punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

I don't think I am getting old, but sometimes things shock me. Do you know, for instance, that New Wave is over a quarter of a century old? Sometimes I see these young starlets in old videos from 1981, and realize, "Holy crap, that woman must at least be in her mid 40s by now!"

Two of the Beatles are dead. So are 75% of The Ramones.

Some of us remember when the hottest girl in the school wore cutoffs, a terrycloth halter, Dr. Scholl's wooden clogs, blue eyeshadow, and had her hair feathered back like Farrah. And she could really boogie while rollerskating. You have to realize, to some people, what some consider "period clothing" is rapidly becoming what people wore when we were kids. For a long time, I couldn't gauge what "80s clothing" was until it was about 1997.

They have "80s Theme" dances in high school, who apparently thought we all dressed like Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice. I remember when we had 50s themed dances, I wonder if our parents went, "Only a few girls in school wore a poodle skirt, and they were snobs." To high school kids now, the 1950s are as far away as we saw the 1920s. 77' Sunset Strip, greaser hair, and poodle skirts are as "weird" to them as flappers, full-body striped swimwear, and the prohibition were to us.

Almost all high schoolers have always had the Internet. When I was in high school, only a few people had computers, and they just used them to game with 4 or 8-bit graphics. Maybe a few knew about BBSs, but they were 300 baud, and there was practically no "real time communication" except for those rare BBSs that had more than one line.

Think about this for a moment: all those memories of our culture as kids are fading. They are being washed out by the media and changing attitudes. Have you ever seen a movie about the 1970s, and it somehow doesn't seem as real as a move actually made in the 1970s? Something... something intangible is missing. Like they imitate the clothing, but not the mood. Look at a film with Jodie Foster from the 1970s, and then watch some film made recently that is supposed to take place in the 1970s (like "That 70s Show"). Yeah. Something's missing. My mother said the show, "Happy Days" did that to her. "Like a 70s version of the 50s," she once said.

That "something" is what's fading. The memories of the peeling paint from a railing made from lead pipes that used to be in front to the concession stand at the local swimming pool. You leaned on it while checking out which of your classmates could fill out a bikini yet. One of the hottest high school babes wore the ugliest brown one-piece suit with a yellow strip on one side. She caught you looking at her, so you stare down into the soggy paper around your push-pop, waving off flies and wasps that swarmed around the overfilled trash can. "Pitch it in," it said on one side. "Give a hoot, don't pollute," echoes in your head. The smell of chlorine, Coppertone, cooking hot dogs, and overfilled trash can fills your nose. Your best friend makes a sound like the Fonz.

All our memories like that are fading. The songs our parents sang us, the way you stuffed your books under the bed, causing them to tear, the pine paneling on the walls, and the shag carpeting in your best friend's rec room. The one where you could never quite get all the Legos cleaned out of. Wooden console TV sets that sat like behemoths on the floor, where you had to turn a clicking dial to get a different channel. Aw, man, the president is giving a speech, and he's on EVERY CHANNEL!

Do you know how to cook like mom? Did you get all her recipes? Does she even remember what she used to cook for you kids?

Look at your paperback collection. Some of those treasured copies of "Lord of the Rings" with the gloomy watercolor covers are turning yellow and brittle. A few of the Dell Yearling books you had gotten from the Scholastic Book Club are falling apart.

Those of you who have kids must realize those exact types of memories are being created now. That "old" Pentium III computer you gave your preteen might end up in an attic, and in 2025, your grown and married daughter will come across it when you finally sell their childhood home, and see the faded halographic stickers will have grow stiff, and as she runs her wrinkling hands over them, they fall off like dried leaves. "I wonder if it still boots?" she asks her younger brother, now with 2 kids. "If you can find a working CRT monitor," he laughs. "I used to spend hours on my box, playing Halo." Both will laugh. No one has remembered that old game for decades. They joke their kids have always known LCD panels, and never knew a media display that was thicker than 10 cm from front to back... or less than a meter tall.

To your grandchildren, Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" will be as silly as Al Jolson's song, "Mammy" is to us now. Hell, it might even be public domain.

Having gone through the memories and possessions of others last year can be sobering. My uncle sent me some of my last grandmother's possessions, as scant as they were. She had some postcards and photos my mother had sent her. When we moved to DC, my mother just grabbed a handful of these cards from a gift shop, I suppose, and wrote to Marion. Some of these postcards show cars with huge fins on them. Very 1960s.

All the "new stuff" I have around, the goth/punk/sci fi stuff, will be gone through by CR at some time. Maybe I am dead, maybe I am just senile, or joined a cult where I gave up all my possessions. He'll see all these items from different eyes. I got this Goth Nodder to put on top of a vibrating hub in my office back in 2000. In 2025, the plastic will be faded and cracked, the metal spring holding up her head rusty. Will there even be a goth culture in 2025? What will this doll mean? He's seen it before, but will never grasp its significance, any side stories, or how I used to bop her head up and down when I was thinking. Attached to this nodder is when [Unknown LJ tag] got laid off from our former place of work, and how I just couldn't have fun things in my office for a while. She's a memory of a time when I said I was going to learn, "I apologize for my boorish coworker's behavior" in six languages.

Look around. Those possessions around your monitor mark times like that. How long have you had that thing there? Why did you get it? If you died, would anyone ever appreciate its significance? Would you even care? Where will that thing be in 5, 10, or even 50 years?

Will they be like Pet rocks? Your Merlin?
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