Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up
By Christopher Noxon
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9781400080892, 288pp.)
Publication Date: April 24, 2007
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Once upon a time, boys and girls grew up and set aside childish things. Nowadays, moms and dads skateboard alongside their kids and download the latest pop-song ringtones. Captains of industry pose for the cover of BusinessWeek holding Super Soakers. The average age of video game players is twenty-nine and rising. Top chefs develop recipes for Easy-Bake Ovens. Disney World is the world’s top adult vacation destination (that’s adults without kids). And young people delay marriage and childbirth longer than ever in part to keep family obligations from interfering with their fun fun fun.
Christopher Noxon has coined a word for this new breed of grown-up: rejuveniles. And as a self-confessed rejuvenile, he’s a sympathetic yet critical guide to this bright and shiny world of people who see growing up as “winding down”—exchanging a life of playful flexibility for anxious days tending lawns and mutual funds.
In Rejuvenile, Noxon explores the historical roots of today’s rejuveniles (hint: all roads lead to Peter Pan), the “toyification” of practical devices (car cuteness is at an all-time high), and the new gospel of play. He talks to parents who love cartoons more than their children do, twenty-somethings who live happily with their parents, and grown-ups who evangelize on behalf of all-ages tag and Legos. And he takes on the “Harrumphing Codgers,” who see the rejuvenile as a threat to the social order.
Noxon tempers stories of his and others’ rejuvenile tendencies with cautionary notes about “lost souls whose taste for childish things is creepy at best.” (Exhibit A: Michael Jackson.) On balance, though, he sees rejuveniles as optimists and capital-R Romantics, people driven by a desire “to hold on to the part of ourselves that feels the most genuinely human. We believe in play, in make believe, in learning, in naps. And in a time of deep uncertainty, we trust that this deeper, more adaptable part of ourselves is our best tool of survival.”
Fresh and delightfully contrarian, Rejuvenile makes hilarious sense of this seismic culture change. It’s essential reading not only for grown-ups who refuse to “act their age,” but for those who wish they would just grow up.
Christopher Noxon has written for The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and Salon. He lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles.
“I read Rejuvenile excitedly, eager to get to Noxon’s conclusions, feeling over and over that he was describing something I sensed was there but hadn’t quite put into words. An eye-opener.” —Ira Glass, host of public radio’s This American Life
“Geezers wearing blue jeans and watching cartoons and playing videogames is not precisely what Bob Dylan had in mind (‘May you stay forever young’) back in the countercultural day. But as Christopher Noxon smartly and definitively explains, never-ending youthfulness—that is, the mass refusal to swear off fun and comfort for the sake of grown-up propriety—is the enduring legacy of the Woodstock generation.” —Kurt Andersen, host of public radio’s Studio 360 and author of Turn of the Century
“Rejuvenile is better than any book out there about play. It sweeps together stories of real people being true to their core selves. This is not a book for escapists; it is a book for curious open explorers looking to lead more effective, flexible, adaptive, vital, and still responsible lives.” —Stuart L. Brown, M.D., founder and president, the Institute for Play
“Any book that inspires me to rediscover Four Square and Duck Duck Goose is A-OK with me. Rejuvenile made me want to play and it made me think—a stellar combination. Thank you, Christopher, for giving us a concept we actually need: a new, liberating redefinition of adulthood, where you can be a responsible grown-up and still maintain a sense of wonder.” —Sasha Cagen, author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics
“With Rejuvenile, Christopher Noxon brilliantly charts the continual turning of the Boomers, X’ers and Y’ers away from the brittle authority of work-obsessed adulthood. We seriously need more playful times, and Rejuvenile will help us get there.” —Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living
“Christopher Noxon has the same affection for the ingenuous adults he describes as they do for their Ninja Turtles, skateboards, and Lego blocks. Noxon is an avid collector in his own right—one of compelling characters, funny stories, and insights that speak to our mixed-up times.” —Ethan Watters, former Chuck E. Cheese Rat and author of Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family?