The joke is now 25 years old, and there are no signs of it ending anytime soon.
Every year on July 15, I mark the birthday of my friend and former co-worker Diane Hawkins with a reminder that decades ago we lamented that eventually we would end up in a retirement facility, rocking our wheelchairs to “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. By now, Diane would rather I project a story about her marrying Prince and living happily and purple-y ever after. But nope, each year a link to the schlocky 1990 video is forced into her Facebook feed, and each year we both get a chuckle out of it.
“Ice, Ice Baby” won a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance (which, combined with Milli Vanilli’s win for Best New Artist, proves how flawed the Grammys are), but even at the peak of its popularity it was seen as a novelty by most music fans. It continues to get play in clubs and karaoke bars mainly for its nostalgia factor. The fact that its opening riff – ripped off from the Queen/David Bowie hit “Under Pressure” – still elicits knowing head nods proves that Diane and I were accurate prognosticators, or at least lucky guessers. “Ice, Ice Baby” remains an anthem for those who lived through the 1990s.
Why is our bond with the past, whether trivial or not, so strong?
“The habit of living in memory rather than now, of comparing how things once were with how they are now, was for several centuries thought at best a trait to avoid and at worst a root cause of depressive illness,” wrote Tim Adams in Britain’s The Observer. “Since the turn of this century, however, things have been looking up for nostalgia.”
For his report, Adams spoke with researchers Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut, who found that nostalgia is “a driver of empathy and social connectedness, and a potent internal antidote for loneliness and alienation.” They contend that nostalgic sentiments can protect people from negative thoughts.
Mackenzie Maxwell, a marketing and branding professional, recently reflected on a drive to the grocery store that evolved into a driver’s seat dance party when C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” came on the radio.
“The smallest stimulation can transport us and fill us with joy,” she wrote for Duncan/Day’s website. “It can reconnect us with lost loved ones, warm our hearts and plant smiles on our faces. Nostalgia is raw emotion.”
Bridging back to our days in the newsroom at the Rockford Register Star, recalling a goofy scenario that no doubt sprouted as we faced a nightly deadline, is a way to celebrate and – hopefully – perpetuate our youth. This also might be a driver for Sedalia residents who have been lamenting the demolition of Jennie Jaynes Stadium. It’s a way to reconnect with youthful days when full-time jobs, parental responsibilities and the pressures of adulthood were in the distant future. It’s a renewed bond with the exuberance of youth.
Nostalgia is fine if it is kept in perspective. In a couple of decades, the teens of today will jump up and dance when “What Does The Fox Say?” is played at a party. They’ll deny it today, but in 2035 they’ll be singing, “Cow goes moo.” And when businesses or schools are razed to make way for modern, more effective structures, they too will lament, “I remember when.”
And that’s OK.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.