Yes, You Can Buy Happiness

With products that target ‘90s nostalgia, a writer makes a case for purchasing some peace of mind

Watching Selena Quintanilla per­form in the early ’90s was, for me, a religious experience. Her thick, brown hair formed a halo as she danced onstage singing “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” beaming into my living room with that magnetic smile and signature bedazzled bra—which I tried to replicate, although I had yet to reach puberty.

She was a popular Mexican- American Tejano singer from Corpus Christi, Texas. I was an 11-year-old immigrant from Iran living in Los Angeles and navigating an identity crisis. Witnessing her seamlessly blend dual cultures, in music and style, helped me come to terms with who I wanted to be. Though Selena died young—shot by a friend in 1995—her legacy helps me re­member who I had been: a shy junior high schooler who took comfort in creating distance from the outside world in order to recover from it. Listening to Selena now, I’m taken back to my childhood room, where I wrote bad poetry in my journal and choreographed dance routines to her songs, safe from anyone’s judg­ment but my own.

When MAC Cosmetics recently debuted their Selena-inspired col­lection, I was ecstatic to have a tan­gible way of revisiting my youth. The limited-edition products bearing the names of her hits—like a dirty cherry red lipstick called “Como La Flor”—come in royal purple packaging stamped with Selena’s signature, and sold out the day they debuted.

This was more than makeup. The cosmetics brought me back to a time when my world was more intimate and less contrived. They offered a reprieve from the ca­lamitous 24-hour news cycle and extended virtual audiences that have come to construct my real­ity, and thus my constant anxiety. I could mentally relocate, if only momentarily, for a price.

Sixteen years after the new millennium, the ’90s have been revived in everything from food to film to fashion. Capitalizing on a generation that’s prone to “early onset nostalgia,” according to Ja­mie Gutfreund of global marketing agency Deep Focus, brands are seizing the moment and peddling millennials’ childhood back to them, to extremely profitable effect. Jurassic World’s 2015 premiere, 22 years after Jurassic Park became a cult classic, broke global box office records raking in over $500 mil­lion. Pokémon burst back onto the scene via an ingenious app-based makeover, becoming, yet again, a cultural phenomenon. Friends of mine scrambled to buy tickets to the “MY2K” reunion tour featur­ing former boy band sensation 98 Degrees, and MTV Classic arrived in the summer, bringing back pro­gramming from its heyday. For the first time in years, I was signing up for cable and coaxing my feet into a pair of jelly sandals.

The compulsion to cocoon ourselves in the warmth of nostalgia is deeper than clever marketing tactics or the cyclical nature of trends. These goods and entertainment offer real-time access to the safe space of our youth, the ability to re-experience the actual things that rooted us in that time. We aren’t just buying back childhood—we’re buying back something our digital lifestyles have robbed us of: the ability to reflect. It’s a coping mechanism in a world that’s changing too fast, a world that feels wholly unstable. Life feels ambiguous, frightening even.

Unlike our parents, who experi­enced a slow burn when it came to technology, and the current genera­tion, who can’t recall a time when we weren’t constantly plugged in— millennials are perpetually stuck in the middle. We can easily navigate the incessant stream of informa­tion, but we also remember when free time meant venturing outside, teenage affection was demonstrat­ed through a mix CD, and delivered goods took up to 28 days to reach us. We are the last generation to remember life before the internet consumed us, the ones who could turn it off simply by disconnecting the phone line.

We’ve also come of age during a time when achieving success through hard work hasn’t really held up. After inheriting a crumbling economy and finding it increasingly difficult to participate in the great American Dream milestone of home ownership, the urge to transport ourselves back to carefree adolescence feels natural.

We’re in a bit of a cultural purgatory, but by purchasing the past, and incorporating it into the present, our foundations stabilize. When Selena died, I was devastated. I felt like a piece of myself disappeared along with her. It may sound trivial, but applying the MAC x Selena wine-red “Dreaming of You” lipstick makes me feel a little more human, a little less machine. I’ll happily spend $18 for a portal into palpability, a chance to remember my younger self and look into a real mirror, instead of a virtual one.


We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News

Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less

Facebook: kktv11news

A post on the Murdered by Words subreddit is going viral for the perfect way a poster shut down a knee-jerk "double-standard!" claim.

It began when a Redditor posted a 2015 Buzzfeed article story about a single dad who took cosmetology lessons to learn how to do his daughter's hair.

Most people would see the story as something positive. A dad goes out of his way to learn a skill that makes his daughter look fabulous.

Keep Reading Show less