Peter Chow: How To React When a 17 Year Old Asks, “Who Was John Lennon?”


Step 1: Composure

Do not physically harm the juvenile.

Keep your voice muted and measured and your movements slow and non-threatening.

This will calm you as much as it does them (they’ll be shaken after discovering a void in their world knowledge).


Step 2: Double-check

Ask the teen if they know the song “Imagine.”

Sing a couple of bars (accompany with air piano for a more immersive experience).

Then show them a video of the Fab Four on your Amazon Echo Show and ask them if they know The Beatles.

If they recognize the song or the band, good.

If they recognize neither, keep your cool.

Do not grab them by the collar with your frail, arthritic, aged hands, screaming, “How can you not know?!??!!” and go on a largely incoherent tirade about the post-Napster music industry before becoming pre-syncopal and disoriented, dropping to the floor, and laugh-sobbing into their mushroom-leather sustainable sneakers.

Step 3: Relate and appease

Prepare the youngster for tutelage by speaking their language.

Casually mention that you can’t wait for the next BTS studio album to drop, and how much you hate single-use plastic.

Urban Dictionary:  drop – to release an album

(BTS is a seven-member South Korean boy band that covers subjects that other bands may not, like generational disparities, bullying, elitism, social identity in youth, teenage angst, and mental health, able to remain relatable and humble while still being entertaining, wildly popular and famous)

Take blame for Climate Change and the ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction Event even though you and I know you’re way too young and too insignificant for it to be your fault.

Do not, under any circumstances, discuss sex with teenagers, as they’ll just laugh at how little you know.

Step 4: Educate

Teens are hungry for knowledge, especially when it’s passed down from elders as cool as you.

Describe John Lennon to them thusly and verbatim:

“Millions of people used to stan John Lennon and The Beatles. They were GOATs and their music still slaps, bruh.”

Urban Dictionary:  to “stan” something is to love and support that person, thing or situation with a passion (the term was popularised by Eminem, a combination of “stalker” and “fan”);  “slaps” – an expression of how good something is;   “GOAT” – the best, the greatest of all time;  “bruh” – informal name for a male friend

As their eyes light up, ask if you can play some John Lennon tracks for them.

When they obviously say yes, take out your phone, exit out of that NPR podcast episode on Burnout and play them “Beautiful Boy,” “God,” or “Working Class Hero.”

Avoid “Give a Peace a Chance” because we haven’t got all day.

In the theoretically possible scenario where they react negatively, say they’re being “extra” and retreat.

Urban Dictionary:  “extra” – over the top, excessively dramatic behaviour

If they react positively, count this interaction as part of your legacy and bring it to a close.

Step 5: Solace

After you’ve exited the conversation, find a place where you can be alone.

You may experience an involuntary and painful review (flashbacks) of your life and the life choices you’ve made thus far.

Let it wash over you.

If you’re still rattled, open that eye-wateringly expensive single-malt Scotch whiskey you’ve been saving for that special occasion that never comes and allow it to soothe your existential Weltschmerz (German: translation, “world pain or world weariness”).

Step 6: Recovery

Remember you still have, hopefully, a few decades left before you die.

We all know those incredible stories of people who started painting or playing a musical instrument at 85 and became world-famous from their art or music at 90.

Well, that most likely won’t happen to you, but at least you have a quality couch to relax on, a high-end line of kitchen utensils, and you’re doing remarkably well for someone who used to take so many drugs.

Watch a Masterclass lesson, such as Yotam Ottolenghi Teaches Modern Middle Eastern Cooking or Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz or Gary Kasparov Teaches Chess. …

Then, take a nap on your osteopathic pillow.

Step 7: Self-esteem

Be assured by the fact that Your Generation is assuredly, objectively, the Best One.

Think of all the things you know that modern adolescents will never know.

Your knowledge is voluminous, your experience multitudinous.

Today’s teenagers might not know who John Lennon was, but at least you know that if a Millennial or a Gen Zer asked you if you’ve ever heard of Buddy Holly, you’d be able to confidently answer, “Obviously, it’s on the Blue Weezer album,” and walk away with dignity.

(“Buddy Holly” was a single off the Blue Album, the debut studio album by American rock band Weezer, released in 1994 and hailed as the album of the year)

Step 8: Growth mindset

Think about how you might keep in touch with teenagers  –  like being a mentor (although all mentoring activities would have to be non-sporting due to your neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Actually, the kid will probably be cool with listening to your cryptocurrency investment ideas over an espresso.

Bookmark Urban Dictionary; find out what Minecraft is (the greatest, best-selling video game of all time, with over 200 million copies sold and over 140 million monthly active users as of 2021) ; go to the Top 50 playlist on Spotify, grit your teeth, and press Play.

Step 9: Acceptance

Surrender to the Circle Of Life.

Young people, too, shall one day be middle-aged (unless Elon Musk with his Neuralink finds a way to connect their neocortexes/neocortices to Artificial Intelligence, upload their Consciousnesses to the Cloud and enable them to digitally move through the World using sexy avatars, thus becoming Immortal before they hit their 30s.)

Book an appointment with your therapist.

Listen to a whole John Lennon album.

I would recommend either “John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band” (1970) or  “Imagine” (1971) or “Mind Games” (1973).


  1. Fantastic article. Made me laugh. I used to play my older (by 10 years) brother’s records as a young child. Beatles as well as Simon and Garfunkel were the main ones. The words to most of the songs of those groups are embedded in my head. The Boxer was and still is a favourite. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the record player and putting that little yellow disk in the 45 and carefully placing it on the turntable, making sure that the turntable was on 45 and not 33. Good memories!

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