I just turned 46 years old and I’ve turned into my father. I catch myself thinking or saying “back in my day” and “things were so much better back then.” But you know what? That’s nonsense. Paul Waldman writes about this phenomenon and rightly says that what we’re really remembering is not how great things were then, but the fact that we were young:
No, no, no. The ’80s wasn’t “the last time the world was simple.” The ’80s was the last time when your world was simple. Can you guess why? Because you were a child!
I’m not the first person to say this (see below) but when you’re a child the world is simple and innocent. Your parents take care of feeding and clothing and housing you, and if you’re lucky the biggest problem you have is what you’re going to get for your birthday. But your world only looked like the world because children are naive. That’s part of what makes childhood wonderful, but once you grow up you should come to an understanding of what it was and what it wasn’t.
About 20 years ago, my best friend was moving and my dad and I helped him, along with his father. They were moving to a house on Celery street and during a break for lemonade and iced tea, our two dads actually had a conversation about how the celery tasted so much better when they were growing up. I turned to my best friend and said, “Even the nostalgia was better in the old days. *sigh* Boy, you could really reminisce back then.” And they may well have been right that the celery tasted better back then. But that wasn’t really the point.
Every generation does this. My dad destroyed my little brother’s Two Live Crew CD when he heard it. And his dad likely complained about Elvis and his dangerous swiveling hips. And his dad hated that his kids were listening to jazz, which would lead to marijuana. Lather, rinse, repeat with every generation. The next generation is always viewed as lazy, disrespectful, ill-mannered. And things were always better “in the old days.” Except they weren’t.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: