I’m proud to say I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. Well, I’m not so proud of the plaid, flared pants I wore as a kid, but overall, I think it was a great time to grow up.
Come to think of it, it’s pretty amazing that any of us from that time period even survived to adulthood – no seatbelts, second-hand smoke everywhere (heck, cigarettes for sale in vending machines!), running around outside by ourselves with no cell phones until dark, scorching-hot metal playground equipment positioned over asphalt and guaranteed to give you a concussion, 3rd-degree burns, and/or Tetanus, and lawn Jarts (which were basically little spears that children were supposed to throw in a target on the grass, but inevitably ended up impaled in some kid’s skull every summer).
Still, there were many lessons learned in the ’80s. Lessons that my kids won’t learn (at least not in quite the same way.)
Here are 10 things growing up in the ’80s taught me:
Anyone growing up in the ’80s spent more time trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube than they did on their homework. And it taught us perseverance. Well, it taught most of us perseverance. It taught me, however, how to cheat with panache. There was no tell-tale peeling the stickers off for me, no siree. I learned to pop each little cube off and put it back together so no one would be the wiser.
Growing up in the ’80s, we didn’t have any of this instant access to whatever TV show we wanted to watch. There was no cable TV. There was no YouTube. There was no Netflix, no gorging ourselves on a 3-season marathon of Breaking Bad. There were Saturday morning cartoons, and we waited all week long just so we could get up early Saturday morning, grab our favorite sugary, marshmallow-laden cereal, fight over the prize, and eat our morning dose of diabetes-inducing goodness while watching The Snorks and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Playing MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House) taught us to aspire to great heights when planning our futures. Who will you marry? What car will you drive? What will your job be? How many kids will you have? This very scientific method of drawing a random swirl on a piece of paper can accurately predict that you will marry Rob Lowe, live in a shack, drive a DeLorean, be a stripper, and have 15 kids! What? It could happen!
The ’80s taught us to stand up for ourselves with such amazing comebacks as, “I know you are, but what am I?,” “Eat my shorts!,” and “Psych!” Yep, we were, like, totally gnarly back then!
We couldn’t listen to any song we wanted at any time we chose. Oh, no. When we wanted to hear that great new song, we had to listen to the radio all day long for our song to come on. And, of course, we wanted to record it so we could (a) pop the tape into our Walkmans and listen to it when we wanted, or (b) make a mix tape for someone special. Or we could save up our paper route money (kids used to get paid money for delivering these things called newspapers to people’s houses) or babysitting money so we could buy the record or cassette tape of the album and listen to 11 crappy songs just to get to the one we liked.
6. Creative Problem-Solving
You’re listening to the mix tape your boyfriend gave you — you know, the one labeled “Play me — Alex” because he just watched Fatal Attraction. (Either that or he really was some sort of stalker with a borderline personality disorder. Hmmm, I’ll have to think about that). Anyway, you’re playing the mix tape and suddenly, it starts to sound really funky. You eject the cassette, only to see a foot of tape strung out. What do you do? If you grew up in the ’80s, you know that you grab a pencil, stick it in the hole of the cassette, and wind it back up. We didn’t simply take our iPods to the Apple store. We old-timers are all kinds of creative with solving our music problems.
7. Deeper Meanings
Things don’t always mean what you think. Sometimes you have to look beyond the words. These classic phrases hold far more meaning than they seem on the surface: “Where’s the beef?,” “Gag me with a spoon!,” and my personal favorite, “Wax on.”
8. Go Big or Go Home
You could apply this lesson to any aspect of life, but in the ’80s, it pertained to hair. A can of Aquanet, a brush, and a hairdryer: spray liberally, grab a chunk of hair with the brush, hold it up while blasting the hairdryer on it. Ta-da! Bulletproof, big hair. Just make sure you don’t stand near any open flames.
9. More Is Better
Sure, this isn’t always the case, but hey, if you can get more for your money, that’s good, right? If you can get more hours of sleep at night, that’s good. If one piece of chocolate is good, two are better, right? And if you can wear one pair of socks at a time, why not two? Or three? Or four? And if one Swatch is good, why not wear five at once? Honestly, I have no idea why we were so fashion-impaired in the ’80s. I also don’t know why today’s middle-school boys are wearing joggers (Hammer pants) and the girls are in overalls or high-waisted jeans with suspenders.
Say you needed to write a report for school. If you were lucky (and filthy rich, I might add) you might just have a set of encyclopedias at home. Or if you were only a little rich, you might only have volumes A–M. Then when your teacher assigned a report on Zambia, you were out of luck unless you could get your friend with Algeria to trade with you. If you didn’t have encyclopedias at home, you had to wait until mom or dad could take you to the library where you would look in the card catalog for your subject and hunt for books. There was none of this Google, World Wide Web, Internet stuff back then. Nope, we had good ol’ Dewey Decimal and the resource section at our local library!
What can you add to this list?