Beloit College Makes Me Feel Old

Beloit College Makes Me Feel Old

The class of 2015 started college this week. The class of 2015 — students who will, their parents hope, graduate from college in four years — was born in 1993, the same year I got married. There's nothing that makes me feel quite so old as knowing I'm old enough to be the father of today's college freshmen. Me and Ferris Bueller.

And I blame Beloit College for it.

Beloit College, in Wisconsin, releases the Beloit College Mindset List every August, as a way to show their faculty what is pinging through the minds of their young charges. I think they do it because they don't like their faculty, and want to make them feel decrepit.

It was originally created in 1998 — making it the class 2020 — by Ron Nief and Tom McBride, as a way to tell the professors to avoid using dated references in their lectures.

It's always been a bit of a downer for me when someone who is younger than me points out how much younger. I mean, I know I'm no spring chicken, but I still feel like one. At least until I'm reminiscing about something from my high school days, and someone in their early 20s says, "Hey, I've heard about that. My dad said he did it in high school."

People have said that about watching the Berlin Wall come down, about certain TV shows, or even fashion trends. I usually just let it slide, but it really stung when I heard a song at a coffee shop a few weeks ago, and said, "I remember this from high school." Some young punk said, "Oh yeah, I heard that on a classic station the other day."

Admittedly, I don't have it as bad as Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. In one of his most recent columns, he said that his days in high school — he graduated in 1965 — seemed like "'only yesterday,' until the stories that I used to watch on television began to appear in my son's history exams."

I can see how that would make Page feel old, especially when I say that he graduated two years before I was born.

But I'm not the only one who is stunned at how everything is "only yesterday," and yet so long ago. And that's what the BCML reminds me of.

Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, and Frank Zappa have always been dead, says the BCML. Just like the little piece of me that died when it reminded me that Fezzik, young Indiana Jones, and Dweezil and Moon Unit's dad have been dead for that long.

There has never been a dial, as in "don't touch that dial." And the class of 2015 hasn't used dial-up Internet since they were 10. In fact, "dialing" a phone means nothing to these snot-nosed brats, since their phones have always had push-buttons, and now touch screens, since they were a gleam in their fathers' eyes.

They played with pogs when they were a kid. Although I view this more as a badge of shame on their part than a thing I should be upset about. I thought pogs were the dumbest thing going in the early 90s, and I was glad the craze collapsed. It was the childhood equivalent of collectible beer coasters, and only slightly less interesting.

The BCML says the Soviet Union collapsed two years before they were born, which means the phrase "damn Commies" doesn't really mean anything to them. I said it once, and a teenager asked me what I had against commas. There's nothing like a complete ignorance of near-recent global politics to make one especially grumpy.

It's not that I hate young people. Hate is such a strong word. I dislike them intensely.

They irk me, these young people who are in good shape, who have thick heads of hair, and who don't grunt when they sit down.

I dislike them for the fact that they remind me that I'm not their age. For the fact that the things I remember most fondly happened a college senior ago. For the fact that I have been an adult longer than they have been alive, and that I have t-shirts older than they are.

I'm sure they're all wonderful kids, these leaders of tomorrow. And I wish them a long and healthy life filled with memories and good times.

Because one day, I want one of them to look at the Beloit College Mindset List and say, "Has it been that long? I remember when we didn't have jet packs, and you had to CARRY your phone. Man, I feel old!"

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