This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … a more innocent time.
I was in a waiting room this week that had not one People or Sports Illustrated magazine, so I had to leaf through some sappy sugar fest of a magazine filled with articles the Reader’s Digest would reject as too saccharine. (Does the Digest even exist anymore?)
This must be a ploy from my dentist, who probably figures that the pain of reading these magazines will make one long for the sweet release of a less painful root canal.
But not wanting to stare across the room at the hot girl half my age (you see, I’m 24), I leafed through the magazine and came across some silly reference to “a more innocent, simpler time.” I think the writer was referring to the 50’s, or maybe it was the early 70’s, or perhaps it the early 80’s? I don’t remember because I immediately discounted her belief in a more innocent time as nothing more than mindless nostalgia for something that never was.
When exactly was this time of a superior simplicity in the world, this era when the world in general had fewer cares or worries and when the world was a better place to live in?
Perhaps it was back when a cancer diagnosis was an almost surefire death sentence. Or maybe it was when a heart attack meant instant check-out because 911 and quasi-doctor EMT’s didn’t exist. Yeah, those were simpler times all right. “Hey, I’ll keep this simple, sir. You’re gonna die of prostate cancer.” (Yeah, yeah … I know, Mr. Statistics. Cancer still kills thousands each year. But one helluva lot more people get cured of it in these allegedly terrible, more complex modern times.)
Maybe the writer was referring back to when cars were built without multiple airbags, antilock brakes and all the other technological advances that make today’s accidents a lot less potentially lethal than they were back when Fonzie was banging every skank in the greater Milwaukee area.
Yes, please take me back to the days before cell phones increased convenience a hundred fold, or when we had no Internet to make us a thousand times more consumer savvy, more world aware, more connoisseur-like in our porn preferences.
Ask any old black man to wax nostalgic about those carefree, simpler days of yore and how easy it was for him to make his affections for a white woman known, and how gracefully said advances were accepted by the nation’s cracker contingent. Hell, I saw an article in today’s Washington Post that referred to a married, interracial Maryland couple who were arrested in 1958 for … yep, being an interracial couple. Ah, yes. Let us all long for those simpler, better times when cracker-assed redneck politicians could write such laws and cracker-assed redneck cops could droolingly enforce them.
Take off the rose-colored retro-glasses and wise up. There was no era in history when life was better because it was simpler. It was only our individual selves who were simpler and more innocent. (And that’s the case only if you grew up without a chronically empty refrigerator, or with a dad who didn’t beat on your mom, or with an uncle whose every third visit didn’t entail a beefy hand down your underpants.)
Everyone who makes it to adulthood has a ten-year period in the in their past that they can look back to as those special years against which the rest of their lives can be measured. And almost invariably, those times, in retrospect, seem better, simpler, more innocent. But it wasn’t the time. It was you.
There was no full-time job, no mortgage, no spouse, no kids. If I may dip into my cliché bin, your whole life lay ahead of you. Your own death was an abstraction at best. No one looked to you for the answers. So of course things seemed simpler and more innocent, because, if you were lucky, things were simpler for you at that time.
But I guarantee you that, while you were living a relatively simple life, there were older people living then who were pining for the simpler times of their pasts, even if those years were during one of the World Wars or the Great Depression. I bet there’s some octogenarians out there right now pining for the carefree childhood days they experienced during World War II.
So enough already with the mindless nostalgia for an era from your past that time has skewed the memory of. Life has always been difficult and complex. You were just too young to know it. It isn’t the world that has gotten more complex. It is you.
Believing otherwise doesn’t just make you sound narcissistic and egotistical. It makes you sound simple.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.