December

To celebrate the first day of the last month of the year, I thought I’d write about a 15-year-old song that always seems new to me: Collective Soul’s “December.”

These guys haven't aged a day... in my mind.

I know I’ve posted about my strange ‘90s nostalgia before, but really, I’m not delusional. I know that the ’90s have receded into the mists of time. I am dimly aware that I graduated from high school more than a decade ago and that everything that was new then is old now. And not vintage/retro/awesome old, either. More like passé/outdated/has-been old. And if I ever forget this fact, I teach a roomful of community college students who are more than willing to remind me, on a weekly basis, that I am a geezer.

Nevertheless, there are some things from the mid-’90s that I persist in thinking of as brand new, and one of those things is Collective Soul’s 1995 hit “December.” Why? No idea. Perhaps it didn’t get played to death on the radio stations I was listening to in high school. Or maybe it’s the harmonies, or the violins, or just the fact that the music is so good. Or maybe I didn’t pay too much attention to it 15 years ago and it’s taken this long for me to absorb the song. I don’t know. But every time I hear it, it gives me that quality-new-song feeling, the feeling I’ve almost forgotten, when you turn on the radio, hear a song and think “wow, this song is actually good.”

Every time it comes on the radio, I still feel exactly the way I did the first time I heard it, when I was getting ready for school in the morning, putting on my flannel shirt and clogs, and slipping my Spanish 3 book into my backpack. I thought then, and I always think now, “hey, what a good song.” And I always think the song is newly released.

Well, until recently, when I heard it on the classic rock station. That was jarring. When I complained, my husband, who is 14 years my senior, laughed and welcomed me to my 30s for what seemed the umpteenth time in two years. I hope the classic rock station thing hasn’t ruined the new-song-feeling for me. I’d like to think that “December” is new for all the rest of my Decembers.

For any of you who’d like to see the 15-year-old video from YouTube’s partner site Vevo, I’ve posted it below, in all its 1995 alternative, long-haired, blazer-clad glory. May you also get that good-new-song-vibe from it. Happy December.

’90s nostalgia, or, when good people make bad purchases.

I’m sort of annoyed with myself about this. Last night, I spent money I don’t have on this dress.

Why? Because it wasn’t too expensive and the site offered free shipping, sure. But mostly because it recalled the mid-’90s. It looks like a costume from “My So-Called Life,” or something that the lead singer of the Cranberries would have worn.

That’s ridiculous, because I didn’t even like “My So-Called Life” or the Cranberries in the ’90s. In fact, I didn’t really enjoy the mid-’90s at all.

I was in high school, and I was so very, very bad at high school. I was awkward,  I was sheltered, and I was just becoming aware that there was a world outside my own small life.

That world was both terrifying and intriguing. It was like Shakespeare’s Green World, a land of fairies, magic and danger  As a teen, I had no idea how to get out of my own world and into that one, and I was keenly aware that I was missing out. Things were happening out there. Things I would have enjoyed.

In short, I felt the way our poor neutered cat does when we don’t let him outside.

Yet I’m always drawn back to that era. I love the music. I love the flat hairstyles. I love the slouchy hobo-chic clothes. I love the ugly, ugly shoes. I remember, in 1993,  looking at an ad in Vogue Magazine. Featured was an anorexic-looking model wearing a shapeless gray dress and unlaced combat boots. Her only accessory was a plastic barrette, which was sliding out of her limp bob toward the floor. And my 15-year-old self thought, “That is so classic. It will never go out of style.”

Dear God. I just bought a dress that recalls that ad.

Chris Rock had a theory about this. He said that we all have a soft spot for the music (or fashion, or whatever) that emerged when we were first getting laid. That exact explanation doesn’t apply to me. I spent my high school years doing homework, chores, working at a vacuum shop and attending CCD. Still, Rock is onto something. Maybe people are always nostalgic for the era when they first became aware of the world.

Maybe when people try to bring back the fashions and music of their youth , they’re actually looking for a do-over of sorts. Maybe they are trying  – as adults – to get a taste of an era they couldn’t quite grasp when they were teenagers.

Maybe, on some level, I believe that this dress is my do-over.

It’s still ridiculous. I have no idea where I’m going to wear the thing. But maybe I’ll at least get some sweet combat boots to wear with it. I always wanted a pair of those.