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Ronald Reagan. Rubik’s cube. Leg warmers. The first music video ever played on MTV. These were only a few of the iconic associations of the 80's. I grew up during that time and was part of Generation X. Some people refer to us as slackers and cynics. I proudly identify as both. I questioned the status quo and the notion of breaking my neck to achieve the “American Dream.” At the end of the day, most of us knew how to work hard. We just knew how to play hard, too. In so many ways, it was a simpler time to grow up in. We were given a certain set of circumstances, and we figured out what to do with them. Now, the kids coming up have so much thrown at them that they may not know what to do. Let’s not forget the music. Real musicians who played instruments. Imagine that. I can’t go into all of the shit that made the 80's a cool time to grow up in this small space, but I can give you 7 reasons I loved growing up in the 80s:
1. We can troubleshoot easily.
First of all, we can tell time on a clock and light a match. We know how to use a rotary phone. We have used a stamp and envelope many times, and we know where to get them. The point is, if our lives take an unexpected turn and we end up in a place where things aren’t so easily accessible, we will be okay.
2. A scrape on the knee wasn't a catastrophe.
I wasn’t dressed head to toe in protective gear before I left the house. I never wore knee pads or a helmet when I rode a bike. None of the kids I grew up with did either. We’re still alive with most of our brain cells intact. I still have a scar on the inside of my left knee that I don’t remember how I got. When I was 8, I stepped on a fishing hook that one of my brothers left behind in my father’s van. He held onto me while my uncle pulled it out of the sole of my foot. They sent me on my merry way after that. As a result of all these things, I am not delicate and don’t need my hand held every time I stub my big toe.
3. We went outside to play.
We weren't in the house playing computer games all day. We stayed out until the street lights came on or dinner, whichever came first. You know it's bad when the NFL has to encourage kids to play outside for 60 minutes a day.
4. Albums were king.
I don’t know how old I was when I first looked through my oldest brother’s boxes of albums. I just know that I was fascinated by the music and the whole ritual of listening to a new album. Opening the album, taking the vinyl out, looking at looking at the cover art, and reading the lyrics, if they were available was like opening a present that you have been waiting for. Spotify and iTunes can’t give you that.
5. We waited in line for concert tickets... And they were no more than 20 bucks!
Waiting in line for concert tickets was an experience within itself. The anticipation of getting good seats and connecting with other people who like the same band you do was exciting. You saw scalpers fact-to-face and had tickets in your hand right away. Now, you take your chances getting ripped off online if you missed the online presale. And tickets were cheap.
6. MTV actually played music videos.
I remember watching the first video ever played on MTV: The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” I loved seeing a mini-movie with a song. Now, you can’t see a fucking video on MTV. It’s all shows now. I think you can see some videos on MTV2, but why call it Music Television when you’re not showing music?
7. I discovered Prince in the 80's.
I have talked about Prince in blogs many times and will continue to do so. He is that important in my life. In the “1999” video, Prince mesmerized me in a purple trench coat and jheri curl while playing guitar and dancing in time with the other guys in the band. The consummate musician and performer. The camera loved him. When I discovered him, I discovered R&B and funk. Before that, I was a classic rock devotee just like my oldest brother. I think Prince had the same effect on him because he went out and got the “1999” and “Purple Rain” albums. “1999” was the first double album I ever saw, and the vinyl for “Purple Rain” was actually purple. “1999” was a nuclear protest song and a bomb ass dance track.
I’m not saying the 80's were perfect, but growing up in that time helped make me the snarky asshole I am today. I’m pretty grateful for that.
If you grew up in the 80's, what's your favorite memory? Answer in the comments below!
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil...
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer