My sixteen year old daughter came downstairs the other day, snuggled beside me, and said she wanted to watch Tik Tok with me. This is something we do on the regular. She sends me her favorite videos and I’m not allowed to watch them until we are sitting alone and can enjoy them together.
It has been something pretty amazing for our relationship– we have made countless recipes together, tried Dollar Store finds, beauty trends, and watched lots of cute animal videos. When we were done without viewing, she said something that really surprised me: “I’ve seen a few videos about what it was like to grow up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and it looked so awesome and so much better. Was it?”
When you see your teens rolling their eyes at you over and over and treating you like you are too old fashioned to be up on anything, a statement like this will throw you off. However, my daughter wanted to hear more about what it was like to grow up during that time and I couldn’t wait to tell her.
Going to a blockbuster with your family or friends on a weekend night was everything. You had to get there in time to make sure that new release didn’t get rented out before you got your hands on it. There were snacks you could get on the way out (if you scraped enough money together). And who could forget those nights when you had to make due with movies that were leftover?
This used to be a whole thing; no one knows how to sunbathe like a Gen-Xer. You got the baby oil, the tanning magnifier, the tin foil, and the Sun-In for your hair. We’d bake in the driveway, on a roof, or at the beach for hours drinking Arizona Tea or Snapple.
Magazines and catalogues
Images were not at our fingertips. We used to get excited to get the JCPenny or Montgomery Ward catalog when we were kids and look at all the clothes and toys. My sisters and I would fold down the pages or circle everything we wanted for Christmas or our birthdays.
When we got older, we checked the mail all the time for Delias Catalogue and loved getting our Young Miss magazine in the mail. There were pictures from our favorite magazines and catalogues taped to our walls and rubbing the fragrance from the pages onto our wrists always happened.
Waiting for your favorite show
Who’s The Boss, Family Ties, Saved By The Bell, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Wonder Years, Seinfeld… I could go on. The point is that we had to wait each week for our favorite shows to come on and it made it so much better. Things like streaming shows were exciting at first, but there was nothing like hearing the theme song to your favorite show, or having to rush to the bathroom or get a snack during a commercial in hopes that you didn’t miss anything. The anticipation made it so good.
More face-to face interactions
Growing up without technology meant you wanted to see people and you had to work to do it. We weren’t able to pick up a device and facetime or snap someone. We had more get-togethers with friends, were always begging our parents to pick someone up, and when we were at a game or event, we were present and looking and talking to each other.
Now, when I go with my kids because they are dying to see their friends, everyone has their faces on their phones and I’m not sure why I even bothered to bring them because they aren’t even talking most of the time.
Riding bikes and walking to places
Walking to TCBY to get a fro-yo or to do some shopping was work but it was fun. My friends and I walked or cycled everywhere so we could spend time together. Those days were more free and my mother constantly tells me parents weren’t put into categories like “free range parenting” or “helicopter parenting.” Moms helped each other out more, and the kids roamed the neighborhood without as much judgement.
I was bored a lot as a kid but it taught me to be creative and find things on my own. My sisters and I loved inventing games, coming up with dance routines, drawing in our rooms, or making mixed tapes. There weren’t as many activities to like there are today, sports weren’t as intense, and there was no such thing as summer work.
Our freedom and downtime allowed us to really discover who we were and what we liked to do.
Writing notes to your friends.
There was nothing like getting a note from your friend or exchanging notes back and forth during class (when you weren’t supposed to). I remember writing letters to my friends during summer vacation too since we didn’t have things like unlimited calling or texting. There is nothing as personal as getting something handwritten.
To me, this has to be the biggest reason why Gen-Xers had it so great. There were no filters, you had a break from constantly seeing what everyone else was doing. You didn’t compare yourself to everyone (including perfect strangers) and we had a great deal of anticipation in our lives that made it magical.
Now, things are available at our fingertips and it really does take some of the magic away from every aspect of life.
As a Gen-Xer, I have to agree with my daughter: growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s was pretty rad.