I was in love with a television commercial once. It was one of those MasterCard Priceless commercials where the narrator would say something like, “A jar of peanut butter, $2.49.” … “A jar of jelly, $1.99.” … “A loaf of bread, $2.29.” … “A peanut butter and jelly sandwich: priceless.”
In this commercial, a father was taking his early teenage daughter and friends to see a boy band in concert. The commercial came out just when our first daughter was born, so it was a particularly emotional time, a time when reading the backs of cereal boxes could make me cry, and so this commercial had a particularly heavy impact on the senses. The girls were giddy beyond reason, and the Dad was getting a huge kick out them, and the music was playing, and they were singing along, and soon he was singing along too. He was a good Dad. I wanted to be a good Dad like that.
I couldn’t wait for the first time I took my daughter and a friend to a boy-band concert.
That, I must tell you, hasn’t happened. I’m guessing it won’t.
This weekend, though, the closest thing did happen. I took our youngest daughter Katie — already 14, which breaks my heart in a million places — and her friend to see the new Avengers movie, Endgame. Fear not, there will be no spoilers in here, because Katie has been warning me forever about the villainy of spilling or even hinting around any plot points. She has done this in a particularly 14-year-old way, by constantly reminding me, in no uncertain terms, “Hashtag don’t spoil the endgame (#DontSpoilTheEndame).”
What was that car ride like? It was a little bit baffling, to be honest. With our older daughter, my wife and I were occasionally made aware that we are old and out-of-touch and that there are certain words and phrases — “Bae” and “Bye Felicia!” and “Don’t throw shade,” and the like — that are specific to this time, to this generation, the way “Up your nose with a rubber hose,” and “Dynomite!” were specific to mine.
With Katie, though, that world divide has been stretched exponentially. You would not think that three years could make that much of a difference, but Katie speaks a language that we only vaguely understand. For instance, she will hear us talking about something or other and she will wander over and just say: “Tea.” It took much too long for us to understand the full depth of that word:
1. The kids talk about “Spilling the tea,” which seems to mean “Sharing the gossip.” This can be used in many ways. For instance, someone might go over to a group of friends and say, “Tea party!” And that means (maybe?) that there’s some juicy gossip about to be shared.
2. Tea might seem to mean more than just gossip. It might mean drama. I’ve heard Katie and her friends talk about how, say, a television show’s plot is turning dark, and they will happily say, “Oooh! Tea!”
3. Saying “Tea,” might also mean “Tell me what’s happening in a way that has nothing at all to do with drama.” If Margo and I are, say, making summer vacation plans, Katie might wander over and say, “Tea,” meaning “What’s going on this summer?”
In other words, no, I don’t know what “Tea” means.
Katie gets the biggest kick out of this, and at dinnertime she will sometimes give us “How well do you understand the kids?” pop quizzes, where she’ll use one of those teenage words and see if we know what it means. We rarely do.*
*To bring this back to the Avengers — not, heaven-forbid, to the newest movie but instead to the original — there’s a moment where someone makes a reference to flying monkeys, and Captain America (who, in case you’re not following the series, was encased in ice for decades after World War II) jumps up happily and says, “I got that reference!” That’s how I feel when I get one.
All of which brings us back to the car, and that ride to see Endgame. Katie and her friend were in the back seat together — just like the girls in that commercial I loved — but instead of music, they were giddy about the movie, giddy and emotional and overwhelmed about getting to the end of this 21st (or 22nd, depending on how you feel about the Edward Norton Hulk movie) chapter in the Marvel Universe saga. They’ve been watching Marvel movies literally all their lives, and the words were flying fast and furious, and lots of tea, lots of hashtags, and I understood roughly every third word.
For a while, they talked about Gilmore Girls and who they shipped Rory with. Shipping is an old term by today’s teenage standards — it’s been around for years — but if you don’t happen to have access to teenagers, it means to wishfully connect two people in a relationship. You might ship two of your friends, or you might ship two fictional characters, or you might ship yourself (I think). To put it in Pretty in Pink terms — everything should be put in Pretty in Pink terms — most kids today (I’m told) ship Andie and Duckie, and they’re pretty grossed out by Blaine (a “creeper”).
The girls talked about Riverdale, and their shared theory that Marvel is way better at making movies but DC television shows are way better, and how they would love to be going to school with someone who turns out to be famous, and how ready they were to cry at Endgame and various other things that I could only half follow because of the language difference.
But here was the thing that really struck me.
They said the word “same” a lot.
It took me a little while to pick up on this … maybe because I’ve unconsciously grown used to Katie saying it all the time. But after a few conversations, I realized that roughly every other sentence began with that word, “same.”
“I think I’m going to cry at the end of Endgame.”
“Same! I’ll probably cry a hundred times.”
“Same! I feel like nervous right now getting ready to watch it.”
“Same! I’ve been watching these movies since I was, like, 8 or something.”
“Same! I remember the first time I saw Avengers, I think that was my first Marvel movie.”
“Same! It was so great, I wanted to see every single one after that.”
“Same! What do you think is the best Marvel movie?”
“I loved Black Panther. I’ve seen it like 70 times.”
‘Same! It was so great. I loved Captain Marvel too.”
“Same! That was, I think, one of the first superhero movies with a female role model. I love that.”
“I think the only one before that was Wonder Woman.”
“I loved Wonder Woman.”
It was amazing and repetitive and amazing again. One of them would talk about something, anything — an opinion, a feeling, a half-thought, a memory — and the other would rush in with that all-confirming word, “same!”
And, the more I listened, the more I began to understand the full breadth of that word, the more I realized that “same!” wasn’t just intended to say, “Yes, I feel, think, remember the same way.” That was part of it, certainly, but it also seemed to me an affirmation, no matter how corny it may sound, that, Yes! You are not alone! I’m just like you!
You will undoubtedly remember that after every NBA dunk of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and probably today, the television cameras would always pan the crowd and would always find two guys awkwardly high-fiving each other. It became one of those great sports television clichés, like the camera showing “2:00” on the clock at the two-minute warning and then fading out or the camera showing a player being congratulated in the dugout after laying down a successful sacrifice bunt.
But the post-dunk high-five was even more prevalent, and it left me with so many questions. How did the camera people always (and so quickly) find the high-fivers? Did those same people high-five after every dunk? If they did, why did they never get any better at it? Did a dunk have to be of a certain quality to incite the high five?
But mostly, I wondered: Why did they high-five? In my mind, I used to be somewhat cruel on that point, thinking to myself: “What are they high-fiving about? They didn’t DO anything.”
But as time went on, and I hopefully became a little bit more generous in thought, I came to realize that I had it entirely wrong. They didn’t high-five as some sort of self-congratulations.
No. They high-fived to connect. They had just seen this awesome thing, this breathtaking athlete leap impossibly high off the ground, take the basketball with one hand and crash it through a hoop 10 feet off the ground, sounding off a barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world, and when you see that, when you feel that pounding through your chest, yes, of course, you want to share it, you must share it with someone who sees and feels all those things you’re feeling.
There will be no spoilers from Endgame here, other than to say it’s long (pro tip: Use the restroom before you go in), and it’s sweeping, and it’s deeply emotional if you care about this world. When Katie and her friend came out of the movie, they were in tears, and they mostly stayed in tears for the ride home.
Every now and again, though one of them would break the silence and bring up a scene in a half-sentence like, “Remember when X said,” and before even going into what X said, they would both shout out, “Argh!” and one would say, “Hashtag: Tearjerker,” and the other would say “My heart can’t take it,” and the other would say, “Same!”