Ugh, As If! - Musings on a Bygone Era

July 14, 2021



Last night I attended a 90s paint & sip party at the Chattery; an event where millennials like me, now well into our 30s, could indulge in the nostalgia of our youth as we painted scenes from Clueless and jammed to the sweet sounds of Backstreet Boys, all while knocking back glasses of Pinot Grigio that may or may not have been laced with the tears of our childhood.


As I sat mixing together the only five colors we were given, I lamented over the fact that the years of art I took in high school were long gone: blue and yellow just made a rather sad shade of gray, instead of the vibrant green I was going for and my hands were shaky at best, afraid I would “do it wrong,” as if there was a specific set of rules I needed to adhere to in order to produce the perfect painting (but that was just my type A personality talking). There were no rules here. The colors weren’t even set - we had complete freedom to create whatever our hearts & minds could dream up. This was a safe space to reminisce, be all up in our feels, and maybe work through a little of that teenage angst that still lingers within us all.


As I mixed and mulled, thoughts compounded on one another; so many childhood memories came flooding back at once, interrupted only by the bass of Britney muffled in the background (from a boombox, no less. It was a nice touch). Images of dunkaroos danced in my head in time with the Full House theme song playing on a loop, and the age old question once again materialized: why were middle parts ever a thing? What the hell were we thinking? 


Later over Instagram, my friend Sarah put it in perspective with her caption: “The decade I grew up in is now a themed party event."



So there’s that. We’re officially old. But it’s not the getting old part that has me reaching for the 90s Spotify playlist, running to the grocery store for Gushers and fruit roll ups, or watching old episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark. No, rather it is the loss of simplicity that has me so nostalgic and a poignant sadness that my daughter will never know a time before technology could fit in your pocket and social media infiltrated every waking aspect of our lives.


If you were lucky enough to grow up in the 90s, you knew the fundamentals of adolescence meant playing flashlight tag at dusk with the neighborhood kids, setting up a lemonade stand on the corner and shouting at passing cars, and the ultimate thrill that was chasing down the ice-cream man (the ninja turtle bars were the stuff of legend). Growing up in the 90s was tshirts under spaghetti strap dresses and other assorted questionable fashion (that were terrible then and are still terrible now), mismatched neon outfits (probably with some sort of Looney Tunes character), and the most epic light up L.A. Gear kicks a kid could own. It was summer camp spent making friendship bracelets and tie dye shirts, sipping Capri Sun from the safety of the giant oak tree in your front yard, and seeing who could catch the most fireflies in a jar, concerned more with actually living all those pure fleeting moments of our youth rather than obsessively instagramming them.


Don’t get me wrong, clearly social media has its pros and I am absolutely guilty of succumbing to its siren song of likes and views, but I would be remiss if there wasn’t some greater part of me that still longs for the days before it existed; before we were all tethered to our phones, be it for work or play (or both in some cases), slaves to this little screen that could conjure up intense excitement or crippling fear, depending on the notification, text, or comment.


I’m nostalgic for the days when quality television was Nick at Night reruns of I Love Lucy and Wonder Years; when taking a walk around the block with your family after dinner or riding your Huffy bike with the rainbow streamers was the go-to for evening entertainment; when Disney trips didn’t require 18 months worth of planning and taking out a second mortgage.


But I digress. This isn’t so much a commentary on the perils of social media and the downfall of society (because it has its moments for sure) as much as it is a brief snapshot of fragments in time conjured up as I mixed together the yellow and gray for Cher’s iconic plaid outfit that made me stop and wistfully murmur, "Remember when..." 


Remember slumber parties with actual sleeping bags? Remember notes passed in class, scrawled in pastel gel pens? Remember Spice Girls and S Club 7? Remember the excitement of turning on TRL after school and stuffing your face with bagel bites? Remember that terrifying sound the dial up modem would make (& the pure frustration of being booted off when your mom picked up the phone), and the sheer joy of those three beautiful little words: You’ve got mail! 


The internet has come a long way since the 90s. We’ve come a long way. I was reading an article the other day in the Wall Street Journal (my dad’s physical newspaper subscription, I might add), and splashed across the front page was an article about the successful launch of the Virgin Galactic flight and the cost of space tourism. Beneath that story? An article about robotic bees pollinating plants. ROBOTIC. BEES. The future is literally now, and my mind cannot hang.


It’s for reasons like this, mixed with an ever increasing political climate, rapidly changing society & technology, and younger generations now dressing like I did as an awkward twelve year old two decades ago that make me sink back into the safe confines of childhood nostalgia; where therapy is measured in paintbrush strokes in tune with “Killing Me Softly To His Song” and wine with other like-minded 30-somethings, all trying to recapture the simpler moments of our youth. Change may be inevitable, but a part of me will forever be stuck in the 90s, and I'm ok with that. I'll just leave the butterfly clips in the past this time.



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