The Pain of Nostalgia

Discussion in 'The Home Front Woman' started by Rica Bloom, Jul 29, 2010.

  1. Rica Bloom

    Rica Bloom New in Town

    San Francisco, CA
    I think we all try to be forward thinking, and rejoice in the advances that our society has made in the few short years between the golden era and our current day, but I can't help but to feel a sense of deep loss sometimes when I think of what people could safely take for granted from the end of World War II through to the sixties.

    I just had a dream last night that I was a black-and-white Audrey Hepburn look-alike singing "Cheek to Cheek" like a songbird on a television special, surrounded by loved ones and costars including my dear Danny Kay, who, in my dream, was a friend as close as a brother. I woke up feeling a little sad, and put on a bit of my beloved vintage Chanel no. 5 cologne, realizing that by the time I'm an old woman, this smell will be but a distant memory.

    I have to wonder how much of this intense nostalgia is triggered by this dreadful Great Recession which has left me in an extremely precarious place in my ability to take care of my most basic needs, but then I've always felt this sense of nostalgia for a better time, even though my own father, born in 1950, never had had the abundance and security of the family that we associate with that time period.

    I know that our ideas are colored by idealistic depictions of that time period and in the films of that time, but I can't help to wonder, what exactly did we lose? What did our parents and grandparents take for granted? Did the people living through the Great Depression and the never-ending horror of the war that followed, suffer nostalgia for times past? Will we ever again live through a time when even a modest household can afford to have one parent stay home with the children and have a maid help around the house? When that maid might be able to use that money toward a child's education? Or was that all part of a system of exploitation that only few got to enjoy? What do we have now that makes up for this lack of security? Do you feel a lack of security in our future?

    Sorry if this is a bit of a downer, but these are questions that are burning in me and make me wonder about the nature of our collective obsessions. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts!
  2. Gingerella72

    Gingerella72 A-List Customer

    Nebraska, USA
    Everyone has their own reasons for loving the golden era, and have their own degrees of expressing that love....personally, I think that some people have that deep longing for a past they never knew because they've become disillusioned with how distorted and plasticized our society has become. I look at it as a form of escapism...."the world sucks today so look back through those swell rose colored glasses and try and borrow some of that lost innocence to get through the day" kind of thing.

    At least that's the way it is for me sometimes.
    Arleaux likes this.
  3. YesterdayGirl

    YesterdayGirl One of the Regulars


    I totally understand where your head is on this one. I do feel a lack of security, especially in my future. I know that at my age 60 years ago, me and my partner would probably be more secure in our finances and our housing, where as now, I'm an educated person trying to make ends meet, dreaming about a simple home life that I probably won't be able to have for another 10 years.
    It's understandable for people like ourselves that are having a love affair with the past to feel frustratingly nostalgic about a time we never knew, but we have to remember to be grateful to be born into a scientifically superior age, and with technological advances that allow us to do this for one thing!
    But don't worry, you are not alone in you thinking! ;)
    Arleaux likes this.
  4. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Me, too. While I enjoy living in the modern world with all its conveniences, there are some times I can't stand it. Of course, since a very young age, I've always looked to the past to find inspiration and comfort. I'm not quite sure why that is, but perhaps it is because I have an old soul.

    I can identify with that painful sense of longing and have experienced it many times.
    Arleaux likes this.
  5. Lady Day

    Lady Day I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Crummy town, USA
    Every generation is nostalgic. I frankly think it often has a lot to do with being children or hearing lots of stories in/from that era we are nostalgic for. "Things were simpler back then..." Please.

    We think of things differently and often as if it were better.

    I don't EVER wish I were in the 30s and 40s, at all. Period. Im fine with present time.

    RebeccaMUA likes this.
  6. SayCici

    SayCici Practically Family

    "What do we have now that makes up for this lack of security?"

    A lot more civil rights, for one thing. I'm with Lady Day on this one - personally my longing for days gone by never really goes further than wishing I could buy shoes for $1, see this or that person perform, etc. Times were never better, and if they were simpler, that's not necessarily a positive thing (for example, if you're a minority in any way things were simpler because you had far less options). I don't feel a lack of security for my future in any way.

    The past would be like NYC for me: nice to visit (if I had a time machine), but I wouldn't want to live there.

    I hope this doesn't come off as argumentative! Just my two cents. :)
    RebeccaMUA likes this.
  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I've never felt honest security in my life at any time -- I've always been acutely aware of the cold-blooded fact that everything I have, everything anyone has, can be swept away in an instant, and if I'd been born fifty years earlier, I don't think it'd be any different. My grandparents worked hard, did their best, and died wondering how they'd pay the undertaker. The same fate awaits me, and I'm resigned to it. Call it cold-blooded New England Calvinism, but that's the way it is.

    The more you study the Era, you'll realize that in any generation, in any era, there are very very few people who enjoy true security. The rest of us are left to muddle along as best we can.

    For me, it's not nostalgia at all. Whatever the warts and bumps of the Era were, it's basically a culture I have much more in common with than that of the present day. When I stand in the checkout line and I look at the magazine covers, I feel like I've dropped into some kind of horrifying dystopic novel. "Brave New World" indeed.
    Arleaux likes this.
  8. swinggal

    swinggal One Too Many

    Perth, Australia
    I certainly have no mis-givings about how difficult the 20s, 30s and 40s were for many people. I would love to go back for a visit now and again (maybe buy lots of clothes to bring back and go to all the jazz clubs I've drooled over forever) but I would not want to stay. I like modern technology and many of todays mod cons.

    The things that I wish we still had now are a better sense of community where everyone in the street knew one another, better manners, a sense of pride in how one dressed, a less wasteful society where things lasted forever and could be reused - I HATE the throw-a-way society we have now...I could go on.

    The things I would not want to be a part of would be sexism and very few rights for women and racial predjudice on a major scale. I know we still have this now but nowhere near the scale that it was.
  9. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Sunny California
    Well said, Cici. This is exactly how I feel, too! :D
  10. Land-O-LakesGal

    Land-O-LakesGal Practically Family

    St Paul, Minnesota
    Well put Swing Gal, who here hasn't dreamed of a time machine that could take them back so that we could pick up a a few dresses and shoes but I for one would not like to stay. Talking with my grandparent and parents has not led me to believe that times were easy my dad was just telling us how he had to get up early to bring in a few buckets of fuel oil in the winter one to put in the furnace and another to leave for my grandmother to put in later. He had to do this before going to school in the morning. I never had to worry about helping to heat the house growing up or about the fire danger of an oil burning furnace and the danger of the bucket of fuel oil sitting around the house with lots of small children underfoot ( my dad was the oldest of 7, I am sure some of his siblings were still home with his mom and the fuel oil).
    I know my dads mom only had an eighth grade education because her father thought that was all a girl needed (as she would be staying at home with the children). My other grandmother finished high school but did not go to college. My mom and I both have a masters degree, although my Mom had to stop working when her first pregnancy started to show. I think with me she got to keep working a bit longer.
    We have come a long way ladies I truly cherish the rights we now enjoy as women.
    RebeccaMUA likes this.
  11. AtomicEraTom


    Portage, Wis.
    I think most of us here just want a mixture of both. I love many things about today, satellite television, internet, fuel injection, blah blah blah. But many of us wish that we had the quality and styles and fashions of yesteryear. Not to mention the music and better quality of entertainment.

    But we have to be thankful for the advances we've made for minorities and for women and for what we've learned from the past.
  12. Amy Jeanne

    Amy Jeanne Call Me a Cab

    I love comparing the two times. One of the reasons it fascinates me is because it's so different in such a short period of time. But to go back? Hell no.

    Today is great. Going by my female ancestors, if I were alive in th 20s-30s-40s I would have lived in a tiny town hardly ever venturing out. I would have been too poor and I would have been working in the can factory along side my grandmother. Sounds fun.

    Today I have a cushy job in an office, I'm working on an MA, and I've got so many posessions I'm almost ashamed of myself. I also love easy travel! I'd kill myself if I had to stay in that small town forever.

    I love aesthetic things from the past the most -- movies, music, fashion, buildings, design, entertainment. Those are the only things I incorporate into my daily life from the past.

    As for nostalgia, I'm currently "notalgizing" the 80s. It was great, more carefree, the music was the best, and I had lots of vivid thoughts and memories the time. BUT IN REALITY I was horribly picked on, fashionably inept, insecure and so shy my parents tooK me to a shrink, and I was, uh, UGLY lol
  13. 1961MJS

    1961MJS My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Norman Oklahoma
    Things to think about

    Hi Reading this thread I thought of the following:

    Throw away society. Instead of fixing the Television we go to WalMart and buy a new one wasting the parts in the old one. On the positive side, we're not wasting some guys time trying to fix something that is only worth 1-2 hours of his time.

    Simpler times. Times WERE simpler. If you wanted dinner, you cooked it. If you wanted the house cleaned, you cleaned it. On a negative note, because of our easy life, we're all in bad shape. My grand parents all lived to be at least 86 (and he smoked), but none ever felt the need to exercise. My grandmother went to the nursing home at about 90 because my grandfather had a stroke. He turned the potatoes over with the spade and she threw them into the wheel barrow up until the stroke.

    Arleaux likes this.
  14. kamikat

    kamikat Call Me a Cab

    Maybe I'm dense, but this doesn't make sense. How is that any different from today. I cook dinner every night. I clean house every day. Women throughout time have always put dinner on the table every night and cleaned house every day.
  15. Miss Neecerie

    Miss Neecerie I'll Lock Up

    The land of Sinatra, Hoboken
    To Kami:
    I think the argument is that people eat out more...packaged foods..etc.

    As a general comment:

    But once again the whole 'it was better then' an impossible one for most folks here, who were not alive then, to make.

    You simply, not even with historical data behind you, make a 'judgement' call on something you have not personally experienced. At best, you are interpreting what your sources (parents, grandparents etc) have said, and layering your own reality on top of it.

    It's never going to be an empirical method of comparing one time to another.
    Just like those who idealise the Rennaisance via the SCA cannot possibly actually live through it...etc.

    You want a simpler life, live it. It pretty much boils down to that. Live how you want...turn off the computer if thats what floats your boat...etc. But make no mistake, you can do that whether you are wearing a tshirt and jeans, or a dress, hose and a girdle. Living simply is not a function of a decade or era, its about keeping your needs and wants very close together....

    But you cannot wander around 2010 constantly comparing and contrasting and its unhealthy to not exist in reality.
  16. velvetongue

    velvetongue Familiar Face

    New York
    With the advances in women's lib, civil rights, technology, and health care now I definitely don't wish I was living in the 40s or 50s. I think when we look back at the past, we tend to see it with rose-colored glasses and idealize it. I do admire the fashion and sense of style they had back then.
  17. Amy Jeanne

    Amy Jeanne Call Me a Cab


    I have an old expenses book handwritten by my grandfather. He spent 38 cents on whisky in January 1937!! lol And $2.17 on a new tire for his car!!
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I don't think there have ever been simpler times, unless you go back to the first lungfish to crawl out of the primordial soup -- they might have had a pretty nice deal of it, given how little competition there was.

    One thing worth keeping in mind, though, in comparing eras, is that *every* era and *every* generation is convinced that it has it all over all past generations. For someone looking back now to the Era from a vantage point sixty or seventy years after the fact, it might seem barbaric in a lot of ways -- but those same people in 1939 were extremely proud of how progressive their age was. If you go back and read the middle-class magazines of the time, you'll see plenty of articles on how far women have come, how many new privileges they enjoy, how the modern working gal has it all over her corseted grandmother, and so on. I suspect the women of today will be seen as lurching primitives compared to their up-to-date granddaughters in 2070, so there's really no room for generational hubris, I don't think.

    I think it's also important to point out that the average people the Era were increasingly aware of its shortcomings, especially after WW2. It's easy today to stereotype everyone of that time as wild-eyed racists, condescending sexists, and on and on -- but the fact is even then those attitudes were on the decline. There were certainly places where attitudes had little changed since 1870, but they were held in a good deal of contempt by more enlightened souls. Without the hard work support of that generation, there would have been no civil rights movement, and none of the freedoms people in general enjoy today.
  19. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    As others have said, I think there's a rosy mythology about the 50s. I don't have much to add to what others have said about this.

    You say you feel precarious. Two strategies to help when you're in that spot are to be frugal and be flexible. When you're willing to take any honest job, willing to relocate, willing to take on duties outside your job description, willing to learn new things, you'll have an easier time finding and keeping a job. And it's more important to live within your means and save for emergencies than to live a lifestyle you can't afford.

    Good luck to you.
  20. Classydame

    Classydame One of the Regulars

    Bellflower, CA
    Lizzie you are great!

    Lizzie, you always seem to say, in such a classy way, what I want to but can't.

    Thank you!


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