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The Problem With Nostalgia

Michael Musto | Longreads | March 5, 2019 | 2,048 words
Posted inEssays & Criticism, Feature, Featured, Nonfiction, Story

The Problem With Nostalgia

Michael Musto argues that wearing rose-colored glasses always leads to an unfair distortion — looking back on the best of the past while comparing it to the worst of the present.
Sascha Kilmer/ Getty, Unsplash, Illustration by Katie Kosma

Michael Musto | Longreads | March 2019 | 8 minutes (2,048 words)

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be was the hilarious title of Oscar winning actress Simone Signoret’s memoir in 1978, and it’s truer than ever. Seeing the past through rose colored glasses is an increasingly myopic process, especially as technology makes giant strides forward and former modes of communication resound with an astounding obsolescence. As I handily crank out articles like this on my computer and shoot them to my editor via email, do you really think I miss the days when I had to type out a piece on a ratty Smith Corona, make changes with Wite-Out, scissors and Scotch tape, and then hand deliver the thing — sometimes in a blizzard or rain storm — to the publication, only to have to redo the whole process when a rewrite was required (after pre-Google fact-checking took up to an entire day)? Do you somehow assume that I long for a return to the time when I was terrified to leave the house because I could miss a business call? (In the ‘70s, answering machines were not prevalent and cell phones hadn’t yet been invented.) The time when I would regularly cut calls short — even with my own mother — for fear that someone more important, career-wise, might be trying to reach me? (There was no call waiting. You had to pray that anyone who’d gotten a busy signal would try again and again. And not talk too long.) Some survivors and observers longingly look back at eras like that as “a simpler time” and “a more personal moment,” but for a writer like me, it was actually a personal nightmare.

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