Whither Favorites?

It’s the job of adolescents and young adults to engage in a lot of countercultural posturing. Young people are supposed to revise trends. That’s what makes them cooler than us old folks. But I don’t recall ardently despising as many artists when I was a teenager simply because they were popular. In the past dozen summers, I’ve overheard a lot of staff quip, “I used to like ________, but now they are too popular.” I even heard one of my lifeguards comment, “I used to like Arcade Fire, but then they ended up on the cover of Rolling Stone. How lame is that?”

I’m sure the guys from Arcade Fire didn’t think it was lame to be on the cover of an international music and culture magazine, but when that becomes the expressed reason for not liking them, well … they might think that’s kind of lame. What is cooler than ever, it seems, is to like a musical group or singer no one else has heard of, except maybe for your weird cousin who is doing research on glacial melt in Antarctica. That’s obscure enough to bear, I suppose.

If we live in a world where obscure is fashionable but popular is automatically blasé, then shared favorite songs are an endangered species, if not altogether extinct. Perhaps your camp’s staff actually did have a favorite song this summer. If they did, then that’s a wonderful thing. In my estimation, they are less cynical and more cohesive than the average camp staff. For that, you are surely grateful.

I’m not sure what Jon will choose as the representative song from the 2000s, but I hope that when the outgoing directors’ friends all gather for the retirement party—slideshow and all—we can unite around our shared visual memories, if not our shared melodic ones. At least the older generations of leaders will be humming along with the James Taylor tunes. And that’s not lame at all.

Dr. Christopher Thurber enjoys learning from his own two children and from the students at PhillipsExeterAcademy, where he serves as the psychologist. He is the co-founder of ExpertOnlineTraining.com, a web-based training platform for youth-development professionals. Visit his website at CampSpirit.com.

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