How To Not Be Sad About The 90s

February, 2011: Some updated liner notes.  I mention below that I couldn’t wait for my 30s.  Let me tell you, but the time December of 2009 came  I was really, really ready.  Ready to be done with my 20s, to be done with the 2000s and all the identity drama.  Years and years ago when our grandparents were the Justice League, using your twenties for education and cynicism wasn’t something people did.  They got jobs, had families, beat Nazis.  They made things.

Somehow between their youth and ours, we got the idea that youth is better by default than maturity.  And let’s face it, turning 20 in 2000 wasn’t perfect timing,  with the dotcom bubble bursting, a war on terror looming, a subsequent recession that wiped away most of what the 80s and 90s taught us to believe we’d earned by getting into college.  When the workforce could not absorb us, we went to grad school, law school, div school.  Maybe joined the service.  Certainly, many of us planned to pursue these things anyway, but the fact that being a professional student until one’s mid-20s or later is still so feasible for so many people is something recent nonetheless.

I don’t get sad about the 90s anymore.  I’m in touch with long-lost friends (thank you, 10 year reunion and Facebook) and I’m over that whole quarter-life crisis garbage that I thought my first book had to be about.  Certainly, there are other, better, adult crises now to conquer.  So bring those on. And let them fear my beard.

I do still, however, dig on string theory and multiple universe hypotheses.

The original post:

The other day I tweeted (we’re really going with that?) a question about why so many people were recently finding my blog by searching “sad songs of the 90’s.” Some of the responses made me realize I need to be more explicit.  I get why people come to this  blog via that search, and I get why people search that phrase, (I heart the 90’s), but why the sudden swell in that particular search?  My favorite from the past view days has been a variation of this:  “how to not be sad about the 90’s.”

I’m sad about the 90’s all the time.  And happy.  All that good music.  All those good times.  All that bad music.  All those bad times.  I don’t know if it’s possible to not be sad, in general, about something you miss, especially a formative era that gets boxed up in your minds as having been a certain thing way, a long-gone context from some once-tangible point in the past. If you’re not sad about how awesome the 90’s were, you’re too young or too old to get why “sad songs of the 90’s” is even a search phrase to begin with.

Is plaintive, smart, adult contemporary music our blues?  What’s your favorite sad 90’s song?  I’d say more about why we’re all so wrapped up in these things but I’ve done that post somewhere.

Man, now I’m all sad, too.  I feel better when I realize that time is fluid and so are we and that the best of anything is always a moving goal.  I’m expecting my 30s to kick ass, so maybe the 2010’s will be awesome.  There are some things I’m resigned to miss, ala Bob Seeger, and that’s okay even if it’s frustrating.  We’re not used to elusiveness.  I can watch any sad bastard song I want right now on YouTube.  I can’t crash in the basement of the house I grew up in and find it on MTV.  Maybe we don’t get contexts back.  But they’re as fluid as anything.  They’re as decision-dependent, moment to moment, as everything else. Believe in string theory and infinite universes and know that somewhere you’re living through all of those things again, going one way or the other, and somewhere in the fullness of time you become you.  That all of this is your context, that all of it is formative, that you never stop moving or being or becoming.  Rejoice and be glad.

7 thoughts on “How To Not Be Sad About The 90s

  1. Now I’m sad about the 90’s too. =)

    I read an article on Washington Post the other day about Third Eye Blind’s new album. The author wrote something like “It’s impossible to listen to Stephan Jenkins sing without feeling like it’s 1997.”

    Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
    I loved 1997.
    And hated it.

    I don’t want to go back, but I like to remember.
    Maybe I’ll buy the Usa Major after all?

  2. Stephan Jenkins is a multiversal singularity. And I love how specific the WP writer is: not just “the 90’s” but precisely 1997. Precisely that summer. Precisely that song that makes me think about that girl and what all of that made me think about life. And then the other one that makes me think about that other girl. You know who else is a multiversal singularity? John Cusack.

  3. John Cusack isn’t just one multiversal singularity- each of his characters are mutiversal singularities! *although, we’d probably agree that they’re all sort of the same character over and over again?

    That autobiographical record sorting scene from High Fidelity sums it up perfectly!

  4. yes. I think Rob from High Fidelity is the quintessential example of this, though Lloyd Dobbler is probably the quintessential expression of the Cusack singularity in general.

  5. The actual Music of the decade has little to do with the emotional response it elicits. Teens seem to biologically ingest aural emotion during their turbulent pubertal stage. Those decadal sounds are fused to the passages of youth. It’s odd that we split cultural eras by cleanly divisible zeros. I always feel bad for people born in years ending in 5. They have to straddle their memories.

  6. for sure, “decade” is a construct. Hence my “90s music” tab in iTunes putting “High Enough” and “Karma Police” in the same playlist. Or “Mad Men” and Woodstock both being about “the 60’s”, for example.

    to your point about young people latching onto to certain songs/musical moods because of emotion (totally true), what does that say about the people (usually 5-10 years older) who are making that music? Are they writing sophisticated stuff that kids are more receptive to than are other adults? Are they writing maudlin songs about played-out, maudlin themes? It probably depends.

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