Yearning for a past I never had.
Nostalgia is looking back at actual past
experiences and remembering them, usually
fondly, sometimes desiring to go back and
Sometimes this is valid escapism, other
times it's just a consequence of the
False nostalgia, on the other hand,
is when the past I'd like to go back to
It's fantasizing about the past.
Sometimes this imaginary past is created by
others, particularly the media. Anyone who
grew up in the eighties will remember the
John Hughes brat pack films: Pretty in
Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen
They helped solidify the image of what high
school was supposed to be like; since my
actual experiences didn't match, it created
envy at the time, and false nostalgia ever
It doesn't help that I didn't (and still
don't) take many risks.
So, of course, I didn't experience much,
and I never really grew up.
Maybe that's why I idealized these
Even seeing later spoofs of these movies
(e.g., Heathers), and after seeing with
older eyes just how shallow the whole
miserable experience was, I still think I
did it wrong.
Of course, I can't go back and fix it,
so I'm just wasting time.
More broadly, we're always fighting out of
the preconceptions of the previous
The ideal image of a community in the
USA used to revolve around the small town.
Even into the 1950s, the white picket
fences and June
Cleavers ruled the media images.
Contrast that to the increasingly fragmented
lifestyle of the eighties and nineties.
My dad worked for the government his
At Hewlett-Packard, I regularly see
retirement parties for people with 30+
years of experience.
Me? I've never held a job for longer than
20 months since I graduated college in
My mom lived in the same area for the
first 20 years of her life.
By then, I had spent 8 years in
New Jersey, a year in Louisana, and the
rest in New Mexico.
Environment and climate can be a
breeding ground of false nostalgia.
Even if you moved a lot, you'd never
experience all the possible weather and
Indeed, true experience of a region's
climate means that you stayed there a while,
to get some feel for both the average and
Having grown up in southern
New Mexico, I've always yearned for
snow, rain, cold, and cloudy days.
(Yes, dammit, I wanted winter.)
Looking back at manufactured reality,
these types of weather made them more
desirable and more alien.
A few that come to mind: the Peanuts
It's a Charlie Brown Christmas;
Dead Poets Society;
The Sisters Of Mercy's
Driven like the Snow;
Same Deep Water as You
Prayers for Rain;
Sometimes this feeling of false nostalgia
comes out of nowhere; it just bubbles up
from the subconscious, sometimes
Most of the time, it's triggered by
Like deja vu, this false nostalgia mixes
real experiences from the past with
something from our fantasies.
As you've probably figured out by now,
most of my fantasy worlds are from the
mass media (which might explain why I
try to avoid most of it, these days).
Music is far and away the most powerful
of these triggers for me.
As a classic example, listening to a
collection of prom songs makes me wish
that I hadn't been
too smart for high school.
Most of my experiences with false
nostalgia are a result of empathy with
characters portrayed in songs and movies.
Add to this a low self-esteem as a
result of various defense mechanisms,
and too much
Finish it all off with a huge desire to
escape, be it through booze, work,
or ... false nostalgia.