I hate to say it but my unnamed generation, Generation X or Generation Y or wherever else in the alphabet you want to put us, has become very easily identifiable. You can pick us out of a crowd, high school class of 1997, college class of whenever. As I scroll through the Facebook profiles of my friends from school, I have to stare down the barrel of the gun which says that there are some things kids who grew up in the 1980’s like, which no other generation holds onto with nearly the same verve.
You know you were a kid who grew up in the 1980’s if…Joey, Jordan, Danny, Donnie, and Jonathan means something to you. You were exposed to the music of Donnie’s younger brother Mark (as Marky Mark) and you cheered as Marky Mark became Mark Whalberg, respected thespian and film star. And as Donny…went out on the N.K.O.T.B. reunion tour.
Or how about Jon Bon Jovi? Who else but kids who grew up in the 1980’s (and maybe the spandex obsessed younger sisters of our mothers who were teens in the early 1980’s) loves Bon Jovi still so much to this day?
You know you were a child of the 1980’s if you knew who Boyz II Men, A.B.C., & B.B.D. were. You watched as hip hop consumed the airwaves in the post-Regan era and it went from funny and light (The Humpty Dance) to party time rancorous (Nothin’ But a G-Thang) to somber and ominous (all that Biggy/Tupac – east coast/west coast stuff was lost on me). But still, I grew up in its wake. And then there was that resurgence for Aerosmith who maybe found their time in the post “Love in an Elevator” big guitar rock.
You know you were a child of the 1980’s if the first refreshing lyric you needed a lyric sheet to understand was “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.” You also knew you were a kid who grew up in the 1980’s if your Velcro pocket cargo pants morphed into artfully torn jean-shorts (that you’d literally buy torn) and crazy patterned flannel shirts. It’s with this outfit that you’d grow your hair long, start smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, and speaking in haiku-like garbled mumble speak. You would wear long, rubber wire jewelry medallions and you were turned onto NPR by your distrusting uncle who’s always remained single and always sat under the scornful eye of your mother, as though she were his mother.
You know you were a child of the 1980’s if you appreciated Saturday Night Live before it became an Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin hosting sport. Back in the day when Mike Myers and Dana Carvey messed around with this funny skit that always ended in the unison “Schwing!” Back in the day when Bill Murray wasn’t weighed down by his jowls, before all his moves were Lost in Translation. You know you were a child of the 1980’s if you saw Sinead O Connor doing an acappella version of Bob Marley and then ripping up a picture of the Pope; and you suddenly realized that live TV really does exist.
You know you were a child of the 1980’s if the first place you saw that dysfunctional family The Simpson’s was on the Tracey Ullman show. You were a child who grew up in the 1980’s if the warning “Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence,” is not a warning at all but is instead underscored by a bouncy, 1950’s era melody.
You were a kid who grew up in the 1980’s if you came to know him from Goose and Maverick but can only call him Jerry. You were a kid who grew up in the 1980’s if the phrase “didja ever notice…” evokes another, very syndicated Jerry. You were a kid growing up in the 1980’s if one of your first adult mysteries was “Who Shot J.R.?” and you came of age in Swan’s Crossing.
The fact is there are many identifying characteristics to kids who grew up, came of age, spoke up, broke out, freed their mind, and held fast to the possibility inherent in Be Cool, Stay in School. While a stroll once and a while down memory lane is nice, it’s no replacement for basking in the glow of now and living in the ever present moment.