All That is Old is New Again

juvenoia (uncountable)(neologism) The fear or hostility directed by an older generation toward a younger one, or toward youth culture in general..jpg

I was born in the glorious 90s. And because of that, I am nostalgic for the late 90s and the early to mid 2000s. And while I’ve talked before about how important being a 90s kid is to me, I wanted to talk about the generational divide and why it’s strange being stuck in a nostalgia-loop.

From television, to movies to music: it seems like we’ve been stuck in a perpetual loop that glorifies the 1980s and 1990s. And that makes sense: many of the media creatives that are major producers now were born in the 1980s: it would make sense for them to want to look back to a simpler time that meant a lot to them.

There’s this thing called a nostalgia cycle: it’s a funny sort of thing. It essentially states that the media that is popular reflects an era that’s either 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from the current year. Think of the 1990s being nostalgic for the 50s and 60s. And I’m far from the first essayist to comment on this nostalgia cycle but it’s worth mentioning because it does seem to be never-ending. But there’s one aspect of it that I think we’re missing when we talk about weaponized nostalgia: it’s been surprisingly forgetful of the past while claiming to be doing something new.

I’m writing this right before Black Panther hits theaters here in the U.S. and for many this is the first black-led superhero movie. [update: I did see Black Panther and the movie is out and successful!] To which, many and all comic book fans roll their eyes. Blade is hilariously underrated and fantastic and was a black-led superhero movie in the 1990s. Not to say that I am not excited about Black Panther nor do I hope to quell any of the hype any folks may have for this film: it is a big deal but it isn’t the first anything right now.

Similarly, almost all the music that is popular nowadays seems to sound just like music did when I was growing up. Lots of house beats, tons of 80s synth influence and way too many songs that never end and just repeat lyrics. Not to mention that fact that we have yet to seem to get rid of the girl/boy band.

I think I’m most struck by this because I have a younger cousin who stands in as the avatar straw-man of all the reasons 90s kids are at odds with Gen Z and why Baby Boomers must hate us damn millennials. When I was home for Christmas, I got to sit and watch the yearly ritual of him receiving hundreds of dollars in gifts because he is an only child like I am and thus is spoiled rotten as I was. This year, he received an outfit that I’m almost certain my elementary school classmates wore from the sunglasses to the dark khaki joggers and a very retro looking smartwatch: hell, I think it still had a calculator on it. And in a brief moment of time that was only the two of us: I could hear him reciting the lyrics to Good Morning, a song from Kanye West that I love and is now nearly 10 years old. Everything from the yuppie fashion to the questionable music choice made me think of myself when I was his age now almost 15 years ago.

I’m also very torn by how sanitized the narratives are for this new wave of nostalgia. Sure, the 90s and the 2000s were great but they weren’t perfect. We had racism, school shootings, terrorism, inequality and all the things we still have just with more Spice Girls and legitimate battles over which boy band was better. But if you look at Stranger Things, a love letter to the 1980s, you’d think the 80s was a magical time where nothing bad happened and racism wasn’t a thing and political correctness existed. But we’ve been bad about that for some time. I’m reminded of the Johnny Rocket’s franchise, which begs you to think of the 1950s as a time for sock hops and milkshakes and not Civil Rights battles and police brutality.

It’s especially troubling considering that we’ve taken nostalgia to it’s only logical place which is to make huge profits off it.  F.Y.E. just had a huge promotion selling Reptar Bars, a part of my childhood from Rugrats that I always wanted to eat but never could: they also briefly sold Reptar Cereal and while the sale went over great: it did seem out of place. I hadn’t given thought to Rugrats as a show for years: I’m pushing 30 and that was  T.V. show I watched as literal child.  There seems to be no end to the things that want to push anniversaries and the nearly endless stream of reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels and more that make it seem like all the things I knew as a child never really left.

If you asked me at 16 if I’d still be playing Pokemon, Street Fighter and still listening to Kanye West and The Killers while there would still be Star Wars movies: I would have first had a lot of questions about how time travel works and then probably say that such a thing wouldn’t make sense. One would assume that media would move on, one would assume that as technology progressed: we’d make progress and not just nicer versions of old things we loved. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was lovely getting a stylish Castlevania anime but I’d also love that energy placed into something new and original.

I’ve talked about nostalgia before when it comes to Pokemon: Sun/Moon and Pokemon: Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon and how its marketing and gameplay centered around the nostalgia of late 20-somethings like me who had been playing the games for all these years and understood and respected such callbacks. But is the game so enjoyable if you don’t know these references: my little cousin likely get through the game but he wouldn’t have the gut punch I did seeing Red and Gary show up like traveling boyfriends asking about this new Hawaii-like region. So why put them in there? If the average actual player of a Pokemon game isn’t likely to get that reference: why put it there? And that’s the issue with our current weaponized nostalgia. It isn’t done to teach, improve or just enjoy: it’s there because it’s there.

And the sad thing is:  we keep buying into it. I’m not sure if you are aware but at least here in parts of the great old United States, things are a hot hot mess: we’re using media to escape our current realities more and more as we refuse to face the current situation of an orange-tinted warmonger in office and issues like racism, homophobia, violence and the threat of terrorism, war and natural disasters. And this isn’t new: we’ve been escaping reality for as long as we could through story, substance and more but at least when I was younger: all of this was new. When I was 12 and saw InuYasha for the first time, it was radically new and different. When I was 10 and arguing with friends over which Boy Band was the best: it was because music like that hadn’t been explored in such a way. When I was 9 playing Pokemon, no game like that had been crafted and distributed for American children. And that’s what this nostalgia cycle is leaving behind: sure, the 1990s were cool and the 2000s were the best: but what made them great was innovation: we didn’t stay stuck thinking of how cool the 1950s were. We did meditate on those things briefly while still continuing to move forward.  

Editor of the Past

 

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” ― Oscar Wilde, De Profundi.png

I’ve been going through old photos. You’ve probably noticed that by now. And old photos bring up a lot of fond memories but also a lot of slightly bitter memories. Time moves on and people fade in and out of your life. But the photos you took of them: what happens when a person who meant the world to you is now a stranger in your life?

Travis and I drifted apart after creative differences over the state of the anime club. Liz and I stopped talking after she started dating that one guy. Davilin and I are still friends on Facebook, aren’t we?

Old photos are so full of people I just don’t talk to anymore. So what do I do with photos that make me uncomfortable? Like the angsty edgelord I am, I delete them. I tend to remove the photos I don’t like. There’s a reason why there aren’t a lot of photos of my life between the ages of 12-16. Those years weren’t great, so why document them?

But it goes beyond just being an aggressive editor of images. I’m also a huge editor of who can see what. Why do you think it took so long to finally make a Youtube channel or why so many friends have failed to do a successful podcast with me? I’m a great podcast guest but I’m not great at running one with friends. I’m image conscious and pain averse.

This method does go perfectly fundamentally how I use Facebook, Twitter and most things digital: I use them as a simulacra of me. I’m part of the “yearbook” camp of Facebook use.  Facebook is meant to be the thing people see that can be pieced together to form one complete Amanda.

But in those photos, I do have a piece of me in each one. I had these people in my life. Their stories matter or at least they did as of the picture taken. And in those old photos are plenty of pictures I want to keep. Pictures of Mandy. Pictures of my mom: some of the last of her life. From my trip to Disney that I enjoyed more than my little cousin. From conventions. Of a thinner me. Of a me in power of an anime club. Of former lovers and former friends. There are traces of me in every single photograph and maybe, just maybe I shouldn’t delete them.

Or I should. No one will know. I don’t talk to these people anymore.

 

Dad’s Old Photos

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.Marc Riboud.png

My father was a shutterbug.

There’s photos of everything. Silly things. Mundane things. Plants, trees, oceans, cars. He also had a lot of pictures of himself. Dad was a handsome guy, I can see why he’d want photos of himself. But what was most important was the fact that he had pictures of his family. Dad was always taking pictures. I never really remember the camera flashes but the evidence of his obsessive commemoration of life was evident when I cleaned up my mom’s old storage unit.

The storage unit had been a contention point in my family. My mother had it during the most turbulent time of our relationship. It was an unneeded expense and I drove up in a huff to get it cleaned out so my aunt didn’t have that expense anymore. It was an exhausting and miserable experience but my friends made it worth it. I reclaimed box after box of my mother and father’s things. Memories, souvenirs and box after box of camera, photo albums and pictures. And this was back in the day when you had to take instant cameras to the local grocery to get them developed.

There were pictures of me as a child; lots of those. Pictures of me and my mom. Pictures of my dad when he was younger. Pictures of my parents’ marriage. Things I never got to see, things I barely remember. I got to see my parents in love ( I always knew my parents loved each other but by the time I was born and into my childhood whether they actually were in love was a question). I got to see pictures of me as a baby, as a child, with friends, with others. With family: family I don’t know or can’t say I’m close to. I saw my Dad’s mother (my namesake) and his father (who I barely remember). And I got to share those with my friends who had really never seen a me past 2008.

But my dad being a shutterbug reminded me of a distinct fact: I am not always a shutterbug. And it’s a lament that comes up a lot. I regret not taking more pictures before, during and after convention. I lament that I don’t take more pictures of vacations, of people I care about and of my family. I regret not being in more photos and the desire is pretty selfish: I want to be remembered. I want to remember those I care about. But I also struggle with the idea of being “present”. A common gripe people have with us young millennials is that we don’t experience life: we only live through phones and cameras. I want to be in the moment. I want to experience things and commit them to memory. I doubt I’ll forget what Carlos looks like or how Amber’s hair resists fitting into a photo frame. I won’t forget the rush of being on stage at A-Kon or how I felt during that Fitz and the Tantrums show. I wanted to be in the now but I regret not taking more pictures. To show the world, my family, my friends.

I struggle with the “narcissism” associated with being a person who takes a lot of photos. And it’s hard to want to take a lot of photos of yourself when you fundamentally don’t like who you are or what you look like. I didn’t get the “millennial” urge to capture all the moments but having a blog and a social media following does encourage me to post photos. My memories are no longer just mine, they are everyone’s.

My family started a strange fixation with photos after my grandmother’s memory started to go. Mary Anne had been forgetful for a while but towards the end of her life, we started taking more pictures. It wasn’t just to celebrate a holiday: it was a tool. When Grandma forgot one of her grandchildren, there was a photo. When Grandma asked about her husband, there was a photo. And if we had to establish how long we’ve been a family: there were pictures from the past. But we had been a family of photos for years. There’s pictures from the 70s and more regrettable fashion and hair choices that I got to discover during the process of burying my mother.

We were always a family that took photos, Dad and Mom could agree on there. There’s stylized GlamorShots of me from childhood and school pictures and all sorts of other pictures to celebrate milestones, holidays and just because for reasons. We stopped taking pictures like that before Dad died. But no one really stopped taking pictures of other things but the way I used the camera did change. After dad died, when I was given a camera to go and do something: I took pictures of people and things. Almost never myself. I had to be forced into photos during middle school and junior high and by high school this was a huge problem. There just weren’t pictures of me.

College was full of photos of people but by the nature of my friends and status as panelist, anime club president and cosplayer that people took photos of me. And as I got older, I started to cherish photos more.

I want to carry on Dad’s legacy of photography. I want more pictures, more memories. I want more albums and more pictures framed. One of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received was a framed picture from Taylor of me and his roommate (who I did consider a friend at the time). I want to show the world what I care about and what a moment is like for me. I want to share pictures of mountains, of meals, of oceans and skies. Blurry concert photos and fat fingers that greedily cover up lenses in frenzied attempts to capture a moment. I want to take more pictures of costumes and more of me in costumes.

I promise to get better about taking pictures. I hope this picture of me as a kid making poor fashion choices helps.

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Ancestral Memories of the Local Olive Garden

It started when I was 9 oz of cheap white wine deep into what would stand to be a mostly forgettable meal at the local Olive Garden. In my younger years, I traversed across the Italian peninsula and ate some of the best food of my life. I soaked up Italian culture as any good Classics student would. So as I sat and pondered over a glass of wine that cost the same as my my meal and happened to cost twice as much in the restaurant as it would have if I purchased the exact same entire bottle outside of the fake stucco arched doorway, I asked myself a simple question:

Why the hell do I come here?

I was seated alone; surrounded on all sides by families and children running around hyped up on after dinner chocolates and soda they weren’t supposed to have but were permissively given because “it was a special occasion”. And I started really thinking about why I still come here. Most people who go to Olive Garden understand that they are not getting an authentic taste of the old country. So why come here? The prices aren’t great, the food’s okay, the restaurants are all the same aside from the occasionally too happy to please server.

To answer the question: we gotta go back in time.

When I was little girl, we (and by “we” I mean my family not some weird notion of the royal we) went to places like Olive Garden or Red Lobster when I did something exceedingly good. Back then Olive Garden was the perfect place for a middle/upper middle class family like mine. More expensive than most casual dining establishments but not out of the price range for a family of 3 to eat multiple courses without breaking the worrying about the state of the light bill. We went to Olive Garden when I made honor roll. When I finished a dance performance. When I ranked in a Latin Club competition (yes, I took Latin in middle school. And junior high. And high school. And college.). It was a place to celebrate. It was a place we didn’t go to often but when we did, we enjoyed it. It was different from Spaghetti Warehouse, a place my dad loved, and so we went to more often and more casually. Going to Olive Garden meant getting dressed up. I had to have my hair up, little stockings on and usually an obnoxiously frilly dress. It was a special occasion kind of place.

During my late teen years and even the post-college career it was a hang out spot. Taylor works there and his roommates did, too. I spent plenty of time there picking him up from work or meeting him there to hang out later. We abused his discount. Got punch drunk off of free bread sticks and drowned our miseries in glasses of wine that costs the same as the damn bottle would if we were at any other places. We stayed because of the discount. We went because of the friendship and we savored because we could use the restaurant as a de-facto headquarters. In fact, I was there so often that I got my own server’s name tag: a gift from hosts and hostesses that came to know me and my order due simply to the fact that I was always around.

So why do I come here now?

Because I can.

Because after the partial collapse of the middle class and the lowering of prices: Olive Garden suddenly went from a place I went to only dressed up for after church to a place I could visit in my sweat pants and a v-neck t-shirt. When you remove the monolithic-like barrier of entry to almost any place: it easily becomes more attainable and thus culturally ubiquitous. Anyone is welcome here. Everyone is sort of family. No one can judge you. The bartender can’t judge Amber and I for getting wine drunk after a hard day at work. Or Taylor and I for shoving mints into my shirt as we attempt to flee the restaurant. No one can judge us for playing the trivia game the electronic payment kiosk at the table offers and no one can say a damn thing about how many bread sticks I eat and with how much Italian dressing.

Olive Garden became a safe haven. A place to relax. The food isn’t the goal; you aren’t there because you want a real taste of Roma. You’re there because it’s attainable, common, simple and accessible. You’re there because you want to be. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for that.

Enjoy your bread sticks.

Drown your sorrows in salad and overpriced wine.

Stuff your pockets with chocolate mints.

I won’t judge you.

Save me a seat.

 

 

Thoughts and Meditations on the 15th Anniversary of My Father’s Passing

IMG_5964.jpg
This handsome man is my dad, Troy.

My father died when I was 12 years old. I was a little girl and I spent most of my young life dealing with the emotions that come along with  the loss of my father.

That was 15 years ago today.

I like to think I’ve grown up a bit from the apathetic pre-teen who had to put on a brave face at a funeral; so here are some of the thoughts I have on the meditations of grief and what it means to hold the specter of Death at arm’s length for most of your life.

  • There’s no solid way to mention that you lack parents. Especially when it was just my father who had passed, I struggled with being able to articulate that I didn’t exactly do Father’s Day anymore or anything. I’ve gotten better about just being honest and even talk about it here.
  • I do find that especially with my dad, the days do get easier. Time does heal some wounds. It was a long time ago, there have been many more memories made in the time between me having my father and not.
  • But I do still hear a lot that I have several of my father’s mannerisms and traits. We apparently share the same wit, humor and sarcastic attitude. We both have larger than life personalities. We both can apparently light up a room. I think those parts of my father’s legacy I am most proud of. When I can effortlessly feel more connected to him because we aren’t so different.
  • I feel a fair amount of guilt over the fact that my mom and dad are buried in different cemeteries on different sides of town. Mom is buried with her parents and her brother. Dad is buried in another city with his parents and his cousin. I regret they aren’t together and the fact that dad is so far away means I don’t get to visit him as often. That wears on me more than I like to admit sometimes.
  • I’m always surprised by my friends and how supportive they can be. I can tell them anything. I can openly say I’m having a rough day today and without question, they’re willing to do whatever they can to help ease some of my angst. I’m so lucky to have that kind of support in my life.
  • My family is very supportive as well but being my father’s daughter means a great deal of weight on me. They look to me as the effigy. As the legacy and sometimes, I just want to get off the altar and grieve, too.
  • I am entirely enamored by pictures of my father. My aunts have found old photo albums recently and seeing my dad even before I was born warms my heart. On lucid days, I can still remember his voice and I’m always happy to see his face in a photo.
  • I’m very aware of how much I look like my dad and the older I get I look like my mom. That’s a heavy burden in itself. When I was little I was always compared to my father’s mom (my grandma: Annette) who I never got to meet. So we’d visit my dad’s family out in country and all I heard as a little girl was how much I looked like Annette. That’s a heavy burden for a child and even now as a young woman, I still don’t know how to feel about bearing apparently such a strong resemblance to these people who are now practically deified due to death.
  • I’m surprised that I still have so many of my dad’s old CDs and movies. That’s not really good or bad, but interesting.
  • I’m very fascinated by the fact that as I get older I use “father” more than “dad” now. I guess I’m just dramatic or a bad Damien Wayne cosplayer-in-training.
  • I’m also curious as someone who does social media professionally what rights the dead have to those who own their images. I wonder if my dad would be okay with me sharing his pictures. I wonder if my mom would be okay with it. They can’t tell me they don’t consent to having their images online but it vastly helps me and my family cope sometimes sharing images of them online.
  • I’m always troubled when people use “death of the father” as an excuse to rationalize poor behavior in men but especially in women. I watch a lot of crime dramas and a number one “cause” of bad murdering women is apparently having no father. I dislike that argument because: well, what the hell does that mean for me? I’m not a terrible person (well, depends on who you ask). I work hard. I do my best and I happened to lose my father when I was young. So what does that mean for me and the other people I know who grew up without parents? Not to say that losing a parent does not PROFOUNDLY affect how a child grows up and learns how to love, trust and feel secure BUT I certainly hope my destiny isn’t headed towards of a path of a future Law and Order: SVU episode. I was raised admirably by my aunts and they did their best. I certainly hope I am destined for more.
  • There’s a certain sardonic nature my friends and I have about me and my parents. When we go over character quizzes and such no one is ever surprised that I often get sorted as the angsty playboy with no parents. There’s a reason the last two posts like this one were labeled with names like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark: two characters that I empathize and relate to quite a bit.
  • As I get older and in theory start thinking about grandchildren, children and marriage: I’m worried about what narrative of my parents (especially my father) that I’ll tell. My dad died when I was a kid. He was one of the most important parts of my life BUT he was a human man who was in many ways very flawed. So which legacy do I capture? The flawed but compassionate family man who would do anything for his wife and daughter? Or this Christ-like redemptive father who peacefully faded from this Earth after deciding that disease was not the most dignified way to live on this imperfect world?  I hope that I’ll tell the right story. It’s important to those around me and most important to me.

This one isn’t going to be very long and I may work on another one for my mom who faces another anniversary later on this year.

I love you, Dad. I love you now more that you’re not here and that I don’t have the luxury of calling you every day. I miss the person you were. The man you did your best to be and the person you wanted ME to be. I hope I’m doing okay in your eyes.

Rest well, Father.

 

A Mother’s Beloved Recipe

My mother was famed for many things. Hailed as a great chef and one of the pillars of my family, she was known for her total lack of recipes for really anything. She had learned many of them and kept them committed to memory. She was a magician that way.

One recipe my mother was most known for wasn’t a confection, it wasn’t a cake, cookie, or casserole. It was a treatment. An egg and olive oil treatment for hair.

Now, some background information is more than needed. Winter hair is a terrible plague at times to deal with. And the cycles of wet/cold then dry/cold has absolutely done a number on my hair. So I sought treatment to remedy the frazzled mess I was still attempting to call my hair.

In theory, an egg and oil treatment is very sound. Egg yolks, rich in proteins, fortify the hair while the oil moistens the scalp and adds shine. In theory, it’s a great idea. In theory.

I had performed this ritual once before while in school as an in-shower treatment. The ghastly concoction of oil and egg that swirled into my shower drain was less than appealing. But as an in-shower treatment, made sense. And the end result was very shiny hair with great body.  I enjoyed it so much I did think

Certainly, I will try this again.

So I did.

I recently tried this famous recipe again. Adding a little more research to my mother’s sound recipe. And with the collective amassing of knowledge, I found out a key difference between how I used the treatment and another more “proper” way to do it.

According to research, it was meant to be a pre-shower treatment.

Let me spell that out for you.

You are to take a mixture of raw egg and olive oil, comb that into your hair, and leave it there for at least  30 minutes.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

So I mixed the needed ingredients together and did my best to apply said mixture to my hair.

It went about as well as it sounds.

Imagine trying to intentionally comb into your hair thinned honey.

But I managed.

The entire process was a slimy mess of shame and the continual wondering of

Why am I doing this?

But I prevailed.

Once the mixture had made it safely to my head, albeit having to sacrifice part of my bathroom sink, I was instructed to wrap my hair with a shower cap and let the mixture set.

Made sense enough. So I did so.

Now, physics reminds us that things like slimy plasma-like substances don’t like to stay in one place.

As a result, within minutes of securing the cap, I was awash with runny, oily egg yolk.

It is about as attractive of a mental image as it was.

This is clearly a look for someone who hates themselves.

Yolk dripping, I took it all in stride. What I won’t do for my hair. I grabbed a towel, dabbed away excessive yolk spillage as I could catch and and decided to hell with the rest.

I sat for my 30 minutes. All while hating myself, hating eggs, hating oil. Basically, hating everything.

Once I rinsed, I did feel a lot better. And I do feel it was a good idea to treat my hair in such a way in preparation for stronger winter cold ahead.

The massacre of towels needn’t be discussed, they fought a good fight. And it was all worth it.

In the end, when I replicate things my mother did I feel like she’s there with me. It’s like taking a step back in time. It connects us. Some have stories, others rituals. I have egg and oil treatments.

This one’s for you, Mom. I look fabulous.