Friday, October 19, 2007

I Was SO There.

Ahhh, 1998. Remember that year? That was the year I graduated from high school (oh, wipe up the coffee you spit out, you old fogie law professors). The year I started college at UC Irvine. The year I turned eighteen. That was the year I voted in my first election. That was the year of the Swing Revival.

I actually bought albums from The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, and other multiply-named neo-swing bands.

I watched Swing Kids without a sense of irony when they shouted "swing heil!" I could recite lines from Swingers. I actually went to the Brown Derby. I wore red lipstick and retro clothes. Time, space, and coolness meant nothing to me: I was anachronistic, and proudly so.

And I took a year's worth of swing dance lessons in college. West Coast, East Coast, Lindy, Charleston--aw, yeah! I joined the Swing Club. Of course, by the time I graduated, the Swing Craze was over, and I was no longer cool--if indeed, I ever was (I wasn't).

Last night, in the Quest For Balance, I took a couple of drop-in social dance classes from the Liberal College Competitive Ballroom Dancing club. West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop! I don't think I've had so much fun since the '90s.

It is a not very insightful to note that each generation will nostagically mimic and idealize eras that preceded it, as if to recall "the Greatest Generation" to attention in uncertain times. Nor is it particularly revolutionary to want to relive happier college years during the doldrums of dissertating. Others do this by drinking and partying; I do this by dancing and reading poetry. Like the weirdo pfouffy lit major that I was.

I am better at dancing now than I was seven or eight years ago. However, I am also seven or eight years older than I was then. And it's more than a decade since the height of the Swing Revival, and I feel even more dated for having been into something So Retro. The whole "I was there!-ness" of being able to say that you LIVED a certain decade. I imagine this is how my law prof friends are re the '80s. Last night, one of my rotating dance partners asked me what year I was and what I liked to do for fun besides dance. "Um, I'm in law school." "Oh, so like, you just started? I'm a freshman." "No, I'm doing the post-graduate stuff. I'm probably nearly ten years older than you are." "Wow. Uh, yeah, almost."

And with that, my dancing through the ages confronts the reality of time and space: being Retro is fun but inherently ridiculous; trying to relive college years feels foolish when you end up dancing with those who are currently living their college years (thoughts of "eww, I'm dancing with someone who's my nephew's age and he's trying to hit on me" crossed my mind); and I hope that the superlative "greatest" is just Tom Brokaw waxing nostalgic--because where do you go from there?


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