My close friend recently celebrated her 40th birthday in New York City with a group of girlfriends. In doing so, she realized what we all painfully realize at some point or another: Music from her heyday is now considered "old school."
You might be thinking, "Well, if she's old enough to have a 'heyday' ... " It's not that simple, folks.
Think back to the moment you first heard a radio DJ announce an "oldie" but a "goodie" and then followed it with a song featured on your iPod's "That's my Jam" playlist. Or, for previous generations, a song that still made regular cameos on your CD, cassette tape or 8-track player.
For some, it's downright traumatizing. For others, it's just one more gray hair in the mirror. For my friend, it felt like a joke everyone but she was in on.
Our first night in the NYC had us dancing in a downtown nightclub until the steady flow of cabs outside turned into a light trickle. By the time we finally left, carefully applied makeup slid down our sweaty faces and cocktail consumption sabotaged our social graces. It was that kind of night.
We could still hear the bass of the Wu-Tang and "Biggie" songs punching the walls of that little club as we laughed our way back to our hotel room.
That's when the one girl of the bunch under 30 years old had this to say: "I just love old-school music."
If it were any other weekend, any other girl, her statement may have gone unnoticed. Those words, though, burned the birthday girl. They burned her the way only 40 flaming candles can burn.
"That's not old-school music," she said, returning fire with her scowl.
"Yes it is," we all replied in chorus.
She had the kind of panicked, lost expression on her face that actors get in those movies when two characters switch bodies. She looked about 2.5 seconds from demanding to know the current year and president.
The girl under 30 had no idea what was going on. The rest of us did. Hell, I'm five years her junior and I recognized it.
My friend was choking. On her own age.
Like older, wiser women explaining menopause to a friend who just sweat through her first hot flash, we took turns describing why the hip-hop music we danced to all night constituted "old-school."
For starters, we told her, we've been dancing to it for almost 20 years. These songs came out when Biggie, or The Notorious B.I.G. as the kids call him, rapped about his pager, we reasoned. Not to mention, we bowed our heads, the man's been dead 15 years. Yes, Boogie Down Productions, Slick Rick and Erik B. & Rakim still qualify as old school, we continued, but every 10 years there will be a new crop of old-school inductees. And, we finally concluded, that includes our beloveds.
As she learned about the concept of time and how it applies to music, we put a blanket around her shoulders and served her warm tea. (Hollywood taught us to do that whenever a woman experiences something devastating.) I wish I could say we explained all this and she sat smiling and nodding, the way women do in those realistic birth control commercials, but it didn't quite play out like that. She resisted the truth, muttering something about "imposters" and a "conspiracy," before accepting it.
All I could think was how lucky she was to have us there in her time of need. I remembered the first time a little kid in a grocery store referred to me as "the lady" and wished I had the same support group. Maybe I'd still be allowed in that grocery store.
My sister and that same friend are visiting Vegas for a concert soon. By the time you read this, we'll have all taken in and enjoyed the sweet, soulful sounds of Mary J. Blige and D'Angelo at The Pearl. We used to blast their albums - "My Life" and "Brown Sugar," respectively - through our house when they first dropped. That's back when the three of us were all roommates.
I'll definitely remind my friend of that when I see her. I just won't tell her that was 17 years ago, because 17 years qualifies as old school.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.