March 31st, 2011 / 3:25 pm

80s night

On some public access channel they do this 80s dance. People dress up like the 80s and dance to 80s songs, less with irony or nostalgia than just obtuse impulse, the same impulse which drives people to eat pretzels at a bar, or pet a dog. I always stay on the channel, doing the “coffin” yoga pose on my couch, watching these people dance badly to either bad or great songs. The jury is still out, on whether the 80s created or corrupted “art,” and it doesn’t matter, as there will always be dogs, no matter how badly they behave. Most wear dark sunglasses, as if bracing for the light at the middle of the tunnel.

From 1980-1989 I was 4-13 years old, and only caught the latter portion, though “in real time,” as supposed to the reappropriation and aesthetic distance of the late 90s or naughts (oos). Every decade is its own commercial, something we buy without needing to. I went to one dance in the 7th grade. My dad dropped me off at Pine Hollow middle school and said something like “this is your chance to dance with girls,” paternally punching me a little too hard in the arm. There are 3 types of boys in this world: (1) boys who sack up and dance with girls, (2) boys who awkwardly stand by the punch, tending to their gelled hair, and (3) boys who stand behind the punch, halfway inside the janitor’s closet. I’ll let you guess who I was, and inextricably, still am. I never went to a dance again. On prom night, years later, I nursed a bag of Cheetos “upstairs” watching MTV Headbangers Ball, a little too defeated to air-drum and mouth “fuck this world” with my orange powdered mouth, as that silent phrase held my brain with the thin dark fingers of blood vessels pulsing from a nearby heart.

I’m sorry, white people can’t dance. Asians can’t either, and that is why we don’t. Black people, um, mos def can, but like so many things online or irl it’s never really about them unless some angry or condescending point is being made. But let’s not talk race, because we’re all losing at it. Every time we try to erase color, somebody gets skinned alive. The black guy, in shades and a gold chain, the one with the manageable fro, does the robot so well, shit poppin’ out of sockets like he a transformer. My favorite joke is the one about how there aren’t any black people in movies in the future, the hopeful genocide of casting. I always wonder if black dudes who flaunt heavy chains see the sad irony past the bling. Must be damn strong shades.

I never saw Say Anything or Sixteen Candles, perhaps too young, or not classy enough, and I don’t bother watching now at some attempt at nostalgia, because nostalgia is about lost moments, not regaining  new ones. Adolescence happens once, and mine is sadly monopolized by hairbands. The first movie I saw w/o the escort of an adult was Mannequin (1987), forever seared in my memory. It’s about a, um, mannequin who comes to life at night, and wild shit happens. I had fantasies of some inanimate object coming to life yielding warm tits, but none did, so I fucked the area between two cushions of the family room’s “love seat,” perhaps taking things a little too literally. My favorite 80s teen movie is Can’t Buy Me Love (1987). I remember the guy getting the girl at the end, her straddling the riding lawnmower before the credits, the V. of her legs pointing to the G. spot of her O. (Sorry, did I mention I grew up on hairbands?) I want to live forever in moments before the credits, barely dodging the ego roll of ascending names towards the screen’s ceiling, sliced off at real life. The guy gets the girl. The sun sets. This is not Hemingway. It took is a decade to teach us this.

What was the Hipster (N+1, 2010) dourly talks about the 80s, and hits upon some good points which I can’t remember. I found the book really sad, because no matter how thoughtful the authors and participants (the book includes transcribed audience comments) were, everybody got more and more confused. I bought the book in a store which sold expensive art monographs and excessively smart t-shirts. I’ll always remember the line in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, in which Eggers mentions “what we had done for her as of late,” in reference to the Janet Jackson song (1986) which should be apparent. The bookish inside-jokey linguistically adroit way the phrase was fashioned points to a kind of collective [I can’t find the word] of pop pre-maturely deemed kitschy, but only by those in on the joke. This sounds cruel, but I worry about Janet Jackson’s face self-incurring the same maxillofacial transgressions as her sister and late brother. I miss her plump and happy on a black and white beach, one mile away from Flea slappin’ bass (shit, that’s the 90s). They didn’t play the song, me on my knees in front of the tv, taking pictures which I “pinched out” to zoom out on my iphone and cropped via screenshot to deresolution it, then emailed to myself, then resized for pixel width parameters, then photoshopped “curve” balances to exploit the abbreviated color saturations. For this blog. I wonder if this talk will seem absurd 20 or 30 years from now, like the nostalgia of “emailing to oneself” in a sans USB-cord kinda way, the way we think back about answering machines with mini cassette tapes inside, rewinding a love message over and over again, to hear it once more, physically softening the recorded voice emitted through real lips that we touched one night, in a dark bar, before the camera’s blue flash turned everything to ice. We are marble sculptures inside photos, briefly graced with the gin chisel chopping from within. We smile, as if such a face occurred naturally to us.

I never mentioned the fat girl in a white dress dressed up like Madonna circa Like a Virgin. She danced inside my tv like the rest of them, but alone, which made each partnerless limb seem useless. Her eyes were asteroids crashing towards men’s backs, burning coals of cosmic loneliness. She stood there, all 260 lbs. of her, buried in a costume of hate flesh. Inside, her skeleton danced too, the way skeletons do during DĂ­a de los Muertos. It is hard to honor a dead loved one, to see past the commentary of maggots, to forgive god or cancer or a shotgun. Or to be okay with a world that let’s a face explode like a cake baked, aimed, and thrown all for a joke. I don’t remember the exact day my friend shot himself in the face with a shotgun, but I know it happened at night, woken up at 2am by the phone by a mutual friend, as the sky outside my window was black — a free modern painting that happens every midnight — speckled with the same dim dots that I continue arranging in the sky to this day, wondering what was his sign, was there a sign, forming patterns in my mind, making lines with a wavering inaccurate index finger, lines like a flayed mark on a slave’s back, or drawings of wild animals in a dark cave.


  1. stephen

      Damn. Jimmy

      “the ‘coffin’ yoga pose” was at first, to me, simply a “lol” until i kept reading

  2. Frank Tas

      At 7th grade dances in the 90s, there were 1) the guys who got to grind with the hot girl, 2) the guys who stood around the hot girl hoping to get a turn grinding with her, and 3) the nerds who refused to participate and hoped their refusal to do so would make them look like they held loftier values.

  3. DiTrapano

      Cannot believe you brought up the end of Can’t Buy Me Love. (I thought I was alone.)

  4. DiTrapano

      Cannot believe you brought up the end of Can’t Buy Me Love. (I thought I was alone.)

  5. Jimmy Chen

      you are not alone. that scene was amazing

  6. Brian McElmurry

      Can’t Buy Me Love was my favorite movie too. But all time favorite 80’s movie is Valley Girl–it is totally tripendicular! Best word ever, tripendicular…. Sad of your friend.

  7. Craig Davis

      I really like white men’s dancing, when sincere.

  8. alex crowley

      Headbangers Ball was a wise choice.

      also, I just noticed that tiny, tiny smile in the lower left corner for the first time.

  9. alex crowley

      now it’s gone.

  10. Greg Pokarney

      That one-two punch of the last paragraph gets me every time I read it.

  11. adamhump


  12. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I don’t really know what to do in this situation.

  13. deadgod
  14. DJ Berndt

      I remember going to middle school dances and being the guy who danced with a girl that seemed pretty chill, even though she wasn’t attractive. I just needed a female to dance with so I wouldn’t be made fun of. Looking back, I can’t believe people survive that shit. There are kids doing it right now.

  15. deadgod

      river’s edge

      (crispin, ione, dennis, slayer)

      because she was talking shit

  16. deadgod

      ps: “[I can’t find the word]” – will ‘grokking’ do

      pps: ‘oh you nasty boy’ – jackson is quoting I Wish