1. Trying to stonewash my own jeans, using bleach, because buying the real thing was too damn expensive. (And failing miserably with the home-school fashion update, effectively destroying the jeans but still having to wear them until I could afford to buy more.)
2. Playing quarters with my college peeps, never pausing to consider that it was probably the most unhealthy drinking game ever invented, and then not understanding why we all got the flu at the same time.
3. Wondering if Madonna will ever be able to do anything to top the “Like A Virgin” performance at the MTV Awards, where she rolled her ass around on stage in a wedding dress. Little did we know that she was just embarking on her mission of world domination and incessant hairstyle changes.
4. Wearing a polo shirt inside a button-down dress shirt, flipping the inside collar over the outside collar, and thinking I was beyond cool, even though I was actually burning up and sweating to death. Adhering to high fashion required a lot of low self-esteem.
5. Watching “16 Candles” and thinking that the scene where Molly Ringwald gets both the hot guy and the birthday cake while sitting on a dining room table, as a Thompson Twins song plays in the background, was the most romantic thing ever. Of course, this completely doomed the prospects of any relationship I would have from that point forward.
6. Watching Tina Turner and her enormous hair suddenly become popular again, managing to pick up several awards and a mystifying British accent somewhere along the line. On a related note, Ike Turner continued to be completely worthless.
7. Learning, courtesy of Michael Jackson, that excessive amounts of hair product and shooting flames don’t work well together, especially if people are dancing and singing about drinking Pepsi and some fool does a high-kick at exactly the wrong moment.
8. Listening to the “Purple Rain” soundtrack for the 712th time, unaware that my relationship with Prince would one day change when he decided to wear those butt-less leotard pants. Pushing the envelope is one thing. Opening your personal envelope onstage is another.
9. Watching the Wham! video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and really, really wanting one of those “Choose Life” t-shirts. Of course, this was before the phrase was given a completely different meaning by the anti-choice contingent.
10. Running as fast as I could away from anyone sporting a mullet, although many of my relatives were felled by this horrible grooming choice. (“Business in the front, party in the back” is a slogan for a whorehouse, not a hairstyle, write that down.)
11. Wondering why people were still watching the “Dallas” TV Show. Didn’t they already shoot that one guy? And he lived? That sort of lowers the bar for any future plot developments. Then again, they eventually had an entire season that was just a dream while Bobby was in the shower, so what do I know about TV.
12. Listening to Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You” and being surprised that she could feel anything after all those drugs.
13. Still suffering emotional after-effects from watching the glorious “Grease” duo of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John re-team in that wretched “Twist Of Fate” movie mess that disappointed everyone in the bleachers at Rydell High. Somebody, at some point, should have said no, and they didn’t, which is why I never trust anybody.
14. Wondering how in the hell voters could have re-elected a Republican president who lied about things, re-directed huge amounts of money to his rich buddies, tried to destroy the middle class, and had a questionable past relationship with a cinematic monkey. Little did we know that, deep in the heart of Texas, a drunken shrub thought that sounded like a lot of fun and was taking notes…
15. Learning how to do all the “Footloose” choreography, so I could be just like Kevin Bacon and rescue the music-deprived youngsters of a small town just by using interpretive dance. Sometimes we forget to dream a little bigger than we should.
16. Sneaking our underage asses into the only decent gay bar in town, because all the hip people knew that they played the best music. And there would always be pretty lights and clever bitchiness.
17. Learning, courtesy of Vanessa Williams, that if you want to keep your crown as Miss America, you probably shouldn’t be waving your hoo-hoo around in artsy black-and-white photos.
18. Watching Mary Lou Retton win 400 gold medals in gymnastics at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and watching Torvill and Dean at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo as they made ice-dancing the coolest thing on the planet for a few weeks.
19. Ignoring some of my friends as they babbled about this little movie called “Ghostbusters” that I should go see. I chose instead to sit through the 46-hour “Amadeus”. All I remember is Tom Hulce giggling and lots of powdered wigs.
20. Sitting around and watching the news, stunned that Elton John had just married a woman. That worked out really well, eh?
21. Getting fed up with those idiots that were still running around bellowing “Disco sucks!”, ignoring the fact that disco had already flat-lined years before. It took, and still takes, a long time for current information to reach people who sport mullets and spend too many of their formative years in a barn.
22. Watching my friends plan exciting and exotic vacations and then staring glumly at the jury-duty summons which effectively neutered my first official college spring break.
23. Wearing nylon parachute pants that had more pockets and zippers than I had sense.
24. Discussing with friends this new-fangled music thing called a “CD”, and all of us agreeing that the format would never make it because it didn’t come with a really big album cover that you could stare at while recreational drugs kicked in.
25. Getting all gussied up (polo shirts and button-downs and chemically-altered pantalones!) so I could head over to a frat party on campus, only to discover that a prominent feature of said event was a thing called a “beer bong”. If you wanted any kind of street cred at all, you had to partake. This express-lane social drinking would soon lead to poor decisions and a confirmation that you might need to rethink your life strategy.
First, your pinky-swear friends would ditch you as soon as a really cute guy wandered in wearing loafers which had pennies shoved in that odd little pocket over the toes. Next, you would trip over something stupid (probably a phone cord, because nobody knew squat from wireless back then and there were coiled rubber lines stretching across all public spaces). Nothing says true sophistication like the inability to maintain your own balance when everyone else doesn’t seem to have an issue.
Finally, you would unceremoniously wander into the “mood room” of the house, where someone had rigged up some of those black lights, bathing everything in a purple glow. This glow was fun for about three seconds, until you realized that said glow was making a prominent display of your bleachy crotch. (Guess you didn’t get all that mess out of there, huh?) Right at the same time, everyone gathered on the various second-hand couches scattered about the crowed room would give you a look, making it very clear that, one, you might need to get yourself checked at an STD clinic, pronto, and two, you should never be invited to anything, ever again. And the faceless DJ would choose that particular moment to slap the Eurythmics’ “1984” on the turntable…
Ah, memories. I wouldn’t change a thing about those times. Except maybe all of it.
(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 03/16/12, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)
Categories: The Journey