I try to avoid too much wallowing in the past. Nostalgia has an element of bittersweetness that can get just a bit too self indulgent. Looking back at the past is fun, but it’s so easy to glamorize things from long ago (or not so long ago).
Music can make me feel this way. I can hear a song from my teenage days and start remembering people and places that have been out of my life for decages. I’m sure my memory is very rose-colored. For example, I remember my teens as a turbulent time in general, but specific memories often seem to have a hazy glow around them. How is this possible?
It’s not! Maybe it’s just human nature to rub the rough edges off memories, or maybe a psychologist would tell me it’s the brain’s way of coping with things. An evolutionary biologist might point out that there’s an advantage to being able to let go of traumatic events – too much reliving past traumas can take your attention away from the present with it’s dangers. Of course, most of our lives aren’t very dangerous anymore, but you can see an example of this when you get somewhere in the car and realize you were zoned out during the drive and don’t remember it at all. Driving can be dangerous – perhaps not as dangerous as being attacked by a saber tooth tiger, but it still requires quite a bit of attention.
It certainly makes sense that raw grief becomes more bearable, and I can (usually) think about my dad without tears, but why do memories of old boyfriends seem so romantic? After all, if that guy was so fabulous we’d still be together now, right?
Having said all that, I just finished reading a magazine in which nostalgia is the whole theme, Jane Austen Knits. Articles such as “What Would Jane Knit” and “Regency Fashion In Color”, among others, give fascinating glimpes into the fashions and fabrics of the upper middle class during the Regency era in England (approx. 1795 – 1837).
If you are a history geek like me, this is all riveting stuff. The types of dyes used, the descriptions of fabrics and fashions paying tribute to classical Greek culture – all this is spellbinding stuff.
There are 35 patterns in the magazine, including those for the ever popular fingerless mitts and scarves. Also present are some beautiful items which would difficult to wear except at a costume or Regency theme party, or as wardrobe in a photoshoot perhaps. It’s been a long time since I was asked to a Regency themed costume party, so I’ll probably not be knitting any of those – but I’ll know where to find patterns if that invitation arrives.
It appears I do enjoy nostalgia when I dress it up as historical studies. Maybe I’ll start thinking of my old boyfriends as lessons in 20th century interpersonal relationships!