Why I Hate Jack & Diane

“The most pernicious bit of idealization is the very widespread view that the best time of one’s life is the decade between sixteen and twenty-six, when young men’s muscles and young women’s skin are at their most blooming. . . . By describing life as a downhill process, we prepare young people to expect—and demand—very little of it.”—Susan Neiman, Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age (2015)

Mixbook Beautiful Possibilities A Graphic Introduction to the Examined Life by John Faithful Hamer - Google Chrome 2015-09-27 103358 PMA friend recently challenged me to name one thing that could not be explained to a five-year-old. My example was romantic love. I can’t explain that to a five-year-old, not in any real way. It would be like trying to explain the color blue to someone who was born blind. To understand what blue is, you have to have seen blue things. And to understand what love is, you have to have experienced love. There are many more examples of course, but they all come down to this: I happen to think that growing up is an achievement, not some sort of fall from grace. What’s more, unlike the leagues of youth-obsessed romantics who fuel the self-help industry and our therapeutic culture, I happen to think that being an adult is pretty fucking fun, and, despite its many drawbacks, by far the most interesting part of life. And part of what makes it so great is that you get to understand things that simply cannot be explained to a five-year-old.

23492_317179112682_3337470_nIf I had to choose the one pop song that makes me cringe the most, it would be John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tune. But its message makes me want to throw up:

Hold on to 16 as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men

Oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone
Oh yeah they say life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone

Much suffering is unavoidable. I try not to wage war on that kind of suffering. But other forms of suffering are entirely avoidable. I try to wage war on these every chance I get. The suffering that comes from buying into the toxic worldview made manifest in Mellencamp’s music is unnecessary suffering. Although it may seem as if he’s merely reporting, it’s important to realize that Mellencamp isn’t a reporter in “Jack & Diane”; he’s a prophet, and a false prophet at that. The song’s message is a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to suffering. And that’s precisely what I hate about it.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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