I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s amazing how much the atmosphere has changed since then. Kids spend far less time outside, there have been huge advances in technology, an even larger push to be politically correct and an increase in public displays of hatred and the endless worrying for our children’s safety, even in schools where they are supposed to be safe. When I was growing up, I could play outside freely and no one ever dreamed of a school shooting. Most kids I knew ate what they wanted because we all got plenty of exercise. There wasn’t as much of a concern for eating healthy or putting children on diets.
Remember when kids played with toys that allowed children to use their imagination? Battery operated toys were the exception. A large box could be turned into a grocery store or an ice cream shop at a moments notice. These were the days of My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch and Strawberry Shortcake. I loved the strawberry shortcake scented dolls. My favorite stuffed animal was a Hallmark Rainbow Bright Cat. I lost mine and am still looking for one at a reasonable price to this day!
I had to have an Etch a Sketch. My secret was that I couldn’t see any of the lines it made, but I had to have one anyway. Now, the Light Bright I could see and make designs with. How about those jelly bracelets? The ones with the glitter in them? I wore those for a year straight after a friend and I traded bracelets in class. Trading jewelry was a favorite pass time in second grade.
In the 90’s our entertainment on the television consisted of talk shows, game shows and sit-coms. These were the days when Maury Povich used to feature other topics besides paternity. How about when MTV played actual music? If they weren’t playing music videos, the shows were related to music. What about the movies? The first movie I saw with a group of friends was, “Dumb and Dumber”. We laughed at the bulldog mixed with Shih Tzu joke. For my 13th birthday, a few of us saw the movie, “Scream.” My mom asked me what the movie was about and my response was, “I don’t know. A girl.” I wanted to avoid the awkwardness of it. I rarely ever saw horror movies in our home so it was a treat. I saw Titanic three times in the theater. Yes, I cried and yes, it’s embarrassing! To defend myself, I went with different people each time. Music was another big part of our entertainment. Most of the stuff I listened to would be cringe worthy today, but it was popular at the time. Back then, when you were looking for uncensored music or if you wanted to hear rap and r&B in general, you had to find the nearest college radio stations. then you had to figure out when they played the types of music you liked. In the small town where I lived, they never played that stuff on mainstream radio. The other option was to watch MTV Jams first thing in the morning before school.
Technology moves fast, doesn’t it? I remember cassettes with their ribbons breaking constantly. I’d buy blank tapes and record from the radio. The most annoying thing was when the DJ talked over the intro or ending of a song. If you got a sudden burst of static, that ruined your recording too. After cassettes came cd’s. Those were a step up, but they still got scratched and skipped. Who knew at the time that they’d be basically obsolete within a decade. Let’s not forget the phones. When you had to pull that phone chord as far as it would go to get into a comfortable position because you talked on the phone for hours. then there were those situations where you needed to get to the other end of the house. “Hold on, I have to put the phone down.” Then you’d run to pick up another phone. Enter the cordless phone and problem solved. Almost every bit of technology changed since then as we moved into the digital age.
Who remembers the Oreo Big Stuf? I almost thought I had dreamed this up until I saw them on Wikipedia. They were a real invention because I remember taking them apart, eating them piece by piece at my grandfather’s kitchen table. They were discontinued in 1991, so I hadn’t given any thought to how many calories in every bight. That would come a few years later when I started to worry about my weight and struggled with body image like most girls do. I remember large Hostess cupcakes, squeezable juices, fruity numbers and girl scout cookies that were reasonably priced. Well, at least compared to today’s prices. This was back when your happy meal came in an actual plastic lunch box and a lot of fast food places gave you reusable cups or bottles. There were so many different snacks and candy and I can’t even remember what most of them were called.
What I miss most of all is the friendships. My best friend and I would talk about our aspirations. We thought we should open up a beauty salon when we grew up. I’d do the shampooing and she’d do the cutting. We talked about the names of our future children, our dream houses and places we wanted to see. We took trips to the beach, shopped at the mall, went to the movies and skated at the roller rink. We ate mozzarella sticks and drank slushies. We’d make stupid jokes and laughed until it hurt. We’d get up at 3 AM to play Super Mario Brothers. We had used nail polish and did a terrible job. By the time we realized there was no nail polish remover, it was way too late. We thought we’d try Soft Scrub instead. Needless to say, that didn’t work, but it was a hell of a shock to her mom. We were like family and I spent almost as much time at her house as I did my own.
It was one of those friendships where you knew there’d be someone to call at the end of the day. You knew your weekend plans were set before they were even officially made. You knew you’d never be alone. We experimented with makeup and talked about boys. Unfortunately, we talked about other girls too and that was a huge downfall. Eventually, that friendship fell apart. After the cliques were formed and our interest in boys grew, it was never the same. There were more disagreements, our common interests faded and our differences became more apparent. Things that never mattered before suddenly did because when people get older, their perceptions change. If there was one thing I could put in a time capsule to save from my childhood, it wouldn’t be treasured well-loved toys, those jelly bracelets or the candy that brings back memories. It would be friendship. It would be the happy memories, the laughs and that feeling of belonging and never being alone.