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A couple of tables away from us, at a Vietnamese restaurant on the Near North Side, a group of young women were having dinner. My wife and I quickly gathered that they worked at a big law firm: they gossiped for several courses, with fervent concentration and great analytic skill, about the attorneys in their office. Then they wandered on to movies and TV, and the whole group provided a detailed synopsis of that week's Melrose Place for the one person who'd missed it. Finally they got on to a postgame wrap-up of a recent party they'd all attended. The focus narrowed to a woman who'd been at the party but clearly wasn't at tonight's dinner. Her behavior, or her dress--we couldn't tell exactly which--had made her stand out, though we couldn't tell exactly why. They didn't seem sure themselves, talking her over: there was something maddeningly elusive about the way she'd been that night. One woman groped to describe it: "She was just so--so--1992!" All of them groaned in recognition. The woman hastened to add: "But I don't mean in a bad way." "Oh, no," they all quickly agreed. "Not 1992 in a bad way."

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