June 09, 2007

Rejuvenile: Making Sense Of The New Kidulthood

Rejuvenile: making sense of the new kidulthood

I just finished Christopher Noxon's "Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up," a snappy little book about the perpetual childhood of Transformer toys, adult skateboarding, and "Playalong Parenting."

Noxon wants to know why America's adults increasingly dress up as Klingons, collect dolls and action figures, participate in urban pillow fights, play RPGs (fantasy and massively multiplayer), participate in crafts, read comics, and hang out on the carpet with the kids and the legos instead of plopping the kids into a playpen and then settling in with a martooni.

He tracks the early history of the "rejuvenile" movement back to Lord Baden-Powell's pitch to potential Scout-masters to become "boy-men" in the woods with their young charges, through boomer entitlement, and to a new generation who, driven by a mad housing market and a lunatic job-market, find themselves holding off on kids and marriage through their thirties.

Written as a series of fun case-studies of grown-ups who won't grow up (a woman who attained brief fame by skipping everywhere she went, a man who tried unsuccessfully to get his son to play with his Star Wars action figures) in some way or another, Rejuvenile is a thoroughly affectionate look at the breaking down of the barriers between adulthood and kidhood.

I was utterly charmed. Here was a book that pulled together a ton of diverse threads -- friends who spend their weekends at American Coaster Enthusiast events, haunting eBay auctions for access to the lost toys of my boyhood, and that floating D&D game I keep trying to squeeze into my schedule.

Noxon's style is breezy and his touch is light, but he doesn't shrink from the harder questions of protracted adolescence. If your desk is covered in vinyl toys and Schoolhouse Rock nodders, this book will probably mean a lot to you.

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