I heart the ’90s way too much

BY DEAN TREFTZ | JULY 20, 2009 7:15 AM

There’s something about humming along nostalgically to Hy-Vee’s Feel-Good-But-For-God’s-Sake-Don’t-Get-Offended Music Mix for the first time that forces you to take stock in your life.

There’s a gut-wrenching realization that I can now be bought through generic references to the decade of my childhood like the baby boomers are enticed via classic rock and faux-hippism, and my friends’ parents via Patrick Swayze movies and big hair.

This was unquestionably foreign when I was a kid. With the type of arrogant hubris only achievable in youth, I despised the slurred howls of Bon Jovi lyrics I heard from Dan’s mom and her friends during sleepovers. That was something I could never become. Now, at the tender old age of 23, I am instantly soothed by songs that prompted unalloyed contempt in middle school, and they soothe me merely because they were from a time when I could direct unalloyed contempt (or any emotion) with that never-to-be-reattainted gusto that came with middle school.

The Cranberries, Third Eye Blind, Collective Soul, etc. I can’t get enough ’90s pop/vanilla rock. It doesn’t matter whether I loved or hated it at the time, I think it just matters that, when they were popular, I could easily place things into categories of “love” or “hate.”

However, I never expected Counting Crows to fall into my “perspective-changing music” category.
I’m now afraid that my mind seems to have constructed that mortality-ensuring assumption that music must have peaked sometime during my adolescence. More than any diploma, job, or animal-killing ceremony, this signifies adulthood in the worst way possible.

It won’t be too long before I start pretending to like whatever I see at the top of the charts and trying to understand the next newfangled music-playing doohickey without ever really getting it. If this had happened to me just a little sooner, I am convinced that I would have been quipping that Twitter would soon replace e-mail without really knowing how or why.

I should have seen this coming.

First there were the corny Facebook groups usually started by already-married high-school classmates along the lines of “You were an ’80s baby if … ” listing random early to mid-90s kitsch like the Power Rangers and the Spice Girls. Then came the ’90s backtrack hours on 96.5 FM that seemed to pump endorphins straight from Seattle to my brain. By the time I tripped up on my cultural irrelevance in the frozen foods aisle, it was too late.

I guess this is the point where we discuss the moral of this particular trying-to-squeeze-relevance-from-the-mundaine story, isn’t it?

We could go with the contemplative “I guess I should be easier on the ‘culturally stagnated’ among us, as I am well on my way.” Or, the flag-raising “I don’t care; I’m not being nostalgic; the ’90s just plain rocked, and I happened to be there,” which would include GDP figures, a small rant on why denim jackets weren’t that bad, and a breakdown of the differences between the two Gulf wars.

Take your pick. Meanwhile, I’ll be cocooning myself among “Seinfeld” VHS tapes and Matchbox 20 CDs.

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