Is Anything Fun If We Don't Have to Anticipate It?
Sex and food and music are available at our fingertips. Who cares?
BY Luke O'Neil, Dave Holmes And Jack Holmes | Sep 12, 2017 | Culture
It’s cliche for older generations to disparage the way younger ones, well, do anything. But it’s undeniable that there is a glaring iPhone-shaped difference in the ways in which our resident Old Guys™—Luke and Dave, both in their 40s—engaged with the world, and culture in particular, and how the Esquire Millennials—represented by 25-year-old Jack—do it now. Having the vast expanse of the history of all information in your pocket at all times has a way of influencing perception. This week Luke, Dave, and Jack talk about the impact of immediate access to everything has on how we appreciate music, dating, porn, and more.
It’s pretty obvious that the ways in which we’re made aware of and then consume culture are a lot different from when we were younger, Dave. Do you remember what a pain in the ass it was to figure out when a record was going to be released, or when a band might be coming to your town? I remember having to go to the store to find a copy of the Boston Phoenix, pouring over the listings for bands coming to Providence or Boston, and making plans months ahead of time.
I remember being 12 years old in late 1983, calling the local record store—on a wall-mounted push-button telephone in my parents’ kitchen—and asking when the new Duran Duran album would be released. I had heard rumors—actual whispered rumours from older kids—that something new was on the way, and the only way to know for sure was to consult an expert, and the only expert was the 17-year-old working the counter at Streetside Records. So I called, and I wrote down the date, and I counted the days, and the whole thing created a cycle of desire and anticipation so strong that Seven and the Ragged Tiger is cloaked in warm feeling even now. I remember it as a very good album, which it is objectively not.
Everything was like that, as you pointed out. You had to rush home to make sure you were there for the start of The Cosby Show. If you were expecting a call from someone, you needed to be in your house to get it. It all feels so Wuthering Heights from today’s perspective. Now I have five seasons of 20 shows I know I’ll love, just waiting on my AppleTV. A good friend texts me, and I’m like: Do I really have to respond to this? The future has turned me into the real lazy piece of garbage I was secretly always trying to be.
"THE FUTURE HAS TURNED ME INTO THE REAL LAZY PIECE OF GARBAGE I WAS SECRETLY ALWAYS TRYING TO BE." —DAVE
And what about you Jack? Were you already online coming out of the womb?
It’s difficult for me to remember in any real detail a time before a large portion of the collective history of human knowledge was available at my fingertips. By the time I reached the Age of Reason I’d been dialing up into the AOL matrix for a couple of years. In that sense, my cultural experience as a participant is tied inextricably to opening up the Internet box and shaking its contents into my brain. And I think I’ve fallen victim to that same kind of laziness when it comes to logistics that Dave was referring to. There is nothing worse to me on this earth than having to call a customer support hotline—or call anyone, ever, really—and speak to a real person to retrieve information. Can’t I google this?
Wait, are you guys related by any chance?
My Holmes family should be so lucky.
Still waiting on the 23andMe tests to come back.
I do think there is something to be said for being made to wait. Anticipation, in all things, is always better than the actual experience, whether it’s a show, food, sex, or the sweet release of death. Dave, you cherished Seven and the Ragged Tiger, which you anticipated for months, a lot more than you do whatever it is you downloaded this week, right? I can’t help but think it restructures the way we perceive the value of art. Anything you can get right now you’re going to have less respect for than something you have to work at or pine for.
The Arcade Fire song “We Used to Wait” addresses this exact thing, and I will admit to having scrubbed ahead to the chorus while listening to it. But yes, when you had to wait and save your money to buy a book or an album, you would love the thing. And if you didn’t love the thing, you would make yourself love the thing, because it was yours.
"ANTICIPATION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE, WHETHER IT’S A SHOW, FOOD, SEX, OR THE SWEET RELEASE OF DEATH." —LUKE
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this all applies to pornography as well. Jack, I’m sure you don’t remember much of your life when you couldn’t instantly access 10 million boobs and/or dicks instantly. We had to work for that shit in my day. I like to think the quality of the j.o. was more gritty and workmanlike back then. The Dustin Pedroia of stroking it, if you will.
Hell, you kids have a video game on your phone where you can enter in the right string of cheat code prompts and find yourself splitting a $19 salad with someone who might be interested in taking your pants off later within minutes.
The fact my generation has had access to all information, instantly, for most of our remembered lives has definitely destroyed our brains and made us the large bipedal equivalent of the lab rat in a cage with a sippy-bottle of cocaine juice. We have no patience or attention span, to the point that when I am streaming any U.S. Open match I want on the ESPN app of my Apple TV and it freezes for a second to buffer (this is a sentence that would be fun to read to someone in 1999), I audibly express frustration almost instantly. My whole life is reminiscent of that Louis CK joke about the guy who learns about WiFi on a plane soon after boarding and, when it stops working mid-flight, immediately starts complaining loudly like it was his God-given right to watch porn via GoGo Inflight.
Speaking of porn—wait, you brought it up—that is obviously the most extreme example of the Internet melting people’s brains. There’s a pile of studies that show it has actually affected people’s brain chemistry to the point it messes up their sex lives in the real world. They have really extreme expectations for sex, or they go down this rabbit hole of extreme acts that they can’t get off without. It also speaks to your point about anticipation, which I suppose young red-blooded Americans no longer experience to a certain extent because they no longer have to imagine what all that sex is like. They can look up and watch whatever they can imagine doing—and a whole lot more. I don’t use dating apps, but it seems like an extension of the cocaine rat approach to life. I don’t have time for real dating, we say while surfing Instagram, let’s just jump on Bumble.
"INFORMATION HAS DESTROYED OUR BRAINS AND MADE US THE LARGE BIPEDAL EQUIVALENT OF THE LAB RAT IN A CAGE WITH A SIPPY-BOTTLE OF COCAINE JUICE." —JACK
I truly cannot imagine being young and single in a world of fuck apps and constant porn. Where is the incentive to push through the difficult or unexciting stages of a relationship? But here’s what I think is going to happen, filtered, because I am hungry, through the lens of food: For my grandparents, making dinner was a great big hassle. Nothing was convenient, nothing was ready-made. Things had to be bought fresh. But when my parents got married in the 1950s, the people at Swanson and Birds Eye made things easy: TV dinners, frozen vegetables. Cookbooks were full of Simple Casseroles to Feed Your Family, which would lead to leftovers you could stretch through the weekend. So that’s what my peers and I ate: things from boxes and cans. And in the last 20 years or so, we have overcorrected: My generation loves to put on a great big production for dinner. We voluntarily sous-vide things and make biscuits from scratch and eat small-batch mayonnaises or whatever. The pendulum has swung way in the other direction.
What I’m saying is that sex and porn are so ubiquitous and cheap now that in a few years, people will voluntarily back up off them a little, to make them special. Kids will wait until marriage, even the gay ones. Holding off, controlling yourself will come to be considered cool. Sex will become artisanal. It’s just the way of the world.
I think we just accidentally talked ourselves into adopting the Republican Sex Ed platform. This "getting old" thing really does fuck you up. Also, please do not use the terms "small batch mayo" and "porn" in the same train of thought going forward, Dave.
I’m not entirely sure I’d like to return to the days when you had to wait 35 years to be able to bone, only to die of cholera six months later, but I think we can all probably agree that there’s something to be gained by pausing every now and again to give yourself time to fully appreciate the things you have, rather than scrolling instantly to the next thing. There’s a saying in football: If you’ve got two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. I think that applies here as well. Listen to the album you’ve got playing, read the book that’s in front of you, and appreciate what's between your legs, however you use it, because the boners of tomorrow aren't promised today.