1994 Was a Prison of My Own Making


1994 would extend to my personal life too. The day before my new year began, I made a list of those acquaintances with whom I had interacted at least twice over the past three weeks — about thirty in all — and emailed them a note explaining that, while I would be unreachable for the next week by email, text message, instant message, Instagram direct message, Twitter direct message, tagged tweet or tagged Instagram comment, I was not in danger, in rehab, or even out of town, and I would love to hear from them by phone (including at my work extension) if they were inclined to talk or make plans. (Few were.) I transformed my iPhone into a landline by disabling notifications for every application except calls, and leaving it plugged into a wall outlet in my kitchen. I printed out seven pages of phone contacts because I did not know any of my friends’ phone numbers, nor indeed the phone number of the man I have been dating for four years and am engaged to marry.

I bought a genuine 1994 Radio Shack television set with a built in VCR on eBay. It arrived broken. A Radio Shack cassette tape recorder also purchased on eBay also arrived broken. 1994 was not that long ago, but everything from 1994 was broken, or seemed so. I fretted that the 1994 Sony Walkman I received was also broken because no music emanated from it when I turned it on, but then I discovered that the Walkman merely demanded headphones before it would play (static-clogged radio stations or a tape of loon calls I bought at a thrift store for a quarter). I worried that the alarm clock I bought as a stand-in for my phone alarm — a rotund plastic polar bear sunbathing in a lounge chair at what nearby signage indicates is the North Pole, holding a bottle of Coca-Cola in each hand, set atop a circular red digital clock base printed with the Coca-Cola Company logo — was broken, because I couldn’t get it to sound. The problem turned out to be a missing battery; it had been so long since I’d used an electronic with a battery cartridge I was intended to be able to open (or locate) that I’d almost forgotten to check. (I do suspect the artifact may still have been broken, because, although I eventually got it to sing “Coca-Cola’s always the one! Whenever there is fun there’s always Coca-Cola! Yeah!” on repeat, the bear never rotated slowly, the way it allegedly did on all the other 1994 suntanning-bear-enjoying-two-bottles-of-Coca-Cola alarm clocks for sale on eBay.)

Because I couldn’t bear the idea of giving up even a single week of planning my wedding, I bought the 1994 Special Celebrity Wedding Issue of People magazine (which featured Marla Maples — married late December 1993 to the “tycoon” Donald Trump — on the cover) as well as the 308-page 1994 “Bride’s All New Book of Etiquette.” (Page 213: “‘Don’t DJ’s show up at parties in jeans, wearing gold chains?’ Simply specify that you would like the DJ to wear formal attire.”) I ordered the cheapest cookbook from 1994 I could find, which was titled “Cooking Light Cookbook 1994.” I borrowed a 1994 Zagat from a co-worker.

To help me identify buildings it was safely 1994 to go into, I acquired “New York, a Guide to the Metropolis” a walking tour book published in 1994 that is still recommended reading (by the government of New York City) for individuals hoping to obtain an official sightseeing guide license. For entertainment, I bought the books “The Celestine Prophecy” and “Prozac Nation.” And for exercise, I purchased guided aerobic VHS tapes on eBay.

Because of a 1994 Times trend story about humans using horsehair products, I purchased Mane & Tail shampoo and conditioner (which seem to be sold only in humongous horse sizes) at my local drugstore, as well as L’Oreal Paris True Match Foundation (debuted 1994), Maybelline Great Lash mascara (1971) and Noxzema Original Cleansing Cream (1914). I bought a 1,188 page 1994 manual with the deceptively simple name “Using the Internet,” which featured chapters like “BBS, UUCP, and Other Polled Services” that were incomprehensible to me, a person who exists more on the internet than in real life.