Well, Back in MY Day…
I suppose most Americans think of “their decade” as special. It explains the popularity of timepiece coming-of-age movies like Stand by Me, Almost Famous, and The Sandlot. It explains why each decade has a dedicated “oldies” station on the radio. It explains all your obnoxious uncle’s stories that begin with “Well, back in my day…”
You know your decade. My dad (now in his 70’s) relates to the 1950’s. For my mom, 7 years his junior, it’s the 60’s. And though I was born in the early 1970’s (a decade I cannot imagine anyone feeling fondness for), my decade is the 1980’s.
I was 8 years old when Dick Clark announced on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” that we could now “say goodbye to the 1970’s.” Most of the childhood I remember took place during the Reagan era. My family got a $1500 VCR. We got an Atari. We got cable TV. I fell in love with Duran Duran. I watched Remington Steele, Knight Rider, and The Cosby Show. We saw The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future. We played Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger. We wore parachute pants, Coca-Cola shirts, Calvin Klein jeans, and jelly shoes. We worried endlessly about the Soviet Union, the Cold War, the impending nuclear holocaust that would end us all.
I grew up in the 80’s. I look back fondly on them now, but I try to remember what an anxious time it was. We were just beginning to hear about scary things called the “greenhouse effect” (now known as global warming) and GRID (which would later be more accurately named AIDS). As the USSR went through a rapid succession of elderly premiers with a penchant for dying, our country elected an elderly actor who barely missed assassination. And a new drug was on the streets – crack cocaine. We were all supposed to “just say no.”
You can relive all this nostalgia on MTV’s I Love the 80’s or CNN’s The Eighties. The nostalgia is big right now, and I certainly enjoy indulging now and then. After all, in some ways it really was a great decade.
Except when it wasn’t.
And that’s my point. We shouldn’t sugar-coat or rose-tint our decade. It wasn’t all Rainbow Brite and the Last Unicorn. It was a time of tremendous anxiety and change. We went from 8-tracks to DVDs. We went from single landlines to portable phones with call waiting and even proto-cellphones. We went from shorthand and steno pads to the Commodore 64 to Windows 3.0. We went from a Cold War to the end of the Soviet bloc. If we could embrace all those changes and look back fondly on them now, why can’t we do that today?
I grow tired of my peers’ social media rants about how lazy, entitled and rude young people are today. The ridiculous memes about how lucky we all were to have grown up before this or that. The complaints about how today’s television is terrible, and the music sucks. How much scarier the world is now than it was then.
Our modern world is just different. In many ways, it’s exactly the same or even better. In other ways, sure, it’s worse. But I encourage my fellow forty-somethings not to turn into our obnoxious uncles. Let’s be honest about our decade and fair to the current one and vow never to start a sentence with “Well, back in my day…”