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Peter Pan Complex: Growing Up Through Blink-182 Songs

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In the 1990s, it was normal for 13-year-olds to listen to 25-year-olds singing about the joys of never outgrowing TV, parties and all the small things. Years later, those 13-year-olds have grown into 25-year-olds and the 25-year-olds into 37-year olds, whose music still provides sonic ointment to those growing pains that never really go away. Like a graffitied drinking fountain of youth behind the high school bleachers, Blink-182 transcended the '90s and continues to give new and old fans advice on navigating adolescence, from the toilet humor to the hard times. Here are three stages of Blink 182’s guide through puberty, in chronological order:

1. "What’s My Age Again" (1999) – This song is a classic celebration of the blissful freedom of youth sans parents and sans pants (as per the music video for the song, which features Tom, Mark and Travis on a nude morning jog through busy streets, parks and TV shows). Every adolescent who has ever prank-called their neighbor or taken a golf club to their parents’ old Barry White records to play baseball with (guilty as charged…) has probably heard the phrase “Act your age” – which begs the philosophical smart-aleck question: “What’s My Age Again?” Blink-182 actually wanted to name the song “Peter Pan Complex” but like no-fun parents, the record company (MCA) changed it. The Neverland sentiment is felt by all at some point and lived out to the fullest by performers like Blink 182 who feed the inner child within all of us – not with candy, but with candy-coated musings like “With many years ahead to fall in line. Why would you wish that on me/I never want to act my age.” 2. "I Miss You" (2004) – The band traded power chords for acoustic crooning, along with Dickies shorts for solemn suits in “I Miss You” " Its accompanying music video was heavily rotated on MTV, VH1’s “Top 20 Music Video Countdown” and all the other music TV I used to miss my school bus for on weekday mornings. As a 13-year-old still testing the ranges of human emotions for the first time, lyrics like “As I stared I counted / The webs from all the spiders / Catching things and eating their insides / Like indecision to call you” created dramatic new associations, which were part of the dark romance befitting a nod to Nightmare Before Christmas (“We can live like Jack and Sally…we’ll have Halloween on Christmas”) in the song. 3. "After Midnight" (2011) – Eight years after “I Miss You,” the band members might have grown up (and broken up…and gotten back together, much like the relationships they sang about), but they still miss that special someone in “After Midnight”: “I can't find the best in all of this / But I'm always looking out for you / 'Cause you're the one I miss / And it's driving me crazy.” Despite their attachment to Neverland, the boys come back to reality and face up to responsibility in this song, as Tom and Mark sing passionately about things they can’t change but have come to accept with open arms: “We'll stagger home after midnight / Sleep arm-in-arm in the stairwell / We'll fall apart on the weekend / These nights go on and on and on.” Like many relationships (I know I’ve had a few), these Blink-182 songs move through the exciting beginning to complicated quarrels and eventually to mature resolution, remembering the simple enjoyments in life and love that get you through all the rest.

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