 PM

You know what I think, though? When Archer gets a little older, and has the ability to determine his own definition of "cool" and "uncool", you will find that you are on the very top of his "cool" list. My dad was always my dad first and foremost, and maybe he didn't let me get away with everything, but he shared himself with me, his music, his stories, his likes and his dislikes, and you know what? I really liked him. I wanted to be him. I still do. And I think he kind of likes it, too. So never stop being yourself, just remember that you have a more attentive audience.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled program.

Unknown | 7:30 AM

I don't really look at it as loosing me as much as changing me. I was a big rock climber party girl before I met my husband then I turned into more a cyclists. Now, I run because it is easier to do with a baby and it gets her home in time for dinner/naps. It is a far cry from camping all weekend, smoking cigarettes, and drinking whiskey, but I feel good. Now my tough girl stories usually consist on the damage inflected to my nipples by a teething toddler. (Wait... what about this is better?)

Anyway, I am still a tough girl.

Anonymous | 8:39 AM

I like to think that, as parents, we're just a different kind of cool!

Gidge Uriza | 11:41 AM

When my best friend had her baby, a year and a half before I started reproducing, I can remember DISTINCTLY when I was talking about Tenacious D being very silly and she looked at me blankly and said "Who?" and I was like "What the hell is WRONG with know......JACK BLACK?"
Again, blank stare......"Who?"
And I was horrified.
Now I live in a house with nothing but childrens programming. compensate, I totally rock out to alt rock on my way to work and home every day.....

It's as close a balance as I can get...

Her Bad Mother | 2:27 PM

I stress about this sometimes - when I imagine future conversations with my daughter, in which she looks at me with the same look that I gave my own mother, the *you are so LAME, mother* look and I rage against that future picture of me as LAME, as uncool. I want to scream out, in advance, that I was cool, once. Really cool. Knowing the band cool, watching Johnny Depp trash a hotel room cool.

The thing is, it won't matter. There's no going back to the cool of youth. As MetroDad said, the only thing to do is embrace a new cool, a knowing cool, the cool that can only come with retaining your independent, adventurous spirit while GROWING UP.

Alisyn | 3:19 PM

Looper! I *loved* Looper! Where the hell's my Looper cd.....?.....

Anonymous | 11:20 AM

I lurk and read your incredible blog. You said it better than I remember it. I was once cool and hip and in the know. I drank till 3 or 4 a.m. and bounced back for more the very next night. Yeah, that's over.
It'll help.

Stefania Pomponi Butler aka CityMama | 10:26 PM

That was so me, only in 1992. Back then it was all about "disco naps" and the "clubbers commute." That's how long it's been since I've been *cool.*

Eh. I don't want to be cool anymore, don't really miss it. But I am looking forward to the time when I can embarrass the shit out of my kids by playing "lame" music in the car and singing along when they are with their friends.

LOVE the pix.

P.S. Is KLXU still cool? That's was I was listening to back in 1992.

Anonymous | 9:11 AM

I enjoyed this post quite a bit, although I know you wrote it quite some time ago. It was forwarded from a friend who found I was experiencing the same thing:

Keeping up with the music scene can feel like a full-time job. And I'm also married to a musician who doesn't like the music I'm into, so sympathies there.