Growing up in a cult, I was kept separate from popular culture. My earliest memory of feeling left out was when all the public school kids on my block wore their clothes backwards for Criss Cross day. I had no idea what was going on, but everyone else did. I was filled with an acute sense of shame and longing.
When I became a teenager, one of the ways I rebelled was by embracing secular music, especially songs about sex, drugs, and depression. I actively paid attention to what was popular, and made sure I was current on the latest fashion and music. I didn’t always have the money to own the cool things, but I knew what they were.
It’s no coincidence that the decade I was most culturally invested in, the 90s, is the decade I feel the most nostalgia for now. Because those clothes, those movies, those songs were part of shared experiences, they bring back memories of friends, of parties, of singing along to the radio with other people, of road trips and long summer days.
The 90s weren’t an easy decade for me. I dealt with depression, an eating disorder, family issues, chronic school truancy, and a couple of suicide attempts. Yet the cultural links of Nirvana, glittery bracelets, and daisy prints make me remember those years happier than they were. Like a radio station that plays only the best songs of each decade, shared culture turned nostalgia curates my memories for the happiest.
This is why I don’t mock things children and teens love. I don’t roll my eyes at Pokémon Go or One Direction or Doc McStuffins. I let young people have shared generational experiences, and to work out between themselves which of those experiences will be remembered fondly in years to come. A lot of adults made sure we girls knew Spice Girls was too peppy, too girly, too much. But turn Wannabe and I am singing and dancing and smiling with memories of my friends. I want everyone to have that.