I write this in a fit of 90’s nostalgia, sitting in the Crouch End flat I’d never have thought I could afford to rent, yet I can. So far. I keep hitting replay on the Gin Blossoms classic that forms the title of this post, and I feel…unsure. Having just bought overpriced candles from the shop downstairs, my living room twinkles. I am warm, dry and comfortable….and so privileged. Can this last?
People who visit my flat often comment that they’re ‘jealous’. You know, in that modern, lightweight, throwaway use of the word that we all indulge in, when we simply mean that we admire something. I always rather thought jealousy was an ugly emotion. Something destructive. Something that implied a sinking feeling of comparative lack.
Possibly that is what they feel. My flat is beautiful. (I was lucky. I happened upon London’s best landlord and the rest just…followed.) I have clean new beige carpets, an oven that I was the first to use and a bathroom straight from a hotel. But in all honesty and reality, I think my friends are just being complimentary. I think they go back to their own lovely places – in which they might enjoy the equally satisfying comforts of owning or sharing with someone they love. People’s lives twinkle in different ways.
Sometimes they don’t twinkle at all. This hit me today as I devoured Elizabeth Wurtzel’s recent article on confronting her ‘One Night Stand’ of a life. I loved this writer when, in Prozac Nation, she gave the 19-year-old me permission to feel depressed. Or so I thought at the time. Looking back, I just think she gave me the idea. I thought it would be fun to try out being a bit sad. Yeah…me and a million other kids in checked shirts, all earnestly glamorising melancholy. Or is that just called ‘being a teenager’? I think they called it ‘Emo’ more recently.
Surely the only reason anyone glamorises anything is because they want other people to look at them and feel something. Jealousy? Wurtzel laments that following her heart’s desire and creativity – as GenX was encouraged to do – has led to a life in her 40s that resembles that of her 20s. She has no real partner, no kids, no savings. Yet she simultaneously peppers her writing with brief but pointed references to her own sexual attractiveness, her unchanging figure, her success. We can’t deny her her success. I find her writing witty, honest and ridiculously intelligent. This girl-woman has brains, and she certainly sold shit-loads of books back then. 1,000,000 Prozac-guzzling slackers can’t be wrong…
…but today – those constant references to her own sexiness – I don’t know. She’s a beautiful woman but it’s becoming boring. I think that she knows we can’t be jealous of her ‘empty’ life but perhaps we can be jealous of her lasting beauty. Through our perceived/imagined jealousy, she becomes fulfilled.
Is that the legacy of the 90s? Is that the decade I’m nostalgic for?
Nostalgia’s a type of jealousy, isn’t it? A long-gone decade is a bit like a party you’ll never, ever get into. You’re jealous of those who went.
But wait. You did go. You can just never go back again. When I experience nostalgia, I see the era in question as somewhere still existing, still thriving, without me.
What were the 80s like? I was a child…