2730956775_e3ca978b40.jpgMy friend, J., whose work has to do with politics, checked out Nancy Pelosi’s youtube video of cats running around her congressional office. In case you’re curious, Pelosi’s little vignette is part of the whole youtube Congressional “see, we’re transparent like Saran Wrap” and lookie here! We understand the new technology HouseHub effort. They’ll be sure to post any dirty dealings that may transpire on youtube post haste. ANYWAY…

Well, wouldn’t you know it? Just when things were getting really exciting–the cats began looking out the window!–the sound of a record needle scratching against vinyl could be heard, and then the unmistakable strains of Rick Astley singing one of his two hit songs that sound exactly alike (“Never Gonna Give You Up,” in case you were wondering). Then Astley himself made a brief appearance doing that little side-to-side hair-floppy ’80s dance before the video faded out with a picture of the Capitol lending the whole thing an air of official dignity and understatement.

J. sat in wonderment. Her cubemate, a man in his 20s who is fond of retro clothing, smiled and said, “Shit! Pelosi’s been rickrolled!”

J. hadn’t the foggiest. “She’s been what?”  He patiently explained to her what the term meant: that some wag tapes over your youtube submission with a Rick Astley song. (Brilliant, I think. Naturally, it was the first I’d heard of the term. But then we all know I’m a Formerly.) J. was appalled to find out that the term has been in widespread use since 2006.

“But I pay attention to popular culture,” she protested. “I can’t believe I’ve never heard it!” He shrugged and swiveled back to his work.

So I don’t think it’s the lone fact of J. not knowing what “rickrolling” was doesn’t make her a Formerly, necessarily. I randomly asked several 20somethings on the street and only one knew, but she didn’t know who Rick Astley was so I don’t think that counts.

What makes J. a Formerly, IMHO, is that she said, “But I pay attention to popular culture!” You only have to pay attention if you are not part of it, if you are on the outside looking in and thus must make a conscious effort to learn it, as if it were Swahili. If you are not a Formerly, it sinks in through your pores like the bacteria and free-radicals that will someday make you old and, yep, a Formerly.

When I pointed this out to J., she agreed, but added that what made it worse was that she was indignant about not knowing. “I’m Michael Steele. I’m Michael fucking Steele,” she said, referring to the head of the Republican Party who makes embarrassingly out-of-touch pop cultural references (there’s “bling” in the stimulus package?) that even a Formerly knows to be mortified by.

Let’s review, shall we? What makes you a Formerly is not ignorance of popular culture. It is the initial denial of your ignorance, and then the indignance over your ignorance, because you pride yourself on not being ignorant, Goddamn it. As if being a Formerly can be overcome by good, old-fashioned American industriousness.

Question: How many of you reading this had heard the term “rickrolled” before reading this entry?

Photo by: chinnian, CC Licensed