I’m older than you and I remember having similar realizations in my early 30s. That’s when I started trying to use slang I’d heard but didn’t fully understand in order to crack my younger colleagues up.
Looking back at my whole life I can remember nearly ever stage of slang envy. As a small child in the 1970s my friends imitated what we thought hippies talked like, saying, “Cool, man. That’s far out” and I remember being thrilled with the use of slang in The Electric Company, especially by some of Morgan Freemans hipster characters, like Easy Reader. I’d turn to another child with y hand out and say, “Gimme some skin!”
When I was in the “in” group agewise, as a teen/young adult, I once in a while thought that a new word or phrase my generation came up with was fun, and had a sort of derisive mentality towards older people trying to use it and sound “hip” (that one’s way older than me.) But most of the time I’ve felt out of step with my generation, so I didn’t identify with those words enough to use them, let alone gate-keep them. Sometimes I only picked things up “ironically,” though as many have found out, ironic use is the slippery slope towards actually starting to use a term.
These days (and this is the self-serving part) I no longer think young people are the locus of what is cool and admirable. Yes, I sometimes hear funny slang that I enjoy imitating, especially to make the younger and younger people in my office laugh. But recently I have noticed a change in my own perceptions where I often don’t even like the slang that is coming out. I don’t mean I dislike it, but I don’t find it cool or glamorous and I don’t emulate its speakers. I.e., young people don’t actually seem cool to me anymore. Some terms I actually find annoying, like “stan” and “ship.” Others just don’t resonate with me. In general my perspective is that we place too much emphasis on the young in this country. Looking back I see that was the case when I was young, too. We’ve shifted so far away from respecting older institutions to focusing on “What’s happening now” as my 11th grade High School History teacher called it that we’ve thrown the old sages out with the bathwater.