Why I’m Glad I Grew Up When I Did

Children of the ’80s and early ’90s had to endure the mental anguish of trying to manually untwist the insides of  a cassette tape, but all in all, I look back and think we were pretty damn lucky.


Now: Pinterest and “vision boards”

Then: A bulletin board filled with color-coordinated push pins, pictures of teen heartthrobs, quotes created from random cutout letters that end up looking more like white trash ransom notes and school pictures of friends that perfectly captured their awkwardness. Speaking of which…

Now: Selfies (for the record, I have never taken a “selfie”)

Then: Cameras. People took pictures when something special happened, not when they ate breakfast. As kids, school picture day was a big deal with the most important decision being what “laser”-color background you wanted. You couldn’t wait to get the free black plastic comb so you could bend that sucker back and forth a few times until it got hot and brand the kid next to you with a touch.

And the anticipation of getting a roll of film developed really can’t be overstated.

Now: Jeggings and skinny jeans

Then: Stirrup pants and stonewashed jeans. Pants today are basically tights, which were something I loathed when forced to wear. Stirrup pants—they’ll stay in place forever!—and stonewashed jeans—they’ll hide any wear and tear!—were designed for function much more than fashion.

Now: Blogs

Then: Diaries, and god save anyone who tried to pick the flimsy lock and read the drama of trying to decide what color rubber bands to get in your braces. Thoughts were private and you didn’t WANT to share every detail of your day, mostly because like pictures taken of yourself in the bathroom—see above—you were aware that no one would care.


Now: Politically correct “holiday” parties with “refreshments” from Costco or Whole Foods in which there is no trace of sugar, peanuts, lactose, gluten or fun.

Then: Actual Halloween/Valentine’s Day parties with room mothers who would bring in homemade goodies and roller skating parties with a “couples” skate when pre-teens with sweaty hands would shuffle across the rink together with Boyz II Men playing in the background.

Now: Reality TV

Then: The only real slime on TV came from “Double Dare” and we had actual TV shows with actors and a real TGIF lineup. I’m talking about Full House, The Cosby Show, Family Matters and Alf, that smart-mouthed, cat-murdering alien we loved.

Now: Smartphones and texting

Then: Landlines and notes. I remember dragging the cord into my room to have what I’m sure was a very important discussion about Punky Brewster or zits. Instead of texting and getting instantly rejected, we were forced to actually write notes, those of which an inordinate amount of time was spent folding into a specific shape for delivery.


Plus, we knew how to spell and how to write—even cursive. OMG. LOL.

Now: Ecards

Then: Because computers were huge monstrosities with a four-color screen, use was relegated to games of Junior Jeopardy or Oregon Trail. While we eventually got Print Shop to make birthday cards and banners, hours were spent cutting out construction paper to create our own cards with scented markers we had to resist the urge to lick.

Also, the joy of getting a card in the mail also can’t be overstated.

Now: Kindles and iPads

Then: Scholastic book orders, Book-It and the smell of library book pages illicitly dog-eared and worn. It was fun to wait for the order or go to the store. True, Book-It rewarded kids for reading with a free personal pan pizza full of grease and devoid of veggies, but we all lived to tell—and read—the tale.

Plus unlike a Kindle, books don’t break when you drop them.

Now: Instant gratification

Then: Patience

Okay, maybe not patience, but we had to wait for our favorite songs to play on the radio, stand in a line without checking a phone and make up games or Mad Libs on car trips instead of watching a DVD on an iPad. We kept ourselves busy by creating things instead of relying on something else to keep us busy.

True, it might have involved law jarts and hypercolor T-shirts—Sweaty armpits? Show them off with your heat-sensitive teal shirt and hot pink pit stains!—but at least no one could take a picture on their phone and share it on Twitter.

Ugh, like, gag me with a spoon.

I’m glad I grew up when I did.

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38 responses to “Why I’m Glad I Grew Up When I Did

  1. “Then” was fun for sure, but I think these kids will have their own then and now by the time they’re adults. “Now: You watch tv in your eyelids! Then: You had to gather around a big tv or electronic device, together!”

  2. My kids had a 1980s dress up day at school yesterday. They still can’t quite believe I was alive “way back then”. This was great – you got me feeling all nostalgic. 🙂

  3. Well I seem to be firmly planted in the past – I was born in the 80s and I have several 80s kids TV shows on DVD (they don’t make kids shows like that anymore), I don’t own a Kindle and I make my own greetings cards.

    I’m glad I grew up when I did too.

  4. It’s weird and bittersweet. But having 3 kids, 17, 10, and 9 I try to see their POV and balance it with my perspective. They have so much more technology and enjoy a less prejudiced peer group. But they’re coddled and disconnected from real “fun” like we had. as I write this from a laptop as a beautiful sun rises outside my living room window.

    Hi, I’m a hypocrite, lol

  5. Then: reading Erma Bombeck’s column (I.e., Mom) in the daily newspaper made of paper you touched and pages you turned (not swiped [swiping meant stealing]), a newspaper that was either purchased by Dad either going to or from work or delivered to your door or thrown in the general vicinity of same (rain or shine, usually rain for some reason) with Mom chuckling ( when Moms chuckled) after the family had dinner and the dishes were cleared off the table. Now: reading Abby Has Issues on FB on the phone (?!) which you share with people on your phone plan ( I.e., close family) commenting:LOL (ah, if only I could hear Mom chuckle)

    • I remember using Silly Putty to copy the pictures in the comics. Ha! Now I still don’t have a smartphone to read stuff on and read the Sunday paper as a paper, but being able to comment online is a bonus, no? 😉

  6. You just made me feel really fucking old. I love you anyways.

  7. I think the main difference is that we had to be more creative. We would run around outside playing sports, tag or made up crazy games. Now, they don’t have to think about it, just play it on Wii. Also, we had to THINK about things and do research. Now: Google. While it’s true, it is much easier for kids now, and that is good in many ways, I think it hinders their creative abilities.

    They do stil have Scholastic Books to buy at school and library days. My kids LOVE books, so there is still that. Of course, they would still rather play the KIndle/iPad?Wii, but books are a very close (not really that close) 4th option!! 😉

    • I’ve never used a Kindle and agree 100 percent on the creativity aspect. We had to create ideas instead of pinning other peoples. Then again, we couldn’t talk about it online either… 😉

  8. Remember when TV shows had theme songs? Really long introductory theme songs? Sometimes with no words? I used to get all nostalgic about that and insult today’s TV, until we sit down for a Netflix episode of Quantum Leap and I feel like I need to claw my eyes out to fill the time until the program starts. And this is after I’ve already recited every word of “… and hoping each time that his next leap, will be the leap home.”

  9. Abby!!! A fun post, very 80s. I find I can operate very much as I did when I was 12, including my level of humor and intellect. The caveman jokes are actually really endearing. The only things worth anything in the new age are simply used to organize my tunes and the like from my childhood. Easy breezy…

  10. I grew up in front of a television, eating sugary cereal and playing Atari. I don’t see how my kids’ childhoods are that different, except I don’t let them outside. But aside from that, totally carefree and wild.


  11. You made me smile as always, and I have to say I hate ‘Reality TV’. As I scrabble the money together to buy myself a treat, I froth with pointless frustration at those people just seem to be on television to be on television, and then get paid for it

  12. I’ve been thinking about this stuff a ton lately. I have a friend’s 40’th party coming up, and I can’t stop doing the Electric Slide down memory lane.

  13. down memory lane… Abby, l felt old today… but cool old!

  14. You helped me remember so many wonderful things about the past ~ compared to the “now”. I don’t think children these days have enough imagination because they have all these programs to watch on TV, or use on the phone, computer and i-pad. My favorite things to do as a children were to color, play with paper dolls or build with blocks…even when I got older..

  15. Happier Heather

    GREAT post! I’m glad I grew up in the 80s/90s, too!

    Kids these days, I tell you!

  16. I love then and today…because I still play all that music (I have Sirius XM and the 70’s and 80’s channels cannot be overlooked as ESSENTIAL )

    I still send at least 3-4 cards in the mail every week to lots of people just because I know how much it means to get personal mail in your mailbox.

    I don’t watch Reality TV, I love my smartphone and my Galaxy Tab for reading, but I will CUT YOU if you try to read my Entertainment Weekly before I’m finished with it…and I still buy books, just so I can hold them.

    I love crayons and markers (and with two kindergartners in my house, i get to color, mark, and be mildly creative quite a bit these days)

    I love my Direct TV (as opposed to only 3 channels), I adore the microwave because I do not have time to commute home and make a BIG dinner from scratch and because I am raising boys, I even get to go outside and toss a football or pitch a wiffle ball to them.

    I have the best of both worlds, I think. It was good then, and if you look hard enough it’s good now.

    Let’s do a mad libs together, 😉

  17. What’s all this about a free comb on picture day? I never got a free comb on picture day. WHERE IS MY FREE COMB!?

  18. I feel like, with a 15 year old kid, I’ve gotten lucky with the best of both worlds. He thinks it’s kitschy when he gets to play someone’s old but remarkably still working Nintendo. We used to hand make every single Christmas and birthday card sent for years. He shows me how to Snapchat, I make him read actual physical books. He plays new metal music he’s listening to for me, although hilarity ensued when he asked me if I’d ever heard the new Coolio song, Gangster’s Paradise. I’m glad I grew up when I did (I still miss roller skates) but I’m enjoying watching him grow up now.

  19. TGIF ….how I miss thee. That was the highlight of my week. I longed for Friday nights, so I could see what would happen with Cory and Topanga, Sabrina and Harvey, and what the hell the Tanners were up to. The children will never, ever understand.

  20. There are definitely some things I miss about the 80s. Like the cool game shows — the Dating Game, Mad Dash, TattleTales, Hollywood Squares, Press Your Luck. Granted, some of the classics are still around but TV was way more fun back then.

  21. It’s strange- I hated journaling or keeping a dairy but here I am BLOGGING? Maybe I was born before my time. hahahaaa

  22. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  23. I want to know where my free comb is too! Of course, I could never even try to work it through my massive head of 80’s hair. That Aquanet was some crazy stuff! I miss the good sitcom theme songs too, they were awesomesauce. Weekends at the roller rink too, now that is some old school! I was more your early-mid 80’s so it was more about New Kids than Boys II Men back then. Day Glo everything and Banana clips! Anybody else rock the banana clip?

  24. You just took me on a lovely stroll down memory lane for which I’m very appreciative. You might have also made me laugh a time or two, and by time or two, I mean non-stop.
    The OMG and LOL though….please, just no. Don’t ever use those again. You’re one of the few places I can go and expect to get full sentences every time. It’s bliss so don’t take that away from me.

  25. I have no idea how old you are, but my guess is that you are my age because you just encapsulated my youth in a nutshell, and for that I am appreciative. I’m SUPER glad I grew up when I did, and I feel a little sorry for kids today who spend more time with screens than other people.

  26. You never talked about how god damn good the music was! Unfortunately I wasn’t born until the early 90’s so many of the nostalgic references to the 80’s are going over my head. I do have a conflict of interest as I love many things in many eras. The technology of today does let me listen to the likes of prince on repeat on youtube and whilst completing my dissertation I can’t help but thank the lord for the miracle of Google.
    However, the thing I will always wish my future children will be able to experience is the freedom the wonder years gave of children being able to play out on the street until after dark without any fear of what could happen to them and for me, peace of mind and safety is the best thing any decade can give.

  27. Ah! I wish I grew up in your time. Growing up in the 2000s sucks. We have the attention span of rodents and no one really cares anymore.

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