Since becoming a dad I’ve started to be aware of things, like yesterday’s ‘Sunday rest’, which I remember as perfectly normal aspects of life, but which will seem ridiculous to my boy when he’s a teenager. I think it is quite a useful strategy to identify, in advance, things which will one day seem dated and bizarre to your kids; it protects you from the cold-water-shock of realising you’ve been overtaken by time and your assumptions are now old-fashioned. I wish I’d realised during the nineties that one day the haircuts on ‘Friends’ would look much too floppy to be taken seriously; then it wouldn’t be so quite frightening watching it now.
Most of pop culture, obviously, has a kind of built-in naffness to it purely because it’s so much about the here and now. If you go out on a limb with massively over-stylised costumes and design like Cheryl Cole or Lady Gaga – let alone Jedward – you’re kind of acknowledging that you’re only likely to be relevant for a very short while, and thereafter you will always look a bit silly. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that – the Sex Pistols, the Kinks and the Manics all look pretty odd to today’s observer, but it doesn’t diminish the music; if anything their willingness to go to extremes makes them all the cooler in posterity’s eyes.
But what’s more interesting and odder is trying to work out what features of everyday life, away from the excesses of pop, are going to look comically outdated in twenty years’ time, or even ten years when this blog ends. Here are a few which occur to me but do feel free to add your own. I hope by bracing ourselves now, we’ll be less disconcerted when a young person in 2023 says ‘did you seriously do that?’ Or communicates it by whatever method’s replaced speaking by that point. SpaceSpeaking.
-Landlines. Not long ago I used to have to ask my dad if I could call my girlfriend, and then wait till after 6pm or until the weekend, and then stand in the hall trying to say things like ‘I love you too’ quietly enough for the family not to hear. Life-or-death situations, if they arose at breakfast, couldn’t be dealt with for nine hours until the cheaper rate kicked in. Now, it’s already coming to seem strange that we used to call buildings and hope someone was in there, rather than just call the person. Despite BT’s brave ‘if a conversation’s worth having, use the landline’ campaign, I doubt they’ll survive another couple of decades.
-Video tapes, obviously. ‘Wearing out the tape’. Taping over things. Your teacher not being able to ’work the video’ and having to call Mr Collins in. And so on.
-Encyclopaedias in book form. It used to be that a good middle-class family would invariably have a 67-volume encyclopaedia on their shelves, occupying an area the size of Dorset. Nobody ever looked anything up.
-Blackboards and chalk. Already it seems dated if, in a TV show, a teacher taps on the blackboard with chalk, instead of writing on a nice clean whiteboard. And thank God. I used to hate that screechy sound.
-Dare I say it, print newspapers. Well, not all of them. But in twenty years’ time I can’t imagine there will be as many of them around. Local papers, if they survive, will have to become free newsletters.
-Cash, eventually. I reckon within our lifetimes, we’ll be paying for even small things by scanning a card. Maybe we’ll have small change for emergencies, but the amount of money in circulation will be greatly reduced. Making and exchanging coins is one of these traditions which make sense to us, but will seem weirdly literal-minded to people of another generation. Likewise…
-…passports. Our kids will surely laugh at the idea of having a little maroon book to verify that you’re allowed to travel abroad. People mount strong opposition to the introduction of electronic cards instead of paper ID, but it’s an inevitable process, long-term. Surely.
-Someone tried to convince me the other day that dry toilet paper was unhygienic and everyone one day would use water or at least wet wipes. Not sure about this. This could be the area of life where people are most resistant to change. But you read it here first.
-And, of course, blogging. What’s the point? Eh? All these bloody words! Dear me.
Remember to keep posting your progress on the TYSIC challenges. The time for our first weekly report is fast approaching…