As a parent to a teenager, I am fully qualified to write this post. It’s necessary to do so, or I may explode on one of today’s youth. This week, I watched the timeless ’90s classic Jawbreaker. A deliciously wicked mix of pretty iconic ’90s teen actors and girl-hate, complete with social statements, murder and Marilyn Manson.
Watching Jawbreaker got me thinking though. As I struggle with my own teenager to do simple things like homework, I am reminded that teens in the ’80s and ’90s had it hard. We were caught between an evolving world while trying to maintain our innocence
Here are five reasons why today’s teens would have “literally” died in the ’80s and ’90s:
Lack of tech
I love the meme that says: Respect your parents because they survived school without Google. Preach on. Not only that, but teachers nowadays also give students digital resources to study and do their work. Most of us had to go to the library (gasp!) to research and use a computer. Some of us – those really lucky – had computers at home, but dealt with slow Internet connections and printers that freaked out the night before a paper was due. There were no cellphones, much less ones that did work for you. Texting and social media didn’t exist. If you wanted to reach someone, you called or paged their beeper. Even less of us had those.
As far as entertainment, we had a TV and maybe a video game console. We read books. We played outside. We got sunburned from staying out too long because there was nothing else to do. We couldn’t – and most didn’t want to – waste time staring at a screen all day. Sure, technology makes much of our tasks easier now, but teens need to get a grip and do something else. It’s not rocket science; maybe get off the devices and do something productive.
We were a lot tougher
I had to get my first job when I was 10 years old. I didn’t have a choice because I wanted something important that my parents couldn’t afford. My first job was mowing yards and washing cars. I used a push mower, and the back incline was at a 45-degree angle. I weighed all of 65 lbs., but I pushed that mower side to side on that hill every week. When I was 15, I started at the store and remained there until I was 26. I essentially grew up at work.
Many of our parents couldn’t afford to buy us whatever we wanted. We got a couple of things for holidays, and we appreciated them. Way more than teens today do. And we dang sure didn’t get a $300 phone and $700 bucks worth of games, clothes, music, etc. In high school, most of my friends had almost full-time jobs, and we had to have them to help support ourselves and families. We had and wanted to become self-sufficient.
The world did not revolve around us. Ever.
The absence of social media meant we could not – and never would be – the center of attention. We were all equal. Sure, there were cliques, but you knew who your true friends were and you helped protect others. We cared about life. We knew hurt and sorrow. I knew four people in high school who died in tragic accidents, but we didn’t disrespect them by posting horrible comments about how much we hated them or go on about how big the loss. We were private, and we respected each other. We had a sense of comradery and looked out for one another. The world owned us nothing, and we had to depend on ourselves.
I was blown away a few weeks ago when I found out kids can retake tests they fail (in Nashville). What?! Retakes?
I feel this is a disservice to students. First, there are no retakes in college. Secondly, there are no retakes in life or work. If you fail, you fail. It’s that simple. Teens in the ’80s and ’90s made a ton of mistakes, but most of us turned out fine. We made mistakes, partied, lied to our parents, they busted us, and we paid the price. It made us smarter too because we had to think of creative ways to get what we wanted. How do you change or improve yourself if you can just redo your mistakes? That goes against reality in ways I don’t even have words to express. Shame on the administrators who approved that process in order to achieve higher test scores.
Censorship Didn’t Exist
I was young when Tipper Gore went on her censorship crusade and eventually got the “explicit language” warning on albums. Did that stop me from buying those albums. Of course not! Did it stop people of age buying me CDs with those lyrics? Of course not! The music scene in the ’80s and ’90s was raw, expressive and full of protest. Much of it was passionate and spoke out against wrongdoings. We weren’t sheltered from the real world, we lived in it and could relate to the music.
We watched the O.J. Simpson trial and verdict in our classrooms (I was 13 years old). We followed trials that accused Michael Jackson of child sexual abuse (11 years old). We were there when Bill Clinton faced his adultery mistake with Monica Lewinsky (15 years old). We lived through the Columbine High School tragedy (17 years old) and watched the world in turmoil during the Gulf War (8-9 years old). Our parents didn’t keep it from us; they educated and better prepared us for the world that we live in now.
With all that said, I applaud all of you who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Thanks for reading and becoming the people you are!