Well, she was just seventeen," declared Paul McCartney, and added, not at all as an afterthought: "You know what I mean." Yeah, I know: seventeen is about the least underage you can be. You don't quite buy into the adolescent mythos anymore, but scarcely anyone's going to take you seriously just yet. Seventeen is innocence that rejects innocence, the sort that draws lyrical attention, be it ABBA's well-scrubbed Dancing Queen or Chuck Berry's more worldly Little Queenie. (Meanwhile, I'm still thinking that Chuck actually prefers sixteen, based on the dance-card requests of all the cats, but that's a matter for another year.)
Today this Web site is seventeen years old. By the standards of the Internet, it's hardly underage at all; in fact, you can see it greying around the edges. Still, it pretends to be an adult: just when you think it's probably safe to let it have a swig from the grownups' bottle, it gives itself away. It contains five million words, although it could just as easily have contained one word repeated five million times. (If it had, it likely would not have had 2.4 million visitors, but as any number of aggregator sites can tell you, people have clicked on worse. Lots worse.)
Not much has happened since the last anniversary, really: it's the same old design theme, the same old shtick, and generally the same old list of topics. Seventeen, after all, is not a time for drastic changes; it's a time for making the internal adjustments necessary for the next big jump. (From the perspective of my actual chronological age, which is not quite sixty, the next big jump may well involve a descent to a depth of six feet, though I have no reason to think it imminent.) Seventeen is when you yearn to stay out all night, and damn the yawns the next morning. Seventeen is when you've heard of taxes, kinda sorta, but you haven't quite gotten used to the idea that you will be paying them whether you like it or not. (Hint: not.) For some of us of a certain age, seventeen was when we still had one year before we had to worry about Selective Service, which we suspected was not much of a service and not all that selective either.
Still, seventeen is sort of old. The World Wide Web as we know it, a hypertext service available to the general public, turned 21 last summer. You'll pardon me if I occasionally try to persuade it to buy me a drink.
And if anyone knows the dynamics of seventeen, it's Janis Ian, who remembered it this way:
It was long ago and far away
Then again, she was twenty-four when she wrote that. And dreams, so far as I know, are still free. Maybe by this time next year they'll have figured out how to tax them.
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Copyright © 2013 by Charles G. Hill