Tuesday, May 23, 2006


My daughter recently gave me It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty and other tragedies of married life by Judith Viorst, published in 1968. Viorst is better known as the author of Alexander and Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The Hard to be Hip book was a surprise. I wondered what my daughter had in mind when she chose this book for me, a choice made three years ago when she was attending an art school in Georgia--near the Garden of Good and Evil. I still don't know what she was thinking, maybe of aging people in general or maybe the content of the book spoke to her about me. Viorst describes in a series of poems the progression of unHIPness after marriage in the 60's. I understand these poems in ways I wish I did not understand.

The youthful idealism not only present in the 60's generation is an idealism shared by Henry David Thoreau groupies, modern art lovers, and minimalists past and present. If you majored in business, hard science, ENGINEERING, or anything really "useful" in life, and hated your English, philosophy, and music/art appreciation courses [--if you took any at all], Viorst may sound to you like some pot smoking, bleeding heart liberal, socialist from the 60's who recovered just in time to join the suburban crush of SUV driver's who live in your neighborhood. And mine.

Here's one of my favorites:

Once I aspired to

Humble black turtleneck sweaters

And spare unheated rooms

With the Kama Sutra, a few madrigals, and

Great literature and philosophy.

Once I considered money

Something to be against

On the grounds that

Credit cards,

Installment-plan buying,

And joint checking account

Could never coexist with

Great literature and philosophy.

Once I believed

That the only kind of marriage I could respect

Was a spiritual relationship

Between two wonderfully spiritual human beings

Who would never argue about money

Because they would be too busy arguing about

Great literature and philosophy.

I changed my mind

Having discovered that

Spiritual is hard without the cash

To pay the plumber to unstop the sink

And pay a lady to come clean and iron

So every other Friday I can think about

Great literature and philosophy.

No one ever offers us a choice

Between the Kama Sutra and a yacht.

We're always selling out for diaper service

And other drab necessisities that got ignored in

Great literature and philosophy.

A jug of wine,a loaf of bread, and thou

No longer will suffice. I must confess

My consciousness is frequently expanded

By Diners' Club, American Express, and things

undreamed of in

Great literature and philosophy.

I saw us walking hand-in-hand through life,

But now it's clear we really need two cars.

I looked with such contempt at power mowers,

And now, alas, that power mower's ours.

It seems I'm always reaching for my charge plates,

When all I'd planned to reach for were the stars,

Great literature and philosophy.

If you want to know what HIP really is, read the book. New editions are available at Amazon.com for $22.00. The original price of this 94 page paperback in 1968 was $1.25. And you think the price of gasoline has gone up. Think of it this way, today's paperback is less than the cost of a tank of gas in your SUV or almost any other car you might drive these days--not mine, I drive a Prius because I'm HIP :-) And I majored in literature.

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