Why does it bring me such joy to hear “Come on Eileen” played at so many student events?
Before assemblies, at lunch in the amphitheater, and at halftime of our homecoming flag football game when the students rushed onto the field for an impromptu dance party, that old 80s standard is as popular this year as any other song the kids pull up when the student body gathers.
It may be that even in a world so different than 1982, a world where culture is complicated and technology makes the Reagan years seem quaint, there is something somehow reassuring in the fact that teeangers still like dancing to Dexys Midnight Runners.
As a high school principal I’m an adult with a front row seat to contemporary adolescence. I may not listen to Bruno Mars, but I’d better know who he is. I’m not unlike a fellow on safari, my pith helmet an SDA ballcap, my jodhpurs a pair of khakis.
I see teenagers in the wild, surrounded by peers, which makes their love of “Come on Eileen” feel a little like catching an ape in the rain forest smoking a cigar.
But the kids aren’t wildlife (a fact that’s true even if you’ve chaperoned a dance) and I’m no explorer. A better analogy: I simply feel like everyone’s dad.
I see in my students a bright future. I wince when I see their pain, grit my teeth at their natural adolescent struggles, and every day do my best to figure out ways to help.
I suppose that’s the real reason why seeing them enjoy something familiar to my own youth is both comforting and hopeful.
Despite that look they show their parents in reply to sensible advice, the kids haven’t figured it out, just as my generation hadn’t when Boy George was talking about chameleons and Frankie was going to Hollywood. While we like to believe that we can make sense of it all (whatever “it all” is) as adults, the truth is that there is still much confusion in our world, uncertainty, and anxiety. There is also hope, and joy, and room for optimism. What better response than a rousing chorus of:
Come on, Eileen ta-loo-rye-ay
Come on, Eileen ta-loo-rye-ay!”