Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time is A Flat Circle

Nostalgia is a real, powerful drug.

This resurgence of all things nineties lately has felt in some ways like a wave of vomit that you can feel rising with horror - a feeling I am sure my parents felt when they witnessed the revival of bell bottoms during my middle school years.   First the Spice Girls reunite, there's a Boy Meets World spin off coming, now eyebrows and scoop back one piece swimsuits are back.

And thank god for all that, amirite?

Right now I am wearing my favorite outfit from 3rd grade: black suede ankle boots, long floral print dress, giant sweater.  I've got a bouncy new haircut to go with it - it's almost summer, everything feels like popsicles and brown paper bag crafts.  I just ordered a pair (my second) of Saltwater sandals.  Maybe it's my recent return to art that's revived my own inner nineties human.   Nothing makes me feel more like myself these days than when I look up and realize I've been drawing for a few hours, oblivious to the minutes that have ticked by.

Nostalgia is "everything was better then."  Except we know it wasn't necessarily, or, it was, and while it was happening I wasn't old enough to know it, but now I get amazing technology AND I'm old enough to live with my awesome boyfriend and wear Cindy Crawford-red lipstick.  Nostalgia is great when you get to pick the best old parts to pair with the best new parts.  Nostalgia for me these days is taking the form of, "man, now I'm 27 and I wish it were 1996 again."  But I don't want to be ten years old again.  I want it to be 1996 so I could be 27 during 1996.  Just for a little while!  To see what it would be like to listen to Toni Braxton for the first time, as an adult.  To watch Friends for the first time as someone who was looking back on her early twenties, not forward to them.

Last night I watched Dave Chappelle's Block Party - which is now eight years old, but documents the party he threw in Bed Stuy about ten years ago.  And the musicians who participate were so powerful at the time of that party because they were already a little bit past their peak of popularity (except for you, Kanye). Their performances felt like a way to bring a neighborhood together over a shared love of music they already knew well and loved well.
Here's a way to put this in perspective for my peers:  this concert was so long ago that The Fugees had a REUNION to be in it.  

One of the things that struck me the most about this block party was that when Lauryn Hill joined Wyclef Jean and Praz on stage at the end of the night, you could count the number of cell phones raised high in the crowd on one hand.  People were present.  That almost made me more jealous than the fact that they got to see The Fugees live.

Almost.
Have you ever actually heard Lauryn Hill sing?

You guys,  don't tell her I wrote this because she has made it pretty clear that she doesn't want me to love her music the way that I do, but I can't help it.  When I was about ten years old I discovered pop and R+B music, as you do.  And The Fugees' "Killing Me Softly" was. My. Jam. 
I remember vehemently fighting with my mother when she told me it was a cover.  I had no room in my pop culture worldview for it to include an old woman named Roberta Flack, nor could I fathom that my mother had heard and loved this song first.
It was my song, it was my generation's song, and NO ONE NOT NO ONE could have an afterschool dance party in their bedroom with their friends to this song like we could.  I remember my mother and her friend walking in on us, bangs plastered to sweaty foreheads - we hadn't heard them calling for my friend from the front door over our wailing the "LAAAA LA LAAA"s with help from the boombox I'd gotten for Christmas.

I thought about that moment last night during the movie.  I thought about The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and how fervently I listened to it at the bus stop in the mornings on my Discman.  I thought about the first time that "Ex-Factor" broke my heart, after my heart broke for the first time.  I look forward to "To Zion" breaking it again when I have a kid.  I thought about "Get Out" - the MTV Unplugged version when Ms. Hill gets so choked up in the middle that she has to take a second to gather herself, listening to that in my dorm room, windows wide open, heart and mind open wider for the first time.  

I heard "FU-GEE-LA" the other day and it started all of this thinking - how I wanted so badly to unzip my past, and walk into it at a different age.  To hear that song for the first time as a teenager while I got really high in a parked car with friends after school.  

That's all, really.  I'm glad it's not 1996, and even more glad that it's having a little resurgence right now so that those of us who missed some of the more grown-up opportunities at the time (including fashion not intended for little chubby bodies) can relive it, and think about the good old days.