Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nostalgia Strikes Again

  Nostalgia, from the Greek, means a sense of pain, sadness or yearning to return to times gone by. It's not just homesickness or recalling fond memories, though it is often used in that sense. And although not everyone uses it in this way, I tend to use it to embody an entire era, one in which I had not even been born, rather than just memories contained within my own life.
    Sometimes I say I'm old-fashioned or conventional (more in my taste than in my actual ideas and opinions--in that case, vintage might be a more appropriate word), but mostly, or perhaps more accurately, I am nostalgic. I watch old movies and old television shows, and new movies and television shows that take place in that particular period of time, and I wonder why we thought it was necessary to evolve certain aspects of that culture into what we have today. Because today's culture is lacking some parts, parts that should have persisted, from that era. This has nothing to do with the technology overload or anything like that--I'm talking about our communication, interaction and the overall way in which we present ourselves on a day to day basis.
    I'll admit, I may be whistling dixie, and you can chalk a lot of this up to me having seen way too many episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mad Men, but there's something I really love about the fact that everything seemed so much more orderly and comme il faut about American life fifty or sixty years ago. These examples may have you scratching your head, wondering how I could call Dick Van Dyke in any way orderly and organized, or any of the characters' personal lives in Mad Men normal and as they should be, but there are things that exist in those shows that no longer exist.
    Today, everything is about comfort. We wear jeans to work (or we do where I work), nobody carries a proper hat or an overcoat, we all have sweatshirts and stocking hats when the weather calls for them, and we yell down the hall rather than politely phone someone in their office (though in my situation, not all of our phones are hooked up, so that one wouldn't be possible anyway).
    But it's not just what they wore. They had a certain way of acting--a politesse, at least outwardly, that has all but disappeared from the modern world. Some people might call it disingenuous, or phony, but it was correct--tactful, polite, and appropriate. It was being respectful and treating other people like they were people--not good or bad people, or well-liked people or disliked people, just human beings. There are things you can say in certain company, and there are things you absolutely don't say in certain company.  People held umbrellas for strangers and walked them to their cars. They held doors and elevators and didn't panic at the idea of saying "hello, how are you," to someone they happened to be stuck riding 10 floors up with.
    Back then, you kept your thoughts or opinions to yourself when it wasn't your place to speak up, and you addressed certain people with respect whether you liked them or not. While some of this propriety has managed to survive, at least in certain circles or for certain people, a lot of it has disintegrated. Lots of people now say whatever they want whenever, wherever, and to whomever they happen to be in the vicinity of.
    While this may seem more real and honest--qualities which have become more valuable over the years as politeness and respect have become less valuable for whatever reason--I still feel like there is a line somewhere that's being crossed. It's just that so many years have passed, and so many people have stepped on that line, that we can't quite see where it is anymore.
    Call me sentimental, but i think it'd be nice if everyone still wore suits and high heels and pencil skirts. The world would seem to me more civilized, less cutthroat and ugly, as the news inevitably portrays it. On the other hand, then I'd have to learn how to do my hair so it looked perfect all day. Maybe sweatpants, cursing like a sailor, and instant messaging are not so bad after all.
We're going back--back to the future, man!

Are there some customs or mannerisms you'd like to see make a comeback, 
or do I just need to get over the fact that I was born in the wrong part of the century?
Share in the comments.

PS: NaNoWriMo starts in eight days. Have you picked your topic yet?

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