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The Decline of French Civilization

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It looked like just a bunch of kids having some good innocent fun. Little did I know… © Dwphotos / Dreamstime.com

I fear for the future of France. I say this because of a disturbing event that took place in my building last weekend. A neighbor’s teenage daughter gave a party on Saturday night. This in itself ...

teenagers_today_paris

It looked like just a bunch of kids having some good innocent fun. Little did I know… © Dwphotos / Dreamstime.com

I fear for the future of France. I say this because of a disturbing event that took place in my building last weekend. A neighbor’s teenage daughter gave a party on Saturday night. This in itself was not disturbing: everyone had been warned and it didn’t go on too late and it was not too loud and I am wholeheartedly in favor of teenagers getting together to hang, make or chill out. Or freak, wig or come out, for that matter.

The party was going on across the courtyard from me, and the kids had left all the curtains open and lights on. At about midnight, as I was closing my own curtains, I saw that the festivities were in plein swingue and everyone was dancing with wild, or at least unkempt, abandon. I could just barely hear the music through the double glazing and started wondering what was making them shake their collective tail feather with such enthusiasm. So I opened my window for a second. And I heard enough of the song to tell what it was.

This was the disturbing part. I am not only old enough to be those kids’ father, I’m old enough to be, well, maybe not their grandfather but their father’s much older cousin. I have always believed that for each generation to shock and outrage the previous generation is the very definition of progress. And, for most people, this phenomenon first manifests itself in musical tastes between the ages of 13 and 20. So if I can recognize teenagers’ music, I consider it a bad sign.

But I didn’t just recognize this particular song. It was… It was… I can barely bring myself to type the words. It was: “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Yes, a Seventies musical. Yes, a Seventies musical based on music from the Fifties. They seemed to love it and, worse, to know it well — most of them were pumping pointed index fingers into the air in time with the “ooh-ooh-ooh” parts.

This is just not right. Seventeen-year-olds should be listening to something that makes people my age cringe — out of bafflement, not embarrassment. And under no circumstances should they be listening to songs that were widely considered to be weenie music when they were released a full third of a century ago, with the express intention of imitating the popular music of a full quarter-century before that. Think of it: given a teenage pregnancy or two, some of those youngsters’ grandparents could have been as yet unborn when pop singers were oohing and dooing and wopping like that.

Shocking, isn’t it? Outrageous.

David Jaggard

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The preserved façade of this former wine shop on Rue Pierre Semard is old enough to list absinthe as one of its wares.