The Journey

25 Things I Would Be Doing on a Friday Night If It Was Still 1984

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, reducing the denim to the consistency of mosquito netting.)

2. Playing “Quarters” with my college peeps, never pausing to consider that it was probably the most-unhealthy drinking game ever invented (aside from Russian Roulette), and then not understanding why we all got the flu at the same time. (Of course, the hormonal slap-and-tickle that often followed the drinking didn’t do much for the immune system, either.)

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, incessant hairstyle changes, and a burning desire to show her uncensored burning desire in the metal “Sex” book that surfed coffee tables for a few years there. (And no, the carpet did not match the drapes.)

4. Wearing a polo shirt inside a button-down Oxford 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. And required extra trips to the laundry room, since I only owned three shirts in the first place.

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 satisfaction prospect 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.

Useless trivia: I actually own a “Who Shot JR?” t-shirt. I bought it many years after the TV frenzy, but still. And I wore it when I wrote and hosted a murder-mystery shindig for my partner’s Fortieth. He was the victim, one of the guests was the surprise killer, and the weapon was a giant dildo. I am SO not making this up. Steely Dan, anyone?

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 decimate 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. And a decade or so after The Shrub Years, an orange-hued cinematic monkey made both Reagan and Bush the Younger look like Mother Teresa in comparison to Trump’s amoral, despicable attempt to destroy the country.

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 via the wonders of 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, clever bitchiness, and the illicit thrill of waiting for the bigoted police to raid the place. (“The po-po just pulled up. Somebody call Kevin Bacon!”)

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, lots of powdered wigs, and the subsequent hit song released by Falco. (“Rock me Amadeus. Rock, rock.”)

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. Of course, this was not the only time in my life that a courtroom interfered with, or was the result of, ill-advised social activities.

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 fake friends would ditch your ass 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” (translation: Hook-Up Central) of the frat 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 horrifyingly 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?)

As if they had choregraphed this in anticipation of your nerdiness, all the cool people gathered on the various second-hand couches scattered about the crowed room would give you the same look, one that was mostly disdainful but had a shimmer of pity, which was even worse. The look said three things: One, ew. Like, for sure. Two, you might need to get yourself checked at an STD clinic, pronto. “Dude, why is your Johnson phosphorescent?” (Hey, it was a private, somewhat-competitive college. You didn’t get into this place without a measurable vocabulary.) Three, you should never be invited to anything, ever again. And the faceless DJ, tucked away in a remote corner behind the beer bong extravaganza on the main stage, would choose that particular moment to slap the Eurythmics’ “1984” on the turntable.

I turned to fumble my way toward the nearest exit, my firefly crotch lighting the way, intent on escaping this place that never felt right, heading back toward my people, those who loved ice-dancing and the Thompson Twins and choosing life and didn’t care if you wore two shirts at one time or not.

Ah, memories. I wouldn’t change a thing about that year. Except maybe all of it.



Previously published. Revised and updated with extra shame for this post, but the essence of the bleach remains the same. And thank you, long-ago cool people on black-light couches. You made me stronger when you really meant to weaken, and the songs I sing have lyrics that include everyone, even if they only have three shirts. Rock, rock.


81 replies »

  1. That two shirt thing must’ve been regional, I certainly do not recall it.
    I do however recall everything else.

    I added bleach to the wash with my new 501s to fade them… never liked stonewashed. Then I’d get the sewing machine our and turn those 501s into skinny jeans. I only needed to do the calf area.

    Of course, I was Sweet 16 in 1984, not college age. Fast Times At Ridgemont High was very much like my high school. No surprise, the actual school Cameron Crowe went to was only a few miles away.

    Thanks for the nostalgic trip. It was totally rad, dude! I never did a beer bong though… I was strictly a Bartles & Jaymes girl

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wait, I was a Bartles & James girl, too! I had forgotten all about that mess until just now, and I’m experiencing flashbacks. There was a time, right after the college days, when I would go buy an entire case at this one liquor store that allowed me to “mix and match” (spending far more money than I should have at the time, but it was nothing compared to the cost these days). Then my quirky friends and I would polish off the box before the weekend was out. Thanks for that memory trigger.

      In those formative years, I was not a fan of actual beer. I just didn’t care for the taste. But I would do the beer bong thing because, well, you know how peer pressure works, especially when you’re still trying to figure yourself out. Now? Although I do enjoy a good cocktail, my go-to is beer. It’s low key and much easier to recognize the point when I shouldn’t have any more… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • I like beer more these days too. Stout, to be precise. I live in the microbrewery mecca, but if I never have another IPA, I’ll be thrilled! Give me a Guinness TYVM. For something lighter, I like the Stella Artois Cidre, or a cream ale🤓🧐🥸🍻💕

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Except for the two shirts, I remember most of those things. But I didn’t like Madonna and I was a very serious student. No fun at all. 😉 Actually, I was posted to Cyprus and living it up, quite literally, whenever I got leave from the line.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was a very serious student as well, all the way through high school and my first year of college. But by the second year? I was fed up with the conservatism and Oklahoma and the aggressive stifling of original thought, and “book study” transitioned to “life study” and I eventually dropped out of college to go learn more about that “life” angle. Some lingering regret about the “dropping”, but it was what I had to do at the time, for my own sanity…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I wasn’t even in the same continent but I can relate to many of these points. It’s strange because I was 12 years old at that point, and I don’t get how I even knew these, being in a small conservative part of India. But somehow many of your points seem very familiar.

    Liked by 4 people

    • One thing I’ve discovered, fumbling my way through many decades of existence, is that, despite sometimes-wide cultural differences across the planet, people who managed to live through a certain time period seem to absorb the same basic touchstones of that time, give or take a few variances…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. #10. I wrote it down to send to my brother-in-law, who has devoted his life to erasing all documentation of his unfortunate mullet period, but who knows I retain digitized evidence for future blackmail/family Thanksgiving purposes.

    Liked by 4 people

    • When I look back at family photos, especially group shots wherein we are celebrating something or another, and I assess the wide variety of our hairstyles? I really don’t understand why most of us still remain on speaking terms… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • I clearly WASN’T thinking, based on the faded photographic evidence. Perhaps someday I’ll tell the sordid tale of one outfit that I particularly relished, with multi-zippered, form-fitting parachute pants and an equally-zippered sweatshirt that allowed me to modify my blouse from long-sleeve to short-sleeve to no-sleeve, and I could even zip away the midriff section if I was feeling especially saucy. And trust, I zippered that mess in all kinds of ways.

      I was a complete idiot.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ah yes, zippers. While I never wore parachute pants… I have a lovely photo of myself in a ripped crop top, multi zippered jacket, cigarette jeans with zippered ankles and pumps. Tres chic.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I’m just not a fan of “Dallas”. My partner WORSHIPS the show, and one year he forced me to sit through all 712 seasons (because he has all of them on DVD, natch) and it was a true test of our relationship. (Trivia: As a lark, I actually did blog-post reviews for one of the seasons, can’t recall which one at the moment. Maybe I should drag that mess out for re-posting here on Bonnywood? Hmmm….)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I thought you choose 1984 because of George Orwell’s book, but then in the end I encounter “Eurythmics’ ‘1984’ on the turntable”, which sound like an item of dystopia, despite not being a book. So we are comparing now with 1984? The world turns out to be much crazier now than 1984. LOL. All of the 25 things are exotic to me, and often I don’t know what they are referring to, but I know Amadeus is too long; Mary Lou Retton is a wonder; nylon parachute pants are interesting to imagine.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oh, there was definitely an intentional Orwellian reference in this mess. In fact, the Eurthymics song was actually written for a movie-version of “1984” that was released that year. (Trivia: The band was originally hired to score the entire movie, but the producers cut out most of their songs in the final cut.) And yes, Orwell’s book now seems somewhat tame compared to real life. On the other hand, he was very precise with some of his predictions…

      Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent wordplay, sir.

      Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the stream-lining, regardless of gender. To each his own, though; I’m certainly not judging. And I did do some experimentation a time or two, but the look just wasn’t for me…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Me, I was in some dark underground club dancing to The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Those were good times, and nary a polo shirt to be seen–most of my gay male friends were trying hard to look like David Gahan and Robert Smith!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Oh, I certainly spent plenty of time in underground clubs, some of which required you to risk your life just to get through the crime-infested neighborhood so you could make it in the front door. But once inside? Everybody was free to be who they wanted to be, and that sensation of release still echoes in my mind today. We would spend all week contemplating our next big adventure, and then suddenly it’s “Friday, I’m in Love…” You never knew who you might run into on the dance floor, but it didn’t matter and that was part of the thrill… 😉

      Liked by 3 people

      • I heard about the underground clubs in New York City, which were raided by police from time to time in those days. It’s very dangerous for those who got caught–their names got published and smeared in the newspaper; their jobs lost; their social status ruined.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I was 24 in 1984, older, wiser, and a lot sadder than even three years before that. That was the year I brushed up against being homeless (brushed HARD), and getting $250 for two week’s work doesn’t stretch far in anyone’s book. So no trendy couture, going to first-run movie events, hanging out at seedy bars, or doing anything fun. Survival tops hijinks. Sorry if that was a bummer dude, but it was what it was. Still, the music made it all bearable.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Gracious!
    1. I never wore stone washed jeans. I like the dark ones. I never owned a pair of jeans until I was 21 years old.
    2. I have never heard of “quarters.” Maybe that’s because I’ve never been a drinker.
    3. I’ve heard a few of Madonnas’ songs. My youngest daughter was really into her. I drew a picture of her (Madonna) for my daughter on her birthday. She framed it and still has it.
    4. Umm…
    5. I never saw 16 candles.
    6. I liked Tina Turners’ music. Then she flew the coup. And I agree about Ike. 😦
    7. Didn’t really listen to Michael Jacksons’ music, but I thought he was cute…no matter what he looked like through the years.
    8. I have never heard the song “Purple Rain,” but I know about it.
    9. Never heard of the “Wham!”
    10. Knew about the mullet, but the ex never had one.
    11. Dallas! I lived in Dallas when the show was being made, but I never watched it. Now, not really knowing the show intimately, we were invited to Southfork to eat barbeque. You and I both know that the “Dallas” house wasn’t really in Dallas proper. The swimming pool was hilariously small and the interior of the house was of course, not what you saw on the show. Ole’ J. R. was there, and so was Bobby, but the one who stood out to me, was Ray Krebbs. He wore his jeans high and his cowboy hat low. He was purty.
    My sister couldn’t wait for the show to come on. She called me and told me that “Bobby” was going to die, so I rolled my eyes. But that night I watched it with my two oldest daughters. They were 5 and 6. They lay on the floor, with their heads in their hands, just watching and crying. When the show was over, the 5 year old looked at the 6 year old and said, “who was that?” The 6 year old said, “I don’t know.” Then they were off to bed.
    12. I’ve never heard of Chaka Kahn. 😦
    13. I’ve never seen Grease. 😦
    14. Don’t even get me started on political fools and their blunders.
    15. I have never seen “Footloose.” 😦
    16. I’ve never been to a gay bar, but curiously, I would like to.
    17. Vanessa Williams will (to me) always be one of the most beautiful Miss Americas ever.
    18. I never watch the Olympics, unless the women are playing soccer.
    19. I’ve never seen “Ghostbusters.”
    20. Elton John married a woman? How did I not know this?
    21. Was never into Disco.
    22. I have never been called to serve jury duty. Of the six of us (who used to be) I am the only one who never got “served.”
    23. Never had parachute pants.
    24. I remember the first time I played a CD. The ex and one of his friends were outside, drinking and doing nothing. When the last song played, I went out and asked if they wanted me to “turn it over.”
    25. What’s a beer bong? Is that one of those two foot tall glasses that holds like a gallon of beer?

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Man, does that ever bring back memories!! I didn’t do *all* of those things, but in each case I knew someone who did. My friends and I laughed at the trendy things like the shirt collar sticking up in back (two shirts didn’t make it to our campus). I liked “Amadeus,” hated “Twist of Fate,” and tolerated Prince and Madonna. Loved ice dancing and “Footloose.” Wore a pair of parachute pants until they split in the crotch one evening when I was out bowling with friends. Those days will never happen again (fortunately). J.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Truth be told, I was an extreme, awkward geek through most of my formative years, so I often had no clue about what was hip and what wasn’t. But I knew what I liked and therefore pursued such likes, and somehow that led me on a path to find the right people, for the most part, and then we would quietly celebrate our differentness. We all share the same sky, but some folks think they own that sky and others shouldn’t, a tale almost as old as parachute pants… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • You and I were in much the same world “back then.” Most of my friends in college were, like me, GDI’s (rather than pledging with a fraternity–the I stands for Independent). We had our own group and we were proud of it. I remember watching the Academy Awards with that group and joining them in heckling every movie that wasn’t “Gandhi,” since “Gandhi” was winning all the awards that year. (Best animation: Gandhi…) And all of us could sing all the words to “American Pie” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” How many of today’s young people can say the same? J.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh, I was GDI all the way in college. Sure, I went to the frat parties here and there, but I was not interested in ever joining one of them. It was just a social thing to do, and you made of it what you could.

          “Bohemian Rhapsody” and (especially) “American Pie” have far too many lyrics to survive the taste test of so many in the current crop of youth. They live for instant gratification and are not interested in anything requiring an investment of longer than five seconds…

          Liked by 1 person

          • I am proud to say that I have raised a few younguns who have a taste for the classics and can handle those works (although I must confess that they show a preference for the Weird Al parody of American Pie, the one that tells the Star Wars prequel story to the same tune) J.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Apparently I’m the youngster here. *blushing* I was in junior high in 1984 at the ripe age of 12. My Friday nights consisted of doing whatever my mom told me to. lol Awww… the good old days of wishing I had a life like all the popular kid who probably did pretty much the same stuff I did. lol

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Kara. Every decade has its own quirks and foibles, most of which don’t make any sense when we look back on them. But it’s what we were, and we should celebrate that…


  11. Brian you have outdone yourself my friend. This is amazing! Will add it to a future edition of ’10 Cool Things’ on my blog. Although I was a little kid in the 80s I can still fondly remember all you talk about. Oh…what a fun time!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was (am?) a big fan of the Thompson Twins. I had every album, every remix, every import, every everything. I also tried to dress like them, which didn’t go over so well in Oklahoma… 😉


    • I have TONS of lists in the archives. My “10 Reasons Why” series has about a hundred or so entries, so I’m sure you’ll see more of them, as I’m all about the reposting here at Bonnywood… 😉


  12. Wait, you mean 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 not the most romantic thing ever?  Well, my two-shirt, collar-flipped with two pair of color-coordinated, strategically scrunched down so you could see “just the tip”  (which had a whole different meaning then) socks wearing ass would disagree. Or not, maybe it was “Almost Paradise” from Footloose.  Oh, what do I know, my friends & I were too busy trying trying to explain our “Boy Toy” belt buckles to our hella gnarly, overly concerned parents and figuring out how to play “Darling Nikki” backwards to decipher the secret message before Tipper Gore, the bane of our entire teenage existence, canceled (which had a whole different meaning then) everything we loved about our lives.  Ugh, gag me with a spoon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think the “16 Candles birthday cake and a hot guy” scene is still immensely swoon-worthy. I still get tingles when I watch that play out for the 112th time. Somebody somewhere was speaking directly to me in that scene.

      I must admit that I didn’t know about the socks, though. Of course, I grew up in Oklahoma. Many things flew over my hayseed head.

      How the hell did you get your hands on a “Boy Toy” belt buckle? (Scratch that. See above reference about Oklahoma. We didn’t have access to anything.)

      I actually managed to decipher the “Darling Nikki” backwards message. Suffice it to say that I apparently don’t know the first thing about how to properly excite my boudoir bedmates.

      And Tipper Gore is/was a wretched harridan. (Did that sound rude? Good.)


      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ok, full disclosure, these are the things I wished I was doing in the 80’s. (Born in 83) Between bigger cousins’ stories and brat pack movies, I considered the things on your list to be the epitome of cool. Which I am sure you were😎🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I wouldn’t say I was “cool”. I was more along the lines of “introverted geeky dude who paid attention, took notes, and finally figured a few things out”. Which I continue doing to this day… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I love this witty and wistful look at 1984. Your writing is so vivid, I feel I was there too!

    Thank you for this excursion in a world that now – given the pandemic – seems almost innocent.


    • I completely agree with the “almost innocent” angle. 1984 was messy and weird and full of bitter politics, but there was still hope, in a way that doesn’t seem as plausible today. Sometimes we move forward, sometimes we move back, and we all have to do our best to hang on, regardless…


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