Nostalgia is being peddled as currency, and no generation seems to be immune. Whether it’s the Boomers waxing poetic about a time that wasn’t really that great, or the 90s getting a reboot in the form of movies and fashion – we are all being sold a polished up memory.
As one of the kids born in the 80s, I am part of the generation to graduate into a recession and have Buzzfeed try to lure me with listicles of candy and television shows I should terribly miss. While I certainly share common experiences with those my age, there are some glaringly disjointed experiences I don’t share having grown up poor (by American standards) in another country.
Nodding blandly has become my go-to state when the conversation turns to reminiscing. It tends to be the case that Americans think if something existed here, it existed everywhere but I can assure you that it is far from true. In all fairness, without having Sky or cable TV as a kid meant I was a little out of the loop in general because of the 4 channels our small TV (that was black and white until I was 6) received, none of them were MTV or Nickelodeon.
Due to the delay in pop culture reaching our shores, I found I had more common touch points with the Americans born 7-10 years before me so I often find myself straddling two generations in a peculiar manner. I don’t resent the American-centric nostalgia I’m sold because this is America and what else would I expect? Generations are generalizations, and I wouldn’t want to be put into a box in any case.
I just want to let other expats and foreign-born America-dwellers to know you are not alone. When a song comes on at a 80s/90s night and you have no idea what it is because despite the whoops around you, it had no success beyond the US: you are not alone. I’ve been there and I know how awkward as fuck it feels. Nod blandly unless you want to hear “oh my god don’t you know this?!” or “but this was such a big hit here!” or “come on, are you sure?”. When the talk turns to actors who were on that totally popular kids show, nod blandly because trust me you don’t really care and the explanation will just open a can of worms to more things you don’t need to know about.
Sometimes it’s worth asking about, because it can explain how and why things are the way they are. However, most of the time it is best to nod blandly and just look it up on the internet later. Nostalgia is a big emotional trigger and it is often easier to look it up without invoking a passionately intense explanation from someone which can sometimes leave you feeling stupid or vaguely unwelcome for asking.
Nod blandly now. Internet later.