Kara, thanks so much for posting that photo from EMP and for the link to those people talking about the panel. And good questions!
I never felt like a cool girl in the 90s. Mainly, I was just trying to have adventures and make out with guys I had crushes on. And I had a lot of crushes. I spent my free time making a lot of mix tapes and reading a lot of books.
Yes, I found a BK fanzine when I was a teenager, but I didn’t find a CD until much, much later.
Meanwhile, Neal scored every single bit of radical feminist, experimental, Kill Rock Stars music that existed, even though he lived in the woods of East Texas. Learning that gave me a lot more respect for the Sam Goody outlets in the Piney Woods and made me think I was pretty lazy in my culture-questing.
But back to coolness: In the moment, you never know what’s going to turn out to be cool or lame. When you’re in it, a lot of stuff seems one way and then years later it turns out to be another way.
Like, I thought Dave Eggers and Eddie Vedder were the be-all, end-all of manhood, and then later I decided they were not at all (and wrote an essay about too-cool-for-sex guys for Nerve). I thought high heels were lame but when I got into my early twenties I decided they were way more exciting than my construction boots were. And now, as you know, wearing less than 3″ heels makes me a little anxious (I was ruined by working at Vogue, a world that I don’t think was impacted by the 90s at all).
Looking back, I think I have a few cool points because I grew up on St. Marks Place in NYC’s East Village in the 80s and 90s. But you know what I thought was cool in 1995? The Upanishads, organic farming, and painting on my walls. Yes, when I was fifteen in 1991 we saw KRS-1 at CBGB’s and drank wine coolers at Rocky Horror, but that stuff didn’t seem cool to me. It just seemed like a way to kill a weekend.
Anyway, I wrote that little eulogy for Brad Will a couple days ago and it got me thinking about nostalgia, and how it’s kind of like missing your memory of something. I think what I’ve felt for some of the 90s stuff we’ve talked about has been nostalgia — like, re-enjoying the awareness that certain things I liked were cool. But when I was remembering that guy I was actually remembering that moment in time and not my memory of that time. Does that make any sense?
It made me want to pay more attention to the things that aren’t necessarily cool now or ironically cool now or painfully lame now, but the feeling we had back then of being that age and under that president and with those shows on TV and the people we met who changed our lives or who kissed us with certain songs on the radio, moments that completely belonged to the 90s and so seem strange now, and alternately painful and fascinating.