What’s old is new again
and it can be quite painful
Thomas Wolfe's final novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," is the tale of a novelist who leaves home and publishes his first work, only to return to Germany to discover the country has turned into a corrupted version of itself. Carriage ride after depressing carriage ride, the reader is treated his lamentations about where the time went. We've all felt this way from time to time. However, this became most evident to me when walking through Pearlridge Mall last weekend.
I happened to pass the favorite store of seemingly every preteen on the island -- the one where, for $20, you can fill your closet with clothes of questionable quality -- and cringed. One rack was stuffed with fluorescent, off-the-shoulder shirts that look like "Flashdance" castoffs.
Another rack overflowed with satiny cargo pants with way too many zippers. The far wall was lined with cheaply made Technicolor pumps with fishnet stockings to match. I remained frozen in the doorway, mouth agape. This was 2003, wasn't it? If so, then what was with the jellied bracelets? Who sanctioned this return to neon?
Flabbergasted by this revelation, I drove to my fashion sanctuary, Ala Moana. Surely my favorite shop gal at Arden B could explain this phenomenon to me. But, as soon as I crossed the threshold, the familiar sickness returned. Leg warmers. More fluorescents. I swore I saw a Michael Jackson "Thriller" jacket. And was that a horrible knockoff of the Pucci swirl on a headband?
"Hey, Keisha!" My shop gal called out to me. "We've got some new stuff in!"
Did she just say new?
We've all heard it: What's old is new again, yadda-yadda-ya. I just never thought this would happen to me. Suddenly, I'm the sad woman recounting to my 10-year old neighbor about how George Michael was a father figure, and Michael Jackson was bad and Mark Wahlberg used to rap. That was me at the concerts with the two-tiered bangs, "Button Your Fly" T-shirt and slouchy socks over my LA Gears.
Fast-forward to 2003. What was once dismissed as disposable and has now been resurrected in fashion, as well as nifty VH-1 specials. Sadly, like the Frankenstein monster with all his recycled parts, the current '80s resurgence is missing its soul.
Think I'm crazy? Take a look at the music. A noticeably aged Duran Duran made its appearance at this year's MTV Music Video awards show. While accepting an award akin to lifetime achievement from a punked-out Kelly Osbourne and announcing the band's upcoming tour, the polite applause was painfully obvious.
Simon LeBon and his band mates could have been the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for all the audience cared. Most of the audience was too young to even remember "The Reflex." Exhibit B: Young Master Timberlake. In a recent interview, he admitted to, just before recording his solo album, locking himself and his producers in a room and listening to Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" until their ears bled. Who among us doubts it? His single "Rock Your Body" is "Rock With You" turned on its tone-deaf ear.
A couple of years back, I took a trip to my old high school on a military base in Stuttgart, Germany. I need to make peace with my acid-washed ghosts, I thought, as I pulled into the school parking lot. Before I knew it, I was walking down the familiar halls. Passing my biology classroom, I could taste the Aqua Net in the air.
When I touched the doorknob to the band hall, I could hear my trumpet laboring through "Peter Gunn." All the while, my ghosts followed. Sufficiently creeped out, I turned around. To my relief, it was only the German janitor. Despite the language barrier, I discovered my old high school had been turned over to the local town, which had converted it to a trade school for aspiring bricklayers.
I then walked from the school to my old apartment building. As I stood in front of that condemned building, sadness washed over me. On every other street, buildings had been renovated into spiffy, sky-lighted apartments. Only my building stood as it had in late 1991. I felt like it was waiting for me, but I realized then I could never go home.
My mutual fund notwithstanding, not everything about the new millennium is bad. If I had the female role models in all shapes, colors and sizes that girls have now, it would have saved me from agonizing over such things.
Like the fictitious George Webber, I've come to terms with my past and have laid childish expectations and false memories to rest. All told, I suppose the music and my wit were the best things to come out of that era. Therefore, I must sit out this latest '80s trend. I've thankfully retired the fingerless gloves, pegged jeans and frosted hair. The rest I'm selling on eBay.
Keisha Poiro is a 20-something writer in Honolulu.
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