Remember When We Were Young?

The things I miss about the 90's.
March 10, 2014
Disclaimer: This is mainly aimed for my classmates, or at the least those roughly our age. Some of it may not make sense, but it isn't like you were doing anything else important on the Internet.

Oh man, remember when we were young? Well, I don't mean we are old now, but we sure aren't young young. We are just under the halfway point for life expectancy (76 for men, 81 for women) in the U.S., so we really aren't far off from drooling on ourselves and mistaking the nice nursing home attendant for our grandson that never visits because it smells like death in our house. That happens around 40, right? I 'm not good with ages. Personally, I am a few months older than EPCOT center in Disney World, and it's a strange thought knowing that European tourists began crapping themselves at the sight of a big, silver ball around the same time I was doing the same thing in my parents' living room. But I am getting away from the point. So, let me get down to the meat here.

As anyone close enough to me knows, I am extremely nostalgic about my childhood. Or maybe just the 80's and 90's, I don't know. The point is, not a day goes by where I don't think about how awesome it was for us back then. Pretty much everything I write about involves time travel in some way, and I am currently working on a book that pretty much revolves around it (you should buy it...when I get finished). Maybe my memory is so fresh, probably because I didn't take a lot of pictures. For a long time I thought of this as a weakness, or maybe a psychological problem. Was I so unhappy with my present that I was trying to live in the past? Was roaming the halls of my high school in between classes and working late at McDonald's really that great? Most importantly, longing for the past continued even after I met my wife, which really began to bother me, until I realized I just wanted to drag her into the past with me, and since we are close in age, she remembers the same pop culture events and follows along in my little retro memory adventures. While it is true that currently, being 32 (damn, now I do feel old) and a college student, I am not where I would like to be professionally after spending 12 years in the military, I am actually enjoying my life much more now than when I was in the Air Force. So what is up with my head-ball?

Some theorize that people experience nostalgia in order to cope with anxiety or a feeling of failure. Well, that doesn't work with me. First, I am one of the least anxious people I know, even if I constantly have a crippling fear that white Michael Jackson's ghost will appear in my bedroom to spoon with me, so that can't be it. Failure? As stated, I am not necessarily where I think I should be, but I am an extremely logical person, so I understand that I must endure higher education with students that were born around the same time I was learning how to tight-roll my jeans.

"Suddenly, not attracting the opposite sex makes sense..."

I will get to where I want shortly, so I am not too worried about that. So is it some sort of weird, sexy disorder? Well, at the very least, it can be considered more of a fundamental human strength, playing a much bigger part than we previously thought. After doing a little research, which means I spent a lot of time on certain areas of Reddit, it turns out I am not alone in my little world. That means at the very least it is not something I go through alone. I have looked at this for a long time, and I think I have broken it down to somewhat sensible ideas. As much as I told myself I wouldn't do another "list" as my next piece, it turns out I am a liar. I lie to myself. Get over it. So here are the reasons, besides being mentally imbalanced, that I am just addicted our past.

The Colors

When we left the 80's behind, there were a few things that tagged along, and we were okay with that. Namely, all of those awesome neon colors. Now, it is very possible that only my mind works like this, but I find those extreme, vibrant hues to be awesome...almost embarrassingly so. At one point or another, we all dressed similar to this...

...and it was amazing. Truth be told, I still wear colors like this, just in less volume. Maybe a t-shirt here or a pair of shoes there that have some neon on them, but I wear them proudly. They don't necessarily trigger any memory and make me wistful, I just really enjoy the colors, even if they did make us look like we blindly walked into a special ed class on finger paint day. Hell, even most of the designs on these articles of clothing look like they were drawn by Helen Keller having a seizure. You may not like them, and that is fine. But don't lie and say you were above them back then, because you weren't; nobody was, so just deal with it.

The Music

I am just going to put this out there: every song from the 90's was a soundtrack song, or at least could have been. Think about your favorite songs from this decade, and then see if it was on a soundtrack or used in a movie trailer. If it wasn't, it was either from the Family Values Tour or Amy Grant, and even her music was probably used by some never heard of Christian film. Oh, you were into some pretty obscure stuff, you say?

"I only listen to Assuck and Savage Garden B-sides."

I call bullshit. Sure, you may have listened to the occasional rare song (I picked up as many Nine Inch Nails import CD's and singles as I could), but the majority of us were still crying in our bedrooms listening to "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith and claiming we only had the Armageddon soundtrack because some girl left it there and we hadn't gotten around to throwing it out yet. I have a 90's playlist that is comprised of approximately 180 songs, and it grows every week. Unlike the colors thing, listening to these songs does bring up memories (and not repressed ones where I was touched inappropriately at daycare). A lot of 90's songs were related to movies because they were so damn catchy, and they literally defined our decade. Some bands stayed dark and ominous, of course, but the radio waves, as well as our CD players and tape decks, were chock full of songs like "Kiss From A Rose," "Kiss Me," and "All Star." In case you didn't know because you are a horrible person, those were from the movies Batman Forever, She's All That, and Mystery Men. I say this often, but 90's songs are like pizza: even the worst is still good. If you don't believe this one, put together a list of these songs and then try to explain how you ended up wearing Reebok Pumps and watching Can't Hardly Wait while sobbing quietly in your bedroom.


Think back to your favorite TV show in the 90's. No, seriously, stop reading and think about it, I can wait...

...okay Zack Morris, the time out is over. Now, did the show you finally decided on have an easily understood message by the end? Did it involve hip teenagers or young adults? Did it involve lemurs having sex? That last one was a test; if you answered yes, you should shut off your computer and seek therapy. None of the shows we watched back then had unnecessarily convoluted stories or hard to grasp morals, they stopped just short of having scrolling text at the bottom stating the purpose of the episode along with an 800 number to call for additional info. What's more is that they didn't have to take it down some twisted road to get there. Most of them were happy and singing, or at the very least content where they were. It could be argued that it was largely unrealistic, and that TV today portrays the real world, but who cares? I live in the real world every day, why would I want to watch a TV show where others are doing the same thing I could do? I know reality TV technically started a while ago, but it really took off in the early part of the 2000's. Do I really feel like watching a bunch of people who I would rather slap with a dead halibut live together? No, I want to see a group of characters tackle problems that none of us would ever actually face, like becoming addicted to caffeine pills so we could balance our studying and teenage pop group.

"Early attempts at bringing sexy back weren't successful."

Quite a few of the best shows of the 90's were conveniently in one glorious spot: ABC's TGIF. Friday night on ABC had a history with great shows such as Leave It to Beaver and The Brady Bunch, but we watched it for prime programming that consisted of Full House, Step By Step, and Family Matters, just to name a few. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must have a marathon viewing of Saved by the Bell.

The Food

I've written about this subject ad nauseam, but what can I say, I loved this era for food. It was almost like science was putting all the backing and innovation it had into gimmicky foods. Clear cola? Check. Green ketchup? Check! It was probably a waste of resources, but that's what you get in a decade known for "Extreme!" marketing.

"Now with EXTREME anal seepage!"

Has it occurred to anyone else that the number of companies trying to market their product as healthy in the 90's was roughly equal to the number of Super Bowls the Minnesota Vikings have won? Did no one care?! I know I certainly didn't. It is no wonder childhood obesity really took off in the latter half of the decade, we were too busy shoving our faces with Dunkaroos and Gushers to notice that little kids weren't fitting in swings quite as well as they used to. I suppose it is fortunate that most of these foods really didn't make it past 2000, so I guess Y2K had some sort of killing effect after all. I won't bore you with food anymore, mainly because you should have read my previous posts already (loser), and also I have a secret stash of Surge I have to pour over myself while listening to "Can You Feel The Love Tonight."


This is probably a bit misleading, since I am actually referring to the lack technology, but you get the idea. Before we could mindlessly watch Netflix for hours upon hours while forgetting to wash ourselves for the past two weeks, or ignore the house fire next door while playing games on our phones, we had to get a little creative. The internet was something of a novelty back then, and video games were more of something to do when every other option was exhausted. Our maximum amount of technology realistically revolved around VCR's, a Walkman, or whatever Nerf had going on.

"That was the last time Cindy didn't invite Billy to play."

But even with those amazing advances in technology, nothing really beat going outside and being around your friends. And we actually talked! We weren't waiting for a text or checking Facebook while trying to juggle a conversation, we actively entered a conversation by locking eyes, sending and receiving messages, and maybe slowly licking our lips to make the other person uncomfortable. My friend Jeremy and I had a habit of rollerblading year North Dakota. That means that roughly 80% of the year we were trying to rollerblade through ice and snow (but when you are from a state that is #1 in binge drinking, I suppose it doesn't seem as dumb). Technology was a convenience, sure, but we never really let it get in the way of being active in our community. Don't get me wrong, I love the internet. I remember doing a report on Zimbabwe in Mr. Flynn's history class and desperately trying to find a book on the subject, and settling for a picture from National Geographic while playing "Africa" by Toto in the background. Needless, to say, the internet makes research a hell of a lot easier. But should it be? Half of the time we stop at the first source, refusing to look further and simply purporting wrong information. Then it usually ends up on a social network feed being shared around by like-minded idiots.

"I don't know what it is, but it sounds bad...must share!"

Don't act like you don't remember that one, and that you didn't share it. I, however, was an aspiring writer and journalist, so I researched it and found out how ridiculous you all looked. Maybe we should have to work a little harder by using the Dewey Decimal System or microfilm or whatever. That along with the decline in civic engagement we are seeing in our country tell me that something has gone horribly wrong in the past 20 or so years. But if you must keep all of this technology around, try to use it properly, and don't let it take over your life. Get out and do something in your community, go rollerblading in the winter with your friends, stand up naked in the back of your friend's truck while driving through the reservation if you must (those involved know what I'm talking about), but get out there.

Old Friendships

Alright, now this one may be directly attributed to school and not necessarily the 90's, but who cares. The summer after I graduated high school, I went off into the Air Force. It was something I wanted to do for as long as I could remember, and here I was, all ready to go off and serve my country. But the thing was, I wanted to come back home to do it. When the time came to choose where you want to be stationed, my top choices were in North Dakota or the surrounding bases, so imagine my surprise when I got Little Rock, Arkansas, a place that ranks somewhere around 82nd in education among the continental United States, and damn near first in sexual encounters with your sister. I'm not even worried about offending anyone from there because they won't see this until 2036 when they finally get the Internet (but seriously, I know not all of the people are bad).

"So I says, 'Toothbrush? You mean that thang you clean yer toilet with?'"

As it turned out, the computer erased my picks and just put me wherever they wanted me. I was thrown in with a bunch of people who either didn't want to be where they were, or were from there. I made friends, of course, but only a handful that were meaningful enough to resonate within me. While most of my friends either stayed in our hometown or went to a nearby college, I was thrust into the butthole of America with a mob of people as miserable as I was. I completely skipped out on all of the parties and gradual process of forming new friendships. It may come off as whiny, but I think I needed that slow transition. It took about two months before I was rarely talking to my friends back home, as they were going about their lives just fine without me. But here is where the 90's come into play: since I was already enjoying the decade and the events of it, being thrust into an entirely different culture without contact with my previous relationships was hard. I was in a bland world with camo, loud Sergeants, and conformity. Fast forward a decade plus, and I immediately jumped into another culture upon leaving the Air Force when I moved to Nevada. My wife is my best friend, of course, but I will always reminisce about the people I was around growing up, and all of the things we did together. It was important an important time for me, and nothing has ever been quite like it since. I suppose the time frame is just a coincidence, but it certainly imprinted on me. For now, I suppose the next best thing is to try to build a time machine to take my family back in time and laugh at everyone's hair.

"Oh, yeah, the time travel thing has been done."
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