Every generation goes through it. Every generation looks at the one behind them and tells tales that start with “Back in MY day.” My parents filled me with tales of the shortest mini skirts, not being able to wear jeans (or even pants for my mom) to school, driving in cars without seat belts, and typing college papers on typewriters.
Maybe it’s because I’m on the cusp of being a narcissistic millennial but I believe my generation is seeing the biggest gap between generations.
Being born in 1983, my generation is the last to remember a childhood free of the internet. This equated to more time outside, more imaginary play, more creativity, less pressure, less pop culture and sexual awareness, less over saturation, and in general more innocence.
Back in my day, messages weren’t conveyed via texts but by handwritten notes. Usually multiple ones a day and even better if they were written on Sanrio or Lisa Frank stationary. Keroppi was the best. Instead of collecting followers and likes on social media I collected stickers, pencils, erasers, pogs, and little plastic animals. In the summer I lived outside.
I spent my days at the pool, either swimming around and playing pool games like Sharks and Minnows or Run the Bases or playing My Little Ponies or Barbies in the grass while eating ice cream that cost 25 cents. In the evening I’d be running around with the other neighborhood kids playing kick the can or capture the flag.
Rainy days were spent inside playing the skateboarder pizza delivery game on Atari or Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. If my brother was doing his own thing I’d transform my entire bedroom into a Barbie house or set up an imaginary school or store. If we were really bored we’d torture our dog, Missy.
I know the way to hit my brother and get away with it was to slap him with my slap bracelet. Other accessories included stick on earrings, snap together beads, jelly bracelets, and a plethora of scrunchies.
My most treasured toy was my Samantha American Girl doll.
We had awesome sleepover parties where we’d play Light As A Feather Stiff As A Board and apply heavy blue eyeshadow on each other and then have fashion shows in our nightgowns and crimped out hair.
My summertime wardrobe consisted of Umbros and a baggy t-shirts (bonus points if they featured sun flowers) on top of my one piece Speedo or my SUPER cool floral bikini.I wore huge plastic glasses for most of my childhood because that was the only glasses option. At least they were pink! I was unaware of dressing trendy or cute.
When I got to fourth grade, the best place to shop was Limited Too, back when they sold preppy vests, stirrup pants, and boxy sweatshirts.
My family owned a few of our favorite movies on VHS but most of our movie collection was made up of movies we recorded from TV to our VCR. It was so exciting when we’d get a free promo weekend of HBO or Showtime because then we could record all of the newer movies! My mom would record General Hospital everyday on the same beat up VHS tape and we’d watch it together in the evening, rewinding the tape at the end so that it was ready to record tomorrow’s saga all over again.
I had my own cool pink radio/cassette player which I would use to play my favorite tapes: Amy Grant, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Ace of Base and the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. I also perfected the skill of waiting for my favorite new song to come on the radio and pushing “record” just in time.
Recess was spent playing Horse, 4-Square, trying to knock the other person off the other end of the see-saw, or pretending to do gymnastics on the balance beam. We all believed in the mythical tale of the kid who once swung so hard on a swing that he flipped himself all the way over the swing set. I looked forward to rain days so we could have inside recess and play teacher and write on the chalkboard. The go to classroom chore was being the student who got to go outside and clap out the dirty chalkboard erasers.
We had a computer in the house but it was mostly used to make very pixellated Mother’s day cards printed on paper that you had to tear the perforated edges off of. When I was in 7th grade the word internet started to be thrown around.
When I was in 9th grade my parents secured a second phone line so that we could log onto AOL and be able to receive phone calls at the same time. Yet we still didn’t spend too much time online because there wasn’t much to do. I was still happy about the second phone line because then I could spend HOURS talking with my friends on the phone.
In the early teen years I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio. The entire inside of my closet was covered in magazine cut outs of Leo. Love. I couldn’t wait to get my newest issues of Seventeen and YM Magazine.
I listened to Jewel’s “Pieces of You” album on repeat. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissett. I was with my Pop-Pop when I bought it and he made me play it for him when we got home from the mall. It was so embarrassing. By 8th and 9th grade the internet was gaining popularity. Now the only reason I logged online was to chat with my friends or boys.
In high school your AOL profile defined you. I would sculpt and edit mine on a daily basis. There was so much pressure in listing our favorite bands and movies and choosing song lyrics or a quote that would make you seem cool. No one was cool. Still, the only thing I did on the internet was chat with my friends and meet boys. It was an experimental adventure. But honestly, I formed some good friendships and even met a few in real life and became pen pals. All innocent fun!
I thought I was so cool because I doused myself with tommy girl and wore skater clothes. Delias was the coolest place to buy your clothes! But you had to order it via the phone or by a handwritten form that you’d send in the mail with a check. I had the coolest patent leather Airwalks. I made my mom drive around to all the surrounding malls to find them. No online shopping for us. My go to body product was Bath and Body Work cucumber melon and I displayed it proudly on my dresser.
My friends and I would make a lot of at home music videos and comedy videos as well as take a lot of staged dressed up photos. We had to be stingy with the photo taking though as film was expensive and it would usually take us weeks to get the film developed I got my first real cell phone when I got my license. I drove a 1988 Honda Accord that was originally owned by my grandmother and then passed down to my mom, then to my older brother, and then finally to me. I loved that car.
When I wasn’t jamming out to my latest mixed tape I was blasting my walk men that I hooked up via a tape deck. My big Nokia phone, complete with a pull out antenna, was kept safely in my glove compartment. I only turned it on when I needed to make a call, and for emergency’s only, like to tell my mom I was going to be 10 minutes past my curfew.
There was no Facebook or even MySpace. The only thing you had to worry about online was scripting the perfect “away” message on AOL Instant messenger. Your confidence and identity was built offline.
Life was (dare I say it again?) more innocent and free. What are your best memories from “back in the day”?