Does every generation really need a label? If you grew up in the 1980s, then congratulations, some old guy has labeled our generation “Generation X” after either Billy Idol’s first band or the 1991 book. Instead of Generation X, I’d rather be known as a child of the 80s. Here are both female and male perspectives of what it was like to grow up in the 1980s.
What It Was Like To Be A Guy Growing Up In The 1980s
Don’t call me a Generation X-er. I am a child of the 80s. That is what I prefer to be called. The nineties can do without me. Grunge isn’t here to stay, fashion is fickle and “Generation X” is a myth created by some over-40 writer trying to figure out why people wear flannel in the summer.
When I got home from school, I played with my Atari 2600. I spent hours playing Pitfall or Combat or Breakout or Dodge’em Cars or Frogger. I never did beat Asteroids. Then I watched Scooby-Doo. Daphne was a Goddess, and I thought Shaggy was smoking something synthetic in the back of their psychedelic van. I hated Scrappy-Doo.
I would sleep over at friends’ houses on the weekends. We played army with G.I. Joe figures, and I set up galactic wars between Autobots and Decepticons. We stayed up half the night throwing marshmallows and Velveeta at one another. We never beat the Rubik’s Cube.
I got up on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. to watch bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons like “The Snorks,” “Jabberjaw,” “Captain Caveman,” and “SpaceGhost.” In between I would watch “School House Rock.” (“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”) On weeknights Daisy Duke was my future wife. I was going to own the General Lee and shoot dynamite arrows out the back. Why did they weld the doors shut?
At the movies the Nerds got Revenge on the Alpha Betas by teaming up with the Omega Mus. I watched Indiana Jones save the Ark of the Covenant, and wondered what Yoda meant when he said, “No, there is another.”
Ronald Reagan was cool. Gorbachev was the guy who built a McDonald’s in Moscow. My family took summer vacations to the Gulf of Mexico and collected “Muppet Movie” glasses along the way. (We had the whole set.) My siblings and I fought in the back seat. At the hotel we found creative uses for Connect Four pieces like throwing them in that big air conditioning unit.
I listened to John Cougar Mellencamp sing about Little Pink Houses for Jack and Diane. I was bewildered by Boy George and the colors of his dreams, red, gold, and green. MTV played videos.
Nickelodeon played “You Can’t Do That on Television” and “Dangermouse.” HBO showed Mike Tyson pummel everybody except Robin Givens, the bad actress from “Head of the Class” who took all Mike’s cash flow.
I drank Dr. Pepper. “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” Shasta was for losers. TAB was a laboratory accident. Capri Sun was a social statement. Orange juice wasn’t just for breakfast anymore, and bacon had to move over for something meatier.
My mom put a thousand Little Debbie Snack Cakes in my Charlie Brown lunch box, and filled my Snoopy Thermos with grape Kool-Aid. I would never eat the snack cakes, though. Did anyone? I got two thousand cheese and cracker snack packs, and I ate those.
I went to school and had recess. I went to the same classes everyday. Some weird guy from the eighth grade always won the science fair with the working hydro-electric plant that leaked on my project about music and plants. They just loved Beethoven. Field day was bigger than Christmas, but it always managed to rain just enough to make everybody miserable before they fell over in the three-legged race. Where did all those panty hose come from?
“Deck the Halls with Gasoline, fa la la la la la la la la,” was just a song… Burping was cool. Rubber band fights were cooler. A substitute teacher was a babysitter/marked woman. Nobody deserved that.
I went to Cub Scouts. I got my arrow-of-light, but never managed to win the Pinewood Derby. I got almost every skill award but don’t remember ever doing anything.
The world stopped when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.
Half of your friends’ parents got divorced.
People did not just say no to drugs.
AIDS started, but you knew more people who had a grandparent die from cancer.
Somebody in your school died before they graduated.
When you put all this stuff together, you have my childhood. If this stuff sounds familiar, then I bet you are one, too.
We are children of the eighties. That is what I prefer “they” call it.
By Bryant Adkins
For The 80s Ladies
We are the girls of the 80s. We are not the first “lost generation” nor today’s lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand – or are discovering it as we speak.
We are ones who played with LEGO building blocks when they were just building blocks and gave Malibu Barbie crew cuts with safety scissors that never really cut. We collected Garbage Pail Kids and Cabbage Patch Kids and My Little Ponies and Hot Wheels and He-Man action figures and thought She-Ra looked just a little bit like I would when I was a woman…
Big Wheels and bicycles with streamers were the way to go, and sidewalk chalk was all you needed to build a city. Imagination was the key. It made the Ewok Treehouse big enough for you to be Luke and the kitchen table and an old sheet dark enough to be a tent in the forest. Your world was the backyard and it was all you needed. With your pink portable tape player, Debbie Gibson sang back up to you and everyone wanted a skirt like the Material Girl and a glove like Michael Jackson.
We flip through TV stations and stop at The A-Team and Knight Rider and Fame and laugh with The Cosby Show and Family Ties and Punky Brewster and ‘what you talkin’ ’bout Willis?’ We hold strong affections for The Muppets and The Gummy Bears and why did they take The Smurfs off the air?
After school specials were only about cigarettes and step-families. The Pokka Dot Door was nothing like Barney, and aren’t the Power Rangers just Voltron reincarnated?
We are the ones who still read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume, Richard Scary and The Electric Company. Friendship bracelets were ties you couldn’t break and friendship pins went on shoes – preferably high top Velcro Reebok – and pegged jeans were in, as were Units belts and layered socks and jean jackets and Jams shorts and charm necklaces and side ponytails and just tails. Rave was a girl’s best friend; braces with colored rubber bands made you cool.
The backdoor was always open and Mom served only red Kool-Aid to the neighborhood kids. I never drank New Coke. Entertainment was cheap and lasted for hours. All you needed to be a princess was high heels and an apron; the Sit’n’Spin always made you dizzy but never made you stop; Pogoballs were dangerous weapons and Chinese Jump Ropes never failed to trip someone. In your Underoos you were Wonder Woman or Spider-Man or R2D2 and in your treehouse you were king.
We forgot Vietnam and watched Tiananmen’s Square on CNN and bought pieces of the Berlin Wall at the store. AIDS was not the number one killer in the United States. We didn’t start the fire, Billy Joel.
In the 80s, we redefined the American Dream, and those years defined us. We are the generation in between strife and facing strife and not turning our backs. The Eighties may have made us idealistic, but it’s that idealism that will push us and be passed on to our children – the first children of the twenty-first century.
Fame brought us leg warmers and we wore the brightest neon clothes we could find. Annie taught us that the sun’ll come out tomorrow. And John Hughes films were watched over and over again (who doesn’t know ever line to The Breakfast Club, verbatim!?).
Rob Lowe and Brooke Shields were our A-list. Molly Ringwald perfected the White Girls’ Dance. Little House on the Prairie was on every day at 5:00.
WHAM brought back the Jitterbug. Pat Benetar set a trend in hairstyles.
We made friendship pins out of safety pins and beads. And remember Shrinky Dinks? Ponytails were cool. Braids were even better. And barrettes had ribbons.
Saturday night we stayed home to watch episodes of the Love Boat and Fantasy Island (the plane, the plane!), and short-lived sitcoms ruled the screen: AKA Pablo, Whiz Kids, Square Pegs, Misfits of Science, Gimme A Break, Growing Pains.
Thursday night was the best night on TV. The NBC Thursday night line–up: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court.
Your mother made you wear corduroy pants on the first day of school.
Food was cooked, not nuked. And papers were written by hand. Remember the Apple IIe?
Cool was Ocean Pacific vs. Maui and Sons and preppy was an alligator named IZOD the collar turned up.
The world discovered the Valley Girl.
Dog Town was the skateboard of choice. Roller Rinks still existed and rollerblades were virtually unknown.
The Pepsi challenge (which I took when I was nine on a pier with my grandparents and incidentally, I chose Coke!)
Timothy Dalton attempted the role of James Bond.
Davey Lopes was second baseman for The Dodgers. The Lakers were on a streak.
People held Hands Across America and sang We Are the World.
Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat in the White House in over a decade.
David Letterman made his late night talk show debut.
Germany reunited and the Berlin Wall came down.
Real ice–cream WITH fat!
Clothes were designed for real people and nine–year olds weren’t anorexic.
I’M A CHILD OF THE EIGHTIES, TOO! Not a member of Generation X. Never forget: We are the children of the Eighties. If this is familiar, you are one of us…
By Ilana Fisher