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The '90s Nostalgia

Now we've done it. We've plum used up all the trends. I'm writing this at my fake marble, vaguely-neoclassical-yet-sleekly-modern desk. I'm wearing a precious little baby-doll dress with bike shorts, and I'm not even a year or two behind the trends of the moment. Actually, I'm making the chic-est retro statement. Haven't you heard? Nineties nostalgia. It's all the rage. Jesus Jones is wafting in from the next room as I take another hit off my iced, nonfat double mocha. Why does "Right Here, Right Now" force me to focus so clearly on right there, right then? Taking the release of the CD compilation Living in the '90s as the first true harbinger of The End, I laced up my Doc Martens and ran screaming to the nearest smart bar for solace. Then I noticed that MTV's Best of the '90s airs twice a day, and my horror and indignation gave way to puzzlement. You see, these sojourns down memory lane offer nothing that's not, well, still here. It's been said that there are no original ideas, but it seems we've given up. Listen, some smug music writers are even declaring the "return" of grunge. When did it leave? Where the hell was I? And what is grunge, but a revisitation of late '70s rock? It gets convoluted. Douglas Coupland, who wrote that book about that generation, calls this an accelerated culture. It's a theory that's reflected in the fact that nostalgia is cycling faster and faster. Nostalgia itself is a fairly new concept. "When I was growing up in the Depression," says my granny, who knows everything, "people were too busy just trying to keep it together. You need leisure time for nostalgia." Sadly, this corroborates much that's said about the current generation, hinting that we've got too much time on our hands and too little innovation. In the '50s, nostalgia meant dressing like flappers and dancing the Charleston. In the '80s, it was hippie skirts and '60s music. It made a kind of sense. Two decades or so is just enough time to age an era like a fine wine. Mathematically speaking, it only followed that the '70s would come back in the '90s, but they were "over" by '92, remember? Then, the glam '80s were back to haunt us, complete with at least five major-label "best-of" compilations! Now they're passe. Again. But dammit, how can you reminisce about the present? I may have stumbled across the answer in my friend's backyard. I was at a barbecue-disco-dance party for which the host had mixed some four hours' worth of dance music, from early '70s disco tunes to '90s stuff. And even though it was all equally danceable, the new tracks were driving all but the diehards off the floor. But everyone dropped drinks and conversations to boogie down when Gloria Gaynor or Sly Stone came on. Maybe it's because memories fade with time, making it easy to romanticize the past. That would explain the natural 20-year cycle. And why nostalgia compilations sell. And why the big boys in the executive boardroom are trying to sell us our own era. Everything else has been done! But don't dust off your "Just Do It" T-shirt and your Bush/Quayle bumper sticker just yet. The '90s will surely be declared "out" by some unseen denizens of cool before this even makes print. Soon we'll have nowhere to go. There will be February nostalgia and last week nostalgia and yesterday nostalgia and breakfast nostalgia -- but this could get tedious for even the most gullible trend slave. I propose something completely different, an idea that rightfully belongs to my friend Ruth, a wise old gal who works for the state: pre-nostalgia. That is, our clothes and music and whatnot will evoke an era that has not yet come. Instead of constantly recycling a style or a sound out of the archives, we'll strive to make something new, something no one else could have thought of. We'll anticipate the future before it comes. Hell, we'll create the future! We used to have something like that. It was called "originality." But why bother? Pass me another smart drink and turn on Models, Inc., willya?SIDEBAR: What's '90s These are just a few of the things we think will be remembered, deservedly or not, as hallmarks of the decade.Dittoheads Doc Martens Fat-free everything Newt Gingrich Nick at Night The return of John Travolta Gay rights Virginity vogue Repetitive stress injuries Microbrews Susan Faludi's Backlash Raves Downsizing Christian conservatism Condoms Techno-geeks Gen-X (one of the few stereotypes still permitted in the oh-so-sensitive '90s) Kato Kaelin Real poverty (paying for those madcap '80s) Details magazine Wayne's World O.J. Simpson Calvin Klein Talk/shock radio Heroin: hip againKaraoke Demi Moore Oliver Stone Celebrating stupidity: Beavis & Butt-head, Forrest Gump, Dumb and Dumber Heather Locklear Bulk shopping and outlet stores Jay vs. Dave Court TV Neo-noir and serial killer movies Aaron Spelling and Darren Star Espresso Gangsta rap Cyber anything Free radicals Bill Gates Anna Nicole Smith Recycling CNN The electronic leash (answering machines, e-mail, pagers, cell phones) "Alternative" music Twelve Step programs Quirky TV: Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, Twin Peaks Baby doll dresses Piercings Waifs Pamela Lee (Anderson) Talk shows The Bridges of Madison County Nirvana and Kurt Cobain Rodney King and riots Comparing childhood traumas John Grisham Environmentally friendly products Psychofemme movies: The Temp, The Crush, Basic Instinct, Disclosure, anything with Drew Barrymore A Democratic president! Hillary Rodham Clinton Cartoons and TV shows being turned into movies Michael Jordan Reality TV: voyeurism sans guilt Mini foods Seattle Hugh Grant Domestic terrorism: the World Trade Center bombing, Unabomber, Oklahoma City bombing Clear liquid products Michael and Lisa Marie Androgeny '70s retro Mainstream punk Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Animaniacs and Barney Snapple Zines Men's empowerment Oat bran Susan Powter Anthony Robbins The LAPD

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