Hit Me Baby One More Time

I was having coffee with an old high school friend last week, when it hit me. Again.

I am getting older. And everything old is new again.

J. and I reconnected last year, shortly before our 20th high school reunion. Until that weekend, it had been probably 18 years since we last saw or heard from one another. We spent a surreal and fun day together back in October, leading up to the reunion that evening, then we saw each other again over Thanksgiving weekend, when I was able to meet her husband.

Fast forward to summertime, and J. and her husband were in town again, visiting their families for the week, and we managed to carve out a few hours to spend catching up. Having just consumed way too much food at a suburban Italian chain restaurant, we were enjoying dessert at a nearby Starbucks.

As we sat at the little cafe table outside the coffee shop, sipping our drinks, we started talking about one of this summer’s reality/nostalgia TV shows, Hit Me Baby One More Time, in which musical acts from the 1980s reunite to perform one of their hit songs. (In some cases, their only hit song.) From the single episode I watched (J. had not seen it at all), during the second half of the show, the singer/group appears again, singing a cover of a current pop song.

The night I watched, I saw a middle-aged Greg Kihn perform “The Break-Up Song,” Billy Vera dusted off his hit, “At This Moment,” which was made famous on the TV sitcom Family Ties, and Club Nouveau sang their late ’80s cover of “Lean on Me,” which was an anthem of sorts for me and my senior-year college roommates.

I have concluded that the studio versions of these songs, recorded two decades or more ago, are both more polished and appealing. And there was something just, well…disturbing about seeing these once-young-and-hip musical acts back on stage with their receding hairlines and middle-aged spreads. I guess for those who have managed to more or less stay in the spotlight throughout the years, like the Rolling Stones or Billy Joel, these physical effects of the aging process aren’t so startling. But as I watched Greg Kihn sing, I had the same sensation I had at my high school reunion last fall. “That’s so-and-so? He looks like a middle-aged man!”

Oh yeah. He is one. And I’m a middle-aged woman.

Anyway, as I was telling J. about this show, we started reminiscing about the days when MTV really was about showing music videos 24/7, when VCRs were the size of microwave ovens, and about which songs conjure high school memories for us. “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” “When Doves Cry.” “Oh Sherry.” And we talked about the Live 8 concert, which had just occurred a few days ago, and how we remember watching the Live Aid concert back in 1985, the summer after our freshman year of college. We tried to list which artists performed at both concerts. Paul McCartney. Madonna. U2?

At the table next to ours, four high school girls, dressed in halter tops and low-rise jeans, were talking about boys as they sipped their lattes and mochas, beverages I had never heard of, let alone tried, when I was their age.

Suddenly, one of their cell phones started ringing. Well, not ringing exactly. Singing, sort of. The tune?

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

No kidding.

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