I had a midlife crisis in class today

There comes a point in a young professor’s life when nobody in the class gets her jokes anymore.

So today, I made the off-handed comment, “Not only am I the hairclub president, but I’m also a client!”

Student 1:  Wait?  You’re the president of a hairclub?

Student 2:  Huh?  Obama uses rogaine?

Student 3:  I think she means the college president.

So after my little mid-life crisis, I pulled up the commercial on Youtube so they wouldn’t think I was too crazy.  They made fun of the cheesy 90s music.  “This commercial is sooo 90s, ” student 4 proclaimed.

That made me feel even older.

The new assistant prof told us over lunch the other day that she had a nightmare that her students were laughing at her.   A more senior associate and I told her that our students laugh at us all the time, and sometimes even when we intend them to.  I also pointed out that I read somewhere that they’re more likely to remember material when there’s humor.  So that’s good, even if the humor was unintentional.

So my joke didn’t go over the way I planned today, but they did get a hearty laugh out of my mid-life crisis.  Hopefully that will help them remember non-linear functions.

Help me feel better!  Do you have any interesting stories to share about feeling old or people just not getting your jokes anymore?

59 Responses to “I had a midlife crisis in class today”

  1. Leah Says:

    “Anybody? Anybody? . . . . Bueller?”

    yeah, totally lost on this generation of kids. I *want* to say this in class, but I know from experience that it always takes more time to explain than I have. I’d show them the movie on a “fun day” (say, near winter break), but I think there’s school inappropriate stuff in there. Just in case, I only show little kids’ animated movies if I’m going to show a fun movie.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve been showing DC1 all those old 1980s PG movies that we grew up loving (before there was a PG-13 rating, I guess)… and it is insane how much swearing and so on they have. This morning I pondered about how we can’t show that kind of thing in school anymore, and yet they get so much sex in relatively benign sitcoms and so much violence in everything else. It is a crazy world out there. Gotta stick to G ratings… (and even those can get kind of violent).

  2. plantingourpennies Says:

    Now I want to know how the hair club for men came up in a discussion of non-linear functions!

    Also, you’ve probably already seen this, but it was incredibly effective at making me feel old when it came out a couple of years ago: http://xkcd.com/891/

  3. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    It’s a dessert topping! No, it’s a floor polish!


  4. Pamela Says:

    I knew a guy who complained about how “old” he was getting when he turned 32. I was all “Dude, I’m 43, and I’m turning 44 in a couple of months!” But I also had “get offa my lawn” moments when I was in my 20’s and I saw the TERRIBLE cartoons available for kids. I felt sorry for them.

  5. Cloud Says:

    I think the regular opportunity to be reminded of your advancing age would be both a benefit and a curse of your profession! We recently hired a guy straight out of grad school, and he doesn’t really remember the 80s.

  6. ianqui Says:

    I sometimes have reason to refer to that old Electric Company skit about putting sounds together, where the ‘t’ comes from the left of the screen and the ‘op’ from the right, and you hear ‘t’……’op’ ‘t’….’op’ ‘t’..’op’ ‘top!’ The kids have no idea what I’m talking about.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We bought some classic electric company and our normally placid DC1 refused to watch it, complete with tantrums. DC1 did, however, really enjoy the “not safe for children” (it literally says that) Old School Sesame St.

      My favorite was the banana in the hole in the boat in the bottom of the sea… Though there’s a lot of good Electric Company stuff. I wonder if DC1 would appreciate it now that ze is older, even though ze can read.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Electric Company is pretty hyper. I didn’t much like it when I was a kid. I preferred Mr. Rogers (totally laid back!).

      • Rosa Says:

        my son loves old Electric Companies. He used to sing t-i-o-n shun shun shun shun! all the time when he was 5-6.

      • qaz Says:

        If you liked Electric Company when you were a kid, you might like Between the Lions now. It’s more in tune with the times but is by the same people. My kids loved it and (I have to admit) I thought it kind of fun. (The songs are great!)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        ooh, we will check that out!

      • Rosa Says:

        I LOVE Between the Lions. I used to crack myself up with they Homonym song when my kid was too little to really care. I didn’t know it was the same people, but I did recognize Fargo North, Decoder on it one time.

        Between the Lions airs here at like 2am on Saturdays, I assume so educators can record it? It’s most of the reason we got a DVR – the other half was Indpendent Lens, which is on after my bedtime on Tuesday evenings.

  7. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I started to write a reply but then I decided it’d be fun to jump off this and make a post.

  8. Foscavista Says:

    Try using Hispanic celebrities to get students to use descriptive adjectives. I remember the time when Antonio Banderas was “guapo,” and Gloria Estefan was “talentosa.” Now, Antonio is “viejo” and good luck trying to get a student to recognize Gloria. Thank god for Sofía Vergara!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They don’t even fricking know Jaime Escalante! Well, except the occasional education major. I must have watched Stand and Deliver at least 3 times during my K-12 experience as an in-class movie. (And I saw Jaime Escalante give a speech– he was way cooler in person than in the movie. :) )

      • Foscavista Says:

        A very good movie, along with “Lean on Me.” I preferred the latter for the history book that they use in the movie (when a student almost burn the hamburgers by being distracted by the book) is the same one we used in my high school, although the socioeconomic conditions portrayed in the movie were quite different from ours.

  9. rented life Says:

    When talking about gendered toys for kids and I mentioed My Little Pony and the class went “wait, what’s that?” (this was before they “came back,” looking lame.) Several times, when discussing music, they let me know how old the music is that I mentioned. “That’s so old! It’s classic!” I say “Classic? It’s from the 90’s!” “Yeah, that’s like ancient.”

    This year was the first year I showed the movie Network and it completely fell flat. Usually only one or two people don’t get it, this time only two did. My counterpart at another school found the same when he showed it as well (without talking to each other, we showed it the same week). Apparently we’ve reached a TV generaction that doesn’t understand what the problem is with criticisming TV generations. Or they just don’t watch TV anymore. It was so weird. Once, I showed them a Mary Tyler Moore show (my boss thought it’d be a really good example of what I was covering, it’s her favorite show ever. Instead of talking about the topic they wanted to talk about how humor has changed in TV and that show just wasn’t funny. That was actually an interesting discussion.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure how to feel about my childhood also being my children’s childhood. I mean, I like transformers and teenage mutant ninja turtles and all (I was never really into My little pony etc.), but I also wonder about the recycling rather than coming up with new stuff. I suppose they can just recycle every generation. (Still, kinda miss She-Ra etc.)

      And I know that lego is really in these days, but it’s lego STARWARS. I mean guys, Star Wars!

    • Leah Says:

      I showed my students a Star Trek (next generation) episode a week or so ago because it related to our topic of discussing how we know if something is alive. Some kids enjoyed it, but I got a lot of complaints about watching a “dumb” show.

  10. chacha1 Says:

    Once in a while, some kind soul who sees us dance asks if we are trying out for “Dancing with the Stars.” We then have to point out that almost every professional in the cast is young enough to be a child of ours.

  11. You know how I know I’m older? | Mutant Supermodel Says:

    […] blame NicoleandMaggie’s giggle-worthy post, I had a Midlife Crisis in Class Today, for this one. Read it! Then come […]

  12. Debbie M Says:

    What’s worse is when you can see the changes as they are happening that will make everyone who’s around today feel old. For example, we’re building a new version of a system we use at my workplace. And when I’m training people on the new terms, I warn them, “In five years, many people won’t even know what you mean when you say [old term], so start training yourself to say [new term] today.”

    And people aren’t naming their kids Debbie anymore–that’s turning into an old-lady name. (Except to my mom who has starting introducing me as Deborah because Debbie is a little kid name which I should have outgrown by now!) And all kinds of people are having to preface their stories with notes like “Remember, this was before cell phones,” or “This was back when you could find pay phones.”

    As a friend of mine asked, at what point is saying, “Back in my day…” with a funny accent no longer ironic? Everyone (but me) agreed that it was long before you reached my current age. Of 50.

    But then some things don’t change fast enough. Why is Microsoft still around? And AOL? Why are we still using blue-rays (infested with copy “protection” that often makes them unusable, especially if you watch your movies on a computer)? Why is gas mileage in cars getting worse (my 1984 Nissan Sentra wagon got almost 10 more MPG than my 2008 Toyota Corolla, which is, in turn, better than the MPG for the 2009+ models)?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Debbie Gibson goes by Deborah now…

      A few years ago I read about how someone was making a ton of money finding and refurbishing I can’t remember what kind of car it was (a neon?) from the 90s because of their superior gas mileage.

  13. bogart Says:

    I haven’t had time to read the other comments though I am looking forward to doing so.

    In my … early 30s? … I was teaching a big lecture class where we were “discussing” various “salient policy issues” and I started to ask the undergraduates something like, “Do you think Social Security will be around when our generation retires?” and I realized (before saying it) that they would (appropriately) find my use of the first-person plural entirely inappropriate and so instead asked, “… when your generation retires?”


  14. What Now? Says:

    This past fall, in a discussion about how there’s a world of meaning in pronouns, I tried to share with my students the “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?” Lone Ranger joke … except that none of them know who or what the Lone Ranger is. How is that possible? He’s an American icon! Of course, in that “everything old is new again” way, a new Lone Ranger film is coming out this summer, although it seems to involve quite a few more explosions than I remember from the TV or radio show.

  15. Donna Freedman Says:

    Keep it up, ladies, and you’ll sound like a broken record. ;-)

  16. janesavers Says:

    There are two pregnant young women in my department. Some of the other women were exchanging stories of body changes in pregnancy. I have 2 sons in their early 20s and I thought I could contribute to the conversation.

    I was shot down because both preggos thought that things had changed a lot since I had my kids. I don’t think pregnancy has changed in thousands of years. Feet still swell, you still get stretch marks and the babies come out the exact same way.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      Though babies are more likely to come out in c-sections these days!

    • bogart Says:

      Some things have changed in <1,000 years. My grandmother (so, yes, a truly noticeable age range involved) discovered she was having twins when she … had twins, a thought that still boggles my mind. On the other hand, when it comes to body changes, I'm inclined to agree with you!

      • janesavers Says:

        I want to give them each a copy of The Good Earth so they can see what it was really like back in the day.

        They are probably too young to have heard of The Good Earth and it would just be more of my old dinosaur ideas.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We read some of The Good Earth in middle school (it was in Jr Great Books). I wonder if they still do that.

        What’s weird with the child-bearing thing is how very similar my births were to my mom’s and how very dissimilar they were to my MIL’s. Hippy-dippy childbirth hasn’t changed much. [Note, though, my mother always gets upset when I say “hippie” to mean “hippy-dippy” because she knew hippies and they smelled bad.]

      • janesavers Says:

        If memory serves me the women in the book just squatted in the rice field, popped out the baby, picked it up and went back to work.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is also my recollection. I have a vague memory of dirt/grass soup as well.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        When my daughter was pregnant and had her first, she did not want to hear anything because “babies have changed.” What I was telling her, or trying to, were just pregnancy facts and facts about my babies allergies and my mother’s babies’ allergies. She would not listen and put her infant through 5 weeks of agony. She had to quit nursing because of infection in stitches so had to put baby on formula. I told here none of us babies or none of mine could take Similac, to get SMA. She said the hospital gave her Similac so it must be best. !!! Finally, over my objections, she gave her baby soy milk for the rest of the three weeks he had to have formula. Nothing I knew was of value during the whole visit.

  17. In Hell's Kitchen (NYC) Says:

    one time, when we first started on Laplace transforms in the ODE class I gave a one-minute bio of marquis de Laplace and mentioned that he initiated the solution approach we’re about to learn in the late seventeen hundreds…one of the snowflakes exclaimed “eewwww, he’s oooold.” The same kind of response was also received from a different snowflake after telling the class a few facts about Erwin Schrodinger in the PDE class as we were starting to solve his famous equation…I’m convinced that if the intertubes go down at least two generations will know nothing other than how to plug away at their now-non-functioning devices.

  18. Funny about Money Says:


    Yes, my favorite story from the Pleistocene also involves stoonts. Years ago I wrote a little lecturoid explaining when to italicize titles and when to put them in quotes. By way of making the point that a single TV show episode goes in quotation marks, set roman, whereas the name of the whole series is italic, no quot. marks, I used Star Trek and “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

    For years, legions of young Trekkies chortled happily at being reminded of those tribbles.

    More recently, though, when I’ve used this example, the urchins give me blank stares. Last semester, the only person in the room who recognized the allusion was an old gal who makes her way around in a walker. Aargh!!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We actually have an unfinished article about how nerd culture is surprisingly slow to change compared to popular culture– a small number of students still get my gazebo joke each year. Though I guess The Trouble With Tribbles has moved from mainstream to Nerd, so if you’re not getting a lot of nerds, they won’t see it. (I’m fairly sure #2 had some tribbles in high school.)

  19. valleycat1 Says:

    My first moment like this came in my late 20’s when a junior high student needed to call home & the student phone in the office was one of those ancient black ones with a dial instead of push buttons. He had no clue how to make it work.

  20. Mark King Says:

    When I started teaching, they were impressed that there was a “Clash” poster in my office. Somewhere along the line, they stopped being impressed. :(

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