THERE WAS a time when I believed I would always be hip; that I would never lose track of what was in.
I was the guy who knew every new song, dance and phrase that defined the essence of cool. While other people memorized rap tunes, I wrote my own. When others watched hip-hop dancers, I brought them onstage to back me up.
I was a Jay Z prototype before Shawn Carter changed his name. I was Kanye West before the rapper donned argyle sweaters. I was on the bill with Kool Moe Dee. I recorded my first single at the age of 19. I even opened up once for Will Smith.
Unfortunately, I didn't make any money being cool, so I had to lay down my microphone and get a real job. At first, my rap retirement was OK. I was able to keep up with pop culture. I knew every song that came out in the '90s. I was on top of every trend that came down the pike. I used the finest colognes, wore the best clothing and could throw around slang with the best of them.
But something changes when a man gets married. It's gradual, at first. You miss a new song here, a bit of slang there, and if you're relatively sharp no one notices at dinner parties. But over time, as you fall farther and farther behind, your grasp of pop culture becomes ever more tenuous, because you're caught up on the hamster wheel of life.
With the pressure of juggling a wife, kids and a job, it's hard to care about Lil Wayne's biggest hits. That's especially true if you're doing everything possible to keep your kids from hearing them. But no man wants to give up his coolness without a fight, so we do what we can to stay up on the latest.
We wait for our wives to fall asleep, and listen to hip-hop on the radio. We go online and find the sites where urban slang is decoded. We read magazines at the checkout counter to learn what's hot in the streets.
In unguarded moments, we might go so far as to ask the advice of our kids. For example, I heard Eve use a term that meant something totally different when I was her age. Though I knew it would expose me as an old fogey, I asked.
"Back in my day when somebody said, 'You tryin' to mix?' they were talking about a DJ. But when I heard you say it the other day, it seemed to have a different meaning."
She gave me a look that said, "Oh, you poor, poor, out-of-touch man." Then she smiled in that 12-year-old way - you know, the one that says, "You are a parent, therefore you know nothing about the real world."
We exchanged a look that acknowledged my lack of cool points, and in that moment, I knew I was old.
"When somebody says, 'You tryin' to mix?' that means they're challenging somebody to a fight, Dad."
"Oh . . . you're weren't about to fight when you said that, were you?"
"No, I was just playing around."
That's when the awkward silence begins. It's the silence that let's you know you will never again be hip. No matter how many terms you find in the urban dictionary. No matter how many times you listen to a teenybopper radio station. No matter how many times you read celebrity news in gossip magazines, you are out of the cool loop, and you must accept it.
I'm at that point where I'm more Ward Cleaver than Will Smith, and I'm OK with it. If I have to live out the rest of my days like Al Bundy in the old sitcom "Married . . . With Children," so be it. I'm willing to sit on the couch as everyone from my wife to the family cat parades past. My eyes downcast in a look of utter acceptance, I will hand out money till it's gone.
That's my life, and it's OK.
While I'd love to know where Mariah Carey soundalike Ariana Grande came from, I don't care. I'm too busy working.
While I'd love to know if Australian rapper Iggy Azalea is a fake whose rhymes are written by someone else, I really am too old to be concerned.