Are you tired of hearing about 2017, reading think piece after think piece about this absurd, surreal, soul-numbing year and worrying about impending nuclear disaster? How about we take a trip in our time machine back to the year 2007 to peek at a few reminders of the state of politics and pop-culture (when there was a difference between the two) 10 years ago. Which celebrities were dating? What constituted a political scandal before our collective outrage meter imploded somewhere around Mike Pence? Most importantly, what was I doing?
2007 was the year I turned 20. TWENTY. A glance through my shockingly inactive Gmail account reveals some desperate post-break-up emails sent to my best friend who’d just moved across the country. They included a lot of angst but not much punctuation: “i just feel as if im not really living, im not really meeting my full potential or complete self.” These were followed alarmingly shortly with sappy emails to and from my new boyfriend, one of which included his senior philosophy papers as a way to impress me. To be fair, I was so impressed I married him ten years later. Our budding relationship is also featured prominently in 66% of my Amazon purchases from that year, which in 2007 meant literally two out of a total of three. One of the gifts I got him was a fun retrospective of Woody Allen, his then-favorite director. Ah, youth!
“But enough about you, Frida, what was going on in the zeitgeist?” is probably what everyone who is not my immediate friend and family member may be wondering. I’ll tell you! Please note that I’m still the person writing this, so it will largely revolve around what was interesting to a 20-year-old college student who believed adding tuna to Tuna Helper was cooking.
In 2007 it was a joy to have a celebrity obsession. Instagram didn’t exist, putting absolutely nobody at risk of figuring out how mundane or racist their favorite actors were. We still stalked Perez Hilton and US Weekly had real A-listers on the cover, not the most recent contestants of Dancing with the Bachelor: Teen Mom Reunion. One of the biggest scandals was a dude getting fired from “Grey’s Anatomy” (a show I recently found out is STILL ON THE AIR) for using a gay slur. Britney Spears shaved her damn head. Lindsay Lohan went to rehab, like, four times. Paris Hilton went to JAIL. Break-ups that sent the collective unconscious reeling included Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz (!), Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling (!!), siblings Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson, and Puff Daddy/P Diddy/As-of-two-days-ago-Love and Kim Porter.
The final installment of the Harry Potter books, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released—the end of an era for millennials if there ever was one. 2007 also marked the year the US housing bubble burst, the end of the era of finding success and earning enough money to purchase a house and avocados. Being 20 and having a limited understanding of the economy meant I likely wasn’t paying attention to that news, but rather watching “Chocolate Rain,” which also debuted that very year. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard as the first time I saw little Tay Zonday awkwardly move away from the microphone while the words “I move away from the mic to breathe in,” flashed across the screen. Memes today feel inevitable—let’s all take a moment to remember those early days when your friend couldn’t wait to show you a video in her living room, and you huddled around the warm glow of the computer together. Speaking of computers, I was on Facebook in 2007. I’ve been on Facebook for more than ten years. I wrote and received a lot of personal messages on my wall, like “Hey wow I remember u from Mclean how are u doing?” which is pretty hilarious considering I’d graduated high school two years earlier. Save the remembering for a little later, bro!
Politically speaking, W. was President and we thought we knew the extent of what having a dangerous ding dong in office meant. I can almost see us now—complaining about his grammar and his goofy face. I want to run but my feet won’t move. As his two terms were nearing their end, a woman named Hillary Clinton announced her intent to run for Democratic nominee for President. So crazy—a woman in the White House! Anyway, glad we gave up on that dream before things got out of hand. In other extremely unfunny news that shouldn’t be political but is, in April a Virginia Tech student went on a shooting spree and killed over 30 people, which at the time was the largest mass shooting in American history. That record is now held by the Las Vegas shooter, who in October, 2017 killed 58 people and injured 546. Ten years later, I still remember sitting in my living room in Richmond, Virginia —three hours east of Blacksburg— feeling the world hold its breath. Family from around the world contacted me, worried. Now when a shooting happens, we blink.
For less devastating political fodder, does anyone remember Larry Craig, Senator from Idaho whose political career ended in 2007 after he propositioned an undercover police officer in an airport bathroom by surreptitiously tapping his foot and waving his hand under the stall? Me either, but apparently that was the scandal of the year, which is as unsurprising for its ubiquity (anti-gay politician is gay AF) as it is surprising that we still care so deeply about people’s sexual proclivities and pay law enforcement to hide out in bathrooms hoping to entrap people just trying to get laid. Let them at it —airports are so boring!
2007 was a long time ago, but not so long. The language to describe the passage of time in the new millennium has always eluded me —the aught’s, the 2010s—- it never comes as easily as the 80s or the 90s. Similarly, a memory I thought about in one way when I was 20 could mean something entirely different to me ten years later. Maybe that’s how it feels to anyone who is coming of age, until they decide to look back. Maybe in 2027, when my digital footprint has reached epic proportions, things will have arranged themselves in a way that’s easier to understand. But probably not.