Approaching a Dazed and Confused Index

After this bit of sunshine from Alex Balk , here’s another thing you can do while you’re wondering where it all went.

So take a pivotal moment of your youth. For me, it’s senior year of high school, but you could pick college, first kiss, first sexy-time, first time you read Nabokov or Joan Didion, first time you parallel-parked, whatever. Take that year. Mean age of my compatriots skews younger than I am, so let’s say, “1995.”

Good! Now take that year, and figure out how long ago that was. In the case of our hypothetical, the answer is twenty years. A long time!

Okay. Now take that interval of time, and, starting at the pivotal moment, go backwards instead of forwards. I know it seems like there’s some maths involved with this, or at the very least some geometry, but it’s time we’re dealing with and no one has the faintest how that works, so rest easy. Where were we?

Right! So twenty years before that is 1975. So as you sit wherever you are, or stand, I hear that standing is good for you, and you reminisce as one does about all the neat stuff 1995 had to offer, like the publishing of the Unabomber Manifesto, or “Clueless” and “Batman Forever” in the movie theaters and TLC and the Squirrel Nut Zippers on the radio, or Pedro Martinez pitching a perfect game for the Expos, if your pivotal young self were to, way back in 1995, reminisce about things that were as long back then as 1995 is now, you would be reminiscing about the premiere of “Barney Miller” of “SNL” or the debut of the Sex Pistols or seeing “Jaws” or “Escape To Witch Mountain” or “Rooster Cogburn” in a movie theater (which allowed smoking cigarettes) or the New York Daily News headline of “Ford To City: Drop Dead”. It’s a vertiginous sort of queasy, staring all that way back down, through all those years of culture or whatever approximates culture, and even worse imagining your pivotal young self doing the same at the halfway point of this historical chasm.

Another way to play this game: the movie “Dazed and Confused”, which has been on my mind lately because there is an SUV that parks in my neighborhood with an “ASS CASH OR GRASS/NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE” decal on it, which I swear I can hear Matthew McConaughey saying from the movie, was released in 1993. It was set in the year 1976, a year seventeen years previous to the date of release. So, if a new contemporary version of “Dazed and Confused” was to be produced, in order to keep up the verisimilitude with the original, it would have to be set in 1998. Which would be a pretty boring version, full of pagers and Neutral Milk Hotel and Netscape Navigator.

Usually the end result of this process is feeling old. I don’t have a name for this yet — well, I don’t have a name for the thing you can do; we have all kinds of names for the process of feeling old, and emoticons too — maybe something like the Comparative Nostalgia Ratio? Though it’s certainly not really a ratio but more like some sort of thought exercise. I guess the second version you could call the Dazed and Confused Index with some clarity. But! Once you clear, say, the age of 23, all of this never stops working! In fact, it works better the older you get. Well, “better” in the sense that you feel old, which is not really something that anyone should get hung up on although pretty much everyone does, including your author.

Even though the alternate to getting older is clearly worse.