I’ve been thinking recently about secondhand nostalgia. It’s a weird concept that I’m having trouble articulating properly, but essentially it comes down to feeling a surprising nostalgia for things that you weren’t really present for in the first place, and have no firsthand knowledge of.
This comes from re-reading a comic from the mid-1970s the other day, and realizing that there’s something very powerful to me not only about the story in the comic — which, I hasten to add, is not a particularly good story — but the ephemera surrounding it; the ads, the editorial material, and even the graphic design of the entire package.
The thing is, I wasn’t reading comics when this particular comic came out; I wasn’t even reading when it was published. I was just two years old, and I lived in a different country altogether, so the idea that I passively picked up some of the visual cues from somewhere else in my life at the time. (If nothing else, I’m not sure two-year-olds really notice a lot of graphic design in the first place, especially not passively; I could be wrong, though.)
It’s possible that I’m actually nostalgic for the situation in which I first read said comic — which, in this case, was finding it amongst a pile of comics in a used bookstore in Glasgow’s West End, during a Christmas break from high school, and being thrilled that it was so goofy and so affordable, all of which feels like something that I really have every right to be nostalgic about, to be honest — but I really don’t think that’s it. My affection, my feeling of time-gone-by enniu, is specifically tied to the mid-1970s, and the circumstances it first appeared in, despite my inability to have any claim to that in any legitimate sense.
Is it entirely imagined, then? Am I over-romanticizing something that I’m just making up in my head? Perhaps — but it feels real, nonetheless, this silly affection for a time and a place I never was.