Nostalgia Isn't What it Used to Be
Looking back in the future will be . . . confusing
Remember when remembering created a warm fuzzy feeling? Well, forget about it.
In the future, people will view the past, AKA now, as an encrypted memory card not worth decoding.
What I'm trying to say is, nostalgia is a thing of the past.
These current times are just not going to look good in scrapbooks. Here's the evidence.
1. Writers cannot write poetic lines such as the opening to a Child's Christmas in Wales. Dylan Thomas wrote, “I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six" because Google.
2. Everyone wants to proclaim that they were on the right side of history. Social media archives will offer demonstrative proof that while some people were taking amazing, important, world-changing action, you mostly sat around posting snarky Kim Kardashian comments.
That bad blond phase, though.
3. Few things bring back a specific moment in time like music.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to share the sound track of your youth with your future children. Why? Well, WAP for one. And so many others. Do you really want your baby’s first words to rhyme with that thing hockey players smack around on the ice?
I mean, what the H-E-double-hockey sticks?
4. Fashion nostalgia has a 20-year cycle.
In the 1970s, older people felt nostalgic for the poodle skirts and bobby socks of their youth. In the 1980s, people recalled their first miniskirts and go-go boots with a smile. In the 2000s, men and women laughed at the extreme shoulder pads and big hair of their 1980s youth.
In the future, you won't feel nostalgia for any particular style because so much current fashion is already nostalgic.
A stylish person may wear a faux leopard fur coat from the 1960s one day, a tweed waistcoat and fedora hat from the 1940s the next, or rock a pair of 1970s platform shoes and bell bottoms another day and look and feel distinctly stylish.
It's fashion cosplay.
Memories of the way we wore will be as jumbled as a time machine on the fritz.
Maybe we will feel fashion nostalgia for fashion nostalgia.
Oof. That's making my head hurt. Pulling on my 1970s New York Dolls at the Minnesota State Fair commemorative T-shirt has become physically painful.
On the other hand, if you have donned the same head-to-toe black ensemble since you discovered Patti Smith’s poetry and got all Goth in the eighth grade, you will have nothing to look back on. Simply stand in front of a mirror and you'll see more black than a nun in mourning.
Would it kill you to put on a little sunny yellow number once in a while?
5. No one will look back at pictures and say, “We looked so young!” because they will look approximately the same as the day they started botox.
6. On the plus side, they will feel nostalgic for the days when human faces actually moved.
7. There will be approximately two years worth of memories of no faces at all. It's hard to feel nostalgic for a paper mask below exhausted-looking eyes.
Ditto on the hair. Will we feel cozy remembering the days when hair salons were shuttered and people walked around with half-dyed 'dos as though their hair couldn't make up their minds. Blond or brunette? How about both!
8. In the future, the monthly fee for cloud storage will roughly equal that of a modest mortgage. Failure to make payments will result in foreclosure of all your stored memories.
They will sell for a disappointing amount at auction.
Addendum: It has occured to me that there are a few things our future selves may genuinely remember with great affection. When all the world is heated to subtropical temperatures, we can sit around and talk fondly of the days of yore that included puffy coats, knit caps, and winter boots.
Maybe there will also be scuba diving tours for adventure travelers to check out the lost city of Manhattan where colorful tropical fish will swim circles in Times Square.
I don't know about fuzzy, but the future nostalgia is definitely going to be warm.
About the author
A former daily newspaper journalist, now an independent writer of essays & fiction published in several lit anthologies. The Whole Hole Story children's book was published by Versify Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021. More are forthcoming.