On the Table: Late to the Party


Remember parachute pants? Man, I hated those things and everyone that wore them irritated me–until the day I bought a pair and realized what I was missing out on and just how glorious it is to have thirty-seven pockets on a pair of pants that are too tight to bend over and tie your shoes in (that’s why they make Vans loafers.) So the question is: What cultural phenomenon, whether technology, music, fashion, art, or anything else, did you miss out on until the last possible minute and then finally give into?

russ-ramey-thumb.gifRuss Ramsey – I was late for the Facebook party. Now of course I’ve always had email and web access—so its not like I’m technologically obtuse (I am, after all, part of an online community. But Xenga came along and I laughed to myself, “This will never catch on.” Then MySpace really turned up the pressure. But it was cumbersome, the music was usually unwelcome and most people seemed to use fake names making it very confusing to know who was who. And don’t even get me started on the whole “thanks for the add” thing. Who are these people? But Facebook check-mated me in just three moves. Move one: my friend says, “You’ve gotta see this picture on “other friends” Facebook page.” Move Two, “I says to the guy, ‘Email me the link.’” Move three, he does, I click on it and am informed that I can’t see said picture until I join and become my friend’s friend again. Over a barrel. So I join. Immediately it was like a hundred people from my past and present were all waiting online for the moment I joined. Everyone in the world wanted to be my friend. That day! I couldn’t turn anyone away. It was quite possibly the best 36 hours of my life. I was someone. I was Russ Ramsey. And I was on Facebook.

But then, things began to change. I kept getting emails whenever one of my 100 best friends became friends with another one of my 100 best friends—and for some reason I cannot explain Facebook thought I should know. Then a young lady in our church invited me to her graduation party which I was unable to attend due to travel. Long story short, I had no idea how to work the “application” she sent for a yes, no or maybe. So I told her no two times in a row without any kind of comment. Rudest pastor ever. I felt like I replied, “No. Didn’t you hear me, I said NO!” Now I’m hoping there’s a Facebook application for people struggling with the emotional roller coaster ride the first few weeks with Facebook takes you on.

At present, I’m building up a nice list of friendship requests, and I’m mulling them over. But these things, it turns out, are not to be entered into lightly. So I’m at the party, but I’m the guy over by the wall nursing a diet coke wondering if its time to call it a night. Word on the street is this party is definitely an all-nighter.

eric-peters-thumb.gif Eric Peters – 1. Joining Myspace.

2. Joining Facebook.

3. Joining the forthcoming greatest social networking website.

jason-gray-thumb.gif Jason Gray – I’m generally a late-comer to most things. I’m a bit of a contrarian, which means that if everybody’s doing it, then it’s the last thing I want to be a part of. I’m curmudgeonly that way. I resisted email, cell phones, ipods, and Macs for that reason. Since then, I’ve embraced all of those things and am grateful for them (especially my Mac!). I do the same with music, books, movies, etc.

I’m afraid that much of my reluctance probably comes from a desire to foster my identity as a non-joiner. Thankfully, though, I’m learning to get over myself.

But another part of it is that with every new sensation that comes along, I’m afraid of losing the good I’ve known of my time. I read that dead authors don’t sell very well, which is a shame since some of the best minds (and hearts) that Christianity has produced are now dead and gone. But we still have so much to learn from them. Augustine, Lewis, Chesterton, Bonhoeffer – today’s church needs to hear their words now more than ever. The same for music. There is still much good to be gleaned from even contemporary artists like Rich Mullins and Mark Heard not to mention more classic works by Robert Robinson, John Newton, and others. Because of our culture’s profane disregard of the old things, I’m usually suspicious of the new things.

Besides, I’m waiting for the iPhone to come out with an 80 gig version.

ron-block-thumb.gif Ron Block – In high school in the 1980s I listened mostly to bluegrass and old country music from the 1930s through the 1960s; I was retro before retro was cool. And believe me, retro was most definitely not cool. Banjo belt buckles, a staple in modern American society, weren’t hip back then. I did get a lot of eye-rolling at my Dad’s rock and roll music store at the time.

So aside from being way ahead of pop culture trends, what phenomenon did I miss out on until the last moment? I was a little slow on the iPod, I think, though I’ve had several in the past few years. I still like records. CDs are on the way out and I dislike mp3 sound quality. But now iPods and external hard drives are big enough to accomodate dumping the cds straight in as wavs with no loss of quality.

Now, I did just buy a TV with a 52″ screen. Now that I’ve solidly established “Friday and Friday Night Alone Is Movie Night” in our family I felt safe going out and getting a flatscreen. The trend isn’t close to over, I realize, but our prior TV was about 20 inches and we got tired of squinting. This big ol’ TV will make its home downstairs, waiting every week, black and silent, for Friday night.

I still don’t have cable or satellite. That’s way too trendy.

curt-mcley-thumb.gifCurt McLey – I am sometimes slow to embrace new things. A dash of cynicism, a shake or two of contrarianism, and a reluctance to let go of the past, probably all play a part. Once I do succumb to a trend, there’s a good chance I will retain it well past the time when good popular culture sense would suggest otherwise.

From the fashion world, my goatee is a perfect example. I can’t recall exactly when the goatee became ubiquitous, but as best I recall, it was somewhere in the mid 90s. I was sure it would die a quick death. Instead, like the Engergizer Bunny, it just went on and on and on. At least two or three years into the trend, I started to like the look and grew one myself, though I suspect its time probably passed at least five years ago.

Similar to the goatee, I totally underestimated rap music. Like the just under two year trend of disco music in the late 70s, I predicted rap music was a fad that would pass quickly. When the genre penetrated the world of mainstream music in the early 90s, I thought it would be gone within no more than two years. As it continues to infiltrate and often dominate popular music in the new century, I’m still surprised that it’s around. And I still don’t like it. It’s a bandwagon I contine to avoid.

Tatoos. That’s another piece of popular culture I’ve shunned, though it looks cool on Derek Webb. At one time, tattoos were the domain of sailors, bikers, and those that endured an unfortunate night of inebriation. Nowadays, grandma, your tax accountant, and the pope all probably have tattoos. Fine, for them, not for me. Regardless of how certain I am of a thing today, there’s a fair chance I might feel differently tomorrow. And I can shave a goatee if I don’t like it.

I have an iPod, I am a member of Facebook, I use nitrogen in my tires, and have a big-screen TV, so I’m not totally behind the pop culture curve. On the other hand, the woodwork in our house is stained, not painted white, my summer shorts are at at least two inches too high, our TV is not high definition, I don’t do the iPhone, and I still haven’t shaved my goatee. Yet.

andrew-peterson-thumb.gif Andrew Peterson – I remember aching for parachute pants. And I mean aching. I also, unfortunately, ached for a rat tail. My mom, who cut my hair, refused, and for that I will be forever grateful.

evie-coates-thumb.gif Evie Coates – It’s hard for me to imagine that there was ever life before e-mail, but I do faintly recall it. Right now I feel oddly like my grandpa Norberg when he said “I remember when there were no cars.” Or furthermore, like a Neanderthal saying “I remember when there were no wheels.” Just look how far we’ve come.

The year was 1996. It was my sophomore year at Auburn University (at least the football was good). I was an R.A. (that means Resident Assistant for all of you unlearnt folk). I enjoyed the perks of my own room, a window AC unit, and free room and board. All I had to endure was a week of ice breaker games and CPR training at the onset of the school year, drunk sorority girls banging on my door at all hours of the early morning asking for Advil (which of course, I was certified to administer), and being the dorm’s designated killer of flying roaches.

The computer lab was right across the street from our dorm (the name of which escapes me and this is making me feel ancient) on the quad, and I’ll never forget sitting at the front desk and watching girls file out the door in droves at all hours saying “wanna go check your e-mail?” “What? What’s this? What does this strange ‘e’ stand for? Well, I never…I’ll write letters by hand until Jesus returns. There’s no way I’ll start typing them. I hate to type. This is preposterous.”

Fast forward two years. The year was 1999. It was my second year at UT Chattanooga. My sister came to visit and I was showing her the design lab. “You know Evie, if you’d get an e-mail account, we could keep in touch much more easily.” And something in me snapped. I was suddenly ready for this gigantic step forward in technology. It had taken me awhile, but my hand was growing tired and Jesus sure was taking his sweet time, so we sat down, summoned the powers of hotmail, and here I’ve been ever since.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


  1. sevenmiles

    Genius. GENIUS.

    Andrew: I, too, am glad my barber (Mom) didn’t allow me to grow a rat tail.

    Let’s see…when was I a late adopter? I’m a big Apple guy and didn’t think the iPod would ever fly. I didn’t get one until my wife gave me a 3rd gen for my birthday. I plugged it into my PowerBook and it synced in seconds and I was hooked. I spent the next three days feeding my PowerBook all my CDs.

    I was very late (sadly) to Arrested Development. I had no idea how much laughter I was missing. Of course, now I own the series on DVD (in addition to Battlestar), but I was too late to join the “Save Our Bluths” campaign.

    I have yet to join MySpace or Facebook. I refuse to text message (I hate using number keys for letters). I might text if I ever get an iPhone. MIGHT.


  2. Chris R

    AP, you wanted a rat-tail? Really? Your Mom is a saint to not allow that, in fact that is a fine sermon example of the parent knowing best, even if it is contrary to what you want. I am late to Arrested Development, LOST, and pretty much most every TV show that is not The Office or How I Met Your Mother and Planet Earth. And I just bought my first iPod 8 months ago.

  3. Peter B

    Still no ipod here either. My wife sure loves hers, though (it’s funny that I’m the geek but she — the artist/psych major/people-person — is more of a technology enthusiast).

    I was late to the dotcom boom of the ’90s. By the time I got in, it was too late to make millions by using the word “internet” in a business proposal.

  4. Chris Slaten

    When I was in England every kid on my flat lived off of text messaging (I think their cell phone plans were set up in a way that encouraged texting over calling). They would write 5,000 word essays to each other, just using their thumbs, in under a minute. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but either way it blew my mind how much time they devoted to the art of texting and typing in shorthand. That experience soured me on the prospect of ever attempting to learn that skill.

    We are behind on anything on tv, because, like Loren, we still need to buy one. The only thing I am kind of on top of with tv shows is any Sir David Attenborough production, but even for that I have to wait until they come on dvd since they usually don’t premier in the US until about a year after the UK, if they come on tv at all (Life in Cold Blood is the newest that I know of, who knows when I’ll get to see it). By the way, if you happen to find Sigourney Weaver’s narration lacking at all then I highly recommend his version of Planet Earth.

    Lyndsay and I saw some amazing rat tails in Disney World. Whole families of them. It was awe inspiring.

    Evie, you went to school here?! Do you have any work currently displayed in Chattanooga?

    I’m still not sold on Segways.

  5. Aaron Roughton

    I believe that the time it takes to type a text message on a normal cell phone is directly proportional to your age. My thought is that if I have to push more buttons than it would take to just dial the number, it ain’t worth it.

  6. Jud

    Does AP count as a “cultural phenomenon”? I just bought his box set a few weeks ago (before that’d I’d owned nothing except The Far Country). It’s a funny feeling listening to songs that are 5 or more years old and thinking they’re “new” because I’ve never heard them before.

    P.S. For anyone still on the musical fence, $60 box set = no brainer. But I suppose I’m preaching to the choir.

  7. lyndsay

    chris, may i gently correct you…we do not “need” to buy a tv. we just bought a house for crying out loud. what more do you need???? (haha.) besides. that’s what friends are for. “hey, we’re coming over to watch…um…” oh wait. we don’t watch anything. hmm…maybe i should say that’s what books are for. 🙂

    i was dreadfully behind the times on email in ’97. i remember my very first one i received on my college email account. “but how do i read it?” i had barely had any contact at all with a mouse, let alone non-dos screen. my roommate of a few hours tried hard to hide her horrified face, but failed miserably as she told me to just click on it. oh. and about two weeks later, i was officially the most addicted person in the world to email, im, etc. and i’m sad to say that i find facebook sucking more hours from my life than it should…shut up chris.

    i was also VERY late to the digital camera scene. i was the only person in europe in ’03 with my regular-film camera. i just didn’t get it. but now it’s almost painful to have a picture taken without immediately knowing what it looks like. but i sure do miss actually holding pictures in my hands. i think i’m a closet film-camera lover.

  8. Stacy Grubb

    My cycle of living behind the times started as a wee child when my hand me downs came, not just from older sisters 8 and 3 years my senior, but older cousins who outranked me by well over a decade. I was wearing bellbottoms after they were cool the first time, but before they were cool the second time. That’s just the way I roll.

    I’m still slow to embrace anything new. I’m either too clueless to know of newfangled advances, too broke to join in on the fun, or too resistant to change. I usually can’t imagine how something can enhance my life until I actually get it and fall head over heels in love with it (my iPod I got for Christmas is a wonderful example of that). My problem is that, when I finally do decide I want something, I have to have it now, Now, NOW!!

    I’ve only recently jumped on the texting bandwagon, as well, and that was totally against my will. My husband frequently texts in lieu of calling me, so I’m forced to respond in text. I despise talking on the phone, but I loathe the time it takes me to text even more (especially when I’ve spent 5 minutes concocting a text response and he decides he’s sick of waiting and calls me, completely wiping out all my hard work). I can’t bring myself to do the shortcut text speak, either. I’ll get a text like, “Watz 4 dinner 2nite?” and think, “Really? Did my husband really just send this?” It’s like I barely know him.

    Perhaps my biggest lag has been in gaming consoles. I’m now awaiting my new Nintendo Wii, compliments of Mother’s Day. It’s the first one I’ve purchased in nearly 15 years since I got the Super Nintendo as a gift. So, all these years, I’ve had only my Super Nintendo with its one lone little game (Super Mario, of course). My brother had the Playstation or whatever that was he had and I couldn’t even make the little men walk. I couldn’t figure out where I was in the game. Things would attack me from behind and I couldn’t get turned around to fight back. I couldn’t even steer my Mario Kart, anymore. But it’s a new world, people. I’m accepting that, now, and am looking way forward to my Wii getting here.

    By the way, for you facebook buffs on here, can someone please explain to me why I may post something on You Tube and will find that someone else has posted it on their facebook? What is with that? I’ve only recently joined in on the You Tube phenomenon and have yet to join in with facebook. But I’m so confused about why my video of my dinky performance is on facebook. Who does this stuff? What does it all mean?


  9. John Michalak

    We had cell phones for a while, and my wife still has a trac phone for commuting and short calls, but otherwise, we’ve lived pretty well without them. Worst case scenario, someone else has one to use. No IPod yet, and I only joined the dark side and bought a Mac to record music.

    I once thought peer pressure would cease once I was out of high school, but I think it’s definitely reared its ugly head again among adults since the onset of the digital age. The irony is that we buy these things (in part) to fit in, but the virtual world they create makes us more an more distant from one another.

  10. Ann

    Let’s see…

    Duck shoes back in the 80’s. Swore I’d never get a pair of those ugly things and never did.

    Crocs. Swore I’d never get a pair and never have. Again, how ugly can you get?!!

    Skorts. Thought they were the dumbest idea until I FINALLY put a pair on and found out I could look like a girl while still wearing shorts!

    The Office. Boy, am I glad I gave in to pressure on that one! Guess I am going to have to check into AD, as well. Also, 30 Rock is supposed to be quite good.

    Adkins Diet. I held out a long time on this one. Finally tried it years ago. It worked great the first time around, but I could never stick to it.

  11. easton crow

    Oh parachute pants! How I loved them. I really, really wanted a piar, and my great grandma bought me some for my birthday. The only problem was, that as the little Fundamentalist boy at the public school, I really only had collared dress shirts. That posed a problem. Imagine the deep purple dress shirt with the parachute pants. And cowboy boots. They only got worn a couple of times.
    Oh, and as the Fundy boy, I also missed out on just about all of 80’s pop culture. I saw a few videos on MTV at my friends’ houses, but I tried not to watch becuase I knew it was just about as pure evil as you could get. Stil, “Kharma cameleon” was a pretty catchy tune.

  12. sevenmiles

    Aaron – I am TOTALLY with you on texting. Well put.

    Anne – I have heard the same about 30 Rock. I may have to take a look…

  13. Mike

    Not sure whether this fits or not but I just started watching Lost. I’m in limbo between Season three DVD’s and Season four TV.

  14. sevenmiles

    Lost definitely fits this discussion. I finally watched the first episode a couple of months ago. I don’t want to buy the DVDs, but as soon as someone I know has them, I’m borrowing ’em.

    I just realized that I also started watching Scrubs during it’s fourth season and now I can’t get enough of it in syndication. I’ve never seen a show go from comedy to serious drama in just a half hour as well as Scrubs.

  15. whipple

    I played Johnny-Come-Lately to the Normals.

    Their music played on a slightly evangelical local radio station back when I was a high schooler, but I got into Jars of Clay, DC Talk, earlier Newsboys (Going Public, anyone?), Third Day, and also a couple rounds of Hootie and the Blowfish.

    I usually feel quite boastful about getting in somewhat near the ground floor on Jars of Clay and Caedmon’s (though I only made it in time for the self-titled on both counts).

    iPods? Mine just gave out. Boo hiss. I feel the tugging of my heartstrings to go buy another, but I feel a harder tugging from my wallet.

  16. Curt McLey


    In reading some of these follow up posts, I remembered that I was pretty late with the whole Seinfeld thing; like after it went to syndication. Now I love it and often stop for a whole episode when I’m channel surfing. But I haven’t been a prime time TV guy since I was a kid. Oh, on Lost, I am strictly a DVD guy. When the season is released to DVD, I watch every episode in about four or five days. It’s nasty trying to avoid references to Lost so I don’t hear a spoiler, but so far, I’ve been able to pull it off. When does Season Four go to DVD? Anybody know?

  17. becky

    I am a chronic late adopter. In some cases it is because I need to spend my limitted funds on frivolous things like food and utilities. But mixed in with that there is usually a healthy dose of protest.

    My family keeps bugging me to get a cell phone but so far I have resisted, for three reasons. First, the previously mentioned need for food and other necessities. Second, because I don’t really want to be available at all times. I leave the house to get away from the phone, etc., so why take it with me? Finally, I get seriously annoyed by people who have cells permenantly attached to the side of their heads. It’s rude, and when they are driving it is dangerous.

    Also, if I had a cell someone might decide to send me text messages, which I think are completely useless. You need a magnifying glass to see the keys. It is essentially an email message that you have to pay for, so just send an email for free. If you are not near a computer and you need to contact someone, use the phone already.

    I have not yet succumbed to the lure of Facebook, partly in protest of the amount of time my friends spend on it. And, I’m just leary of new stuff. I would really love an iPod, though, but not more than I love having gas in my car and electricity in my apartment.

    The advantage of this is that you sometimes miss the trends that make you look back later and say, “What was I thinking!”

  18. Aaron Roughton

    I just thought of something else for me…Coffee. I discovered the magic of coffee again after the birth of our third youngster a little less than 2 years ago at the ripe old age of 33. I’ve always loved the smell and taste of coffee, I just avoided caffeine until recently. Now I embrace it. We buy large quantities of coffee beans at Costco and I work hard at perfecting the brew.

    I have also rediscovered the social aspects of drinking coffee. I think I’ll look into smoking next. What a wonderful world.

    A final serious note…One cool thing about being in community with someone who is late to the game for whatever it may be is that they usually breathe new life into whatever it is for the folks around them that have been in the game a while. After growing up in the Methodist church with a lot of other folks who grew up in the church, I was always amazed by the sheer passion at churches full of people who were newer to the faith. It was always a good reminder of what we were actually there for.

  19. Clay Marbry

    Though short-lived, the hyper-color T-shirt phenomenon was one I pined for in junior high. My mom wouldn’t let me get a shirt becuase most of them said “Hold Here” with arrows pointing to your love-handles….which I didn’t have back then. At any rate, they finally came out with some shirts that didn’t have the onerous statement and mom finally relented. I was a color-changing big man on campus….a year into the fad.

  20. Kevin

    When I signed up for my first email account ~1997 I told my mom I got a hotmail.com account. She replied in all seriousness that “hot male dot com” sounded like a dirty web site and asked me if I was sure I knew what I was doing.

  21. Aaron Roughton

    Kevin, that’s hilarious. Not only the content of your post, but the fact that you posted nearly a year after the last post on the topic of being late to the party. I wish I’d thought of that. It’s like a black fly in your chardonnay.

  22. Kevin

    Aaron, I wish I could say that I intentionally waited a year to post my story just to be ironic. I would be the coolest person ever if I had done that. As it is, the irony is at my expense this time! 🙂

  23. Aaron Roughton

    It was still funny, intentional or not. Thanks for the laugh. I thought about being intentional and waiting a year to reply to you, but my patience gave out.

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