As our daughter grows up she’ll be immersed in her generations culture, who knows what they’ll see as the next big thing…probably technology we don’t have yet, fashion we won’t understand and some ridiculous dance craze all the cool kids will be doing! My husband and I often chat about what we were into as teenagers and often it’s not necessarily what the history books will remember as being part of that era. For example, there is one photo of me in a shell suit, but it was very much a one off. Likewise in the 90’s there was a huge call for wearing sports branded clothes, but I was never really part of it.
When I was a child, I used to look at pictures of my parents and laugh at their flared trousers, and the ridiculousness that were my Mothers eyebrows (or lack thereof!) and I know they weren’t necessarily into the ‘in’ stuff of the 60’s & 70’s where they did their growing up. So I thought I’d create a little time capsule of things we were into for our baby to mock in the future whilst wearing her super trendy crimped hair without realising my generation were there first…
1) Saturday nights were for a steady stream of the classics, with only four channels, there wasn’t quite the competition for viewing and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because everyone was watching Generation Game, Gladiators, Blind Date and Noels House Party. From roughly 6pm, you didn’t really need to leave the lounge. In my house, Big Break and Casualty were also part of that staple, although Casualty was for my Mum, and God knows how a programme about snooker captured our attention! I went to see Gladiators live, that’s right kids, I even owned a foam finger, I was essentially as cool as it could get for that one day!
2) Autumn meant one thing…conkers! We’d all have conker fights at school (until they got banned after a few conker related injuries) in my school, there was a dark side, the pressure to win was enough to push people to the edge…microwaving your conker was supposed to harden it even more and it was like the secret drugs scandal of the playground. You wouldn’t be a true winner if you’d microwaved your conker, you were shamed! Personally I always used to get more injuries trying to get a hole in the bloody thing to put the string through.
3) Tamagotchis. These tiny little egg shaped computer key rings with a virtual pet you have to keep alive and look after were a huge and ridiculous fad. There was even a story about a couple going to court to gain custody of their tamagotchi in their divorce. Seriously. I had a few, they all lasted a few days. It was possible to keep them ‘alive’ for ages but my success was parallel to my success keeping plants alive, the more I looked after them, the quicker they tended to die. I lost interest in Tamagotchis quite early on but it really lasted elsewhere!
4) Funfaxes! Oh yes, for a while organisational fun was where it was at! They were like Filofaxes, only for kids. God knows why kids needed to be so on top of their paperwork but we loved it! I suppose with the 80’s bringing about the image of the successful businessman walking round with his briefcase & Filofax, we all wanted to look like that banker. No I don’t mean banker, what’s the word I’m looking for…? Anyway, as well as the classic Funfax, they spawned a whole host of themed ones, with various things going on, sports, mystery, you name it, there was a Funfax for it. Both my husband and I favoured a detective one that looked like it was wrapped in brown paper with ‘TOP SECRET’ emblazoned on it in yellow writing. We were both pretty awesome as kids.
5) Choose your own adventure books. You’d be reading a page in a book, get to the end and Timmy & Sharon had to decide where to go and as the reader, you had to choose. ‘To walk through the cave, turn to page 5/to walk round the mountain turn to page 7,’ so you’d turn to page 5 and, oh shit we got eaten by a cave troll, the end…at which point you immediately went back to page 4 and decided actually the mountain looks pretty good after all. If these can be found for sale, I’m still partial for a cheeky choose your own adventure!
6) We were the first generation of video gamers, starting with machines like the Atari which was one joystick & a red button. I spent hours with my cousins & friends playing Pacman & Spider-Man. As teenagers, there were two camps & you tended to be on one or another, Sega & Sonic, or Nintendo & Mario brothers!
7) We were also the first generation of internet users, we were the first lot of teenagers to get home from school, turn the computer on, dial up to the internet (wait 4 hours for connection) and chat to our friends on msn messenger or aol online! And no doubt halfway through a desperately important conversation about how fit the sixth formers were, a parent would pick up the phone and cut the connection! Cue a twenty minute process to continue, “so anyway yeah, did you see James Bowman in assembly? So hot.” Like I said, desperately important stuff!
8) As kids, TV was as described above, but as teenagers, a second wave of reality show (reminiscent of Opportunity Knocks) suddenly appeared and took us by storm, and before Simon Cowell became the king of judges, we knew nasty Nigel! Popstars and then Popstars the Rivals, without which we wouldn’t have had Girls Aloud and Cheryl Cole. I even had a Popstars final night in one of my first flats and watched the Will Young vs Gareth Gates final, the production value of which these days is utterly dwarfed. In the XFactor, first auditions have more pazzazz but at the time, it was quite the TV event. One of my clearest memories of Popstars is Zoe Birketts performance of Get Happy. The new wave of reality show has been going strong for the last 15 years or so now, who knows where there’ll be in another 15!
9) We as teenagers watched the first series of Big Brother, before it was a cheap and tacky channel 5 programme trying to find the craziest individuals desperate for their 15 minutes of fame, it was a really interesting social experience, one of my personal highlights was the weekly psychology episodes where a psychologist with the biggest eyes would explain why their behaviour was likely to be as such. A relatively realistic cross section of society with Craig winning the first series & taking home the £70,000 prize. The programme has now morphed into a grotesque version of itself, I miss the naughty Nick Bateman days, a format that would be deemed a boring science show now, but at the time was brand new and unlocked a real voyarism.
10) The rise of the alcopop! First there was Hooch which is apparently now back..! And then there was Smirnoff Ice, VK vodka drinks, Reefs, Bacardi Breezers and many more. Available at obscenely cheap prices (you could usually get 3 for £5) we were never sure if it was the alcohol content or the sugar & colouring content that made us feel worse in the morning! More friendly on the teenage palate than real spirits and cheaper than beer or wine, it was the beginning of the binge drinking phenomenon – not that that was really the first time the UK had unhealthy drinking habits, that’s a historical issue! But it certainly came to the forefront of the media, especially with the uprising of the ‘ladette’ image of the 90’s which I was never part of, although I have to admit as a teenager I was somewhat familiar with an alcopop or two! As an epileptic, in my teenage years I never drank to the same excess my friends did but VK pineapple was my alcopop of choice.
In the interest of not completely disappearing down memory lane, I’ll leave it there…for now!
Who knows what fads we’ll see in the future, every generation thinks the next one is more wild, less sensible and worse than their’s. I’ve had this discussion with my Dad, he’s part of the baby boom post war generation, the one that then could not stop living to excess in the 80’s and caused my generation all these financial problems, so if there’s fingers to be pointed, I’m going to suggest the post war/over excited one..! But with ever emerging trends, each generation sees their own fashions, fads and new features. I’m excited and terrified to see what my baby girl gets into, and she’ll go through the same arc of mocking us for our interests, getting into her own (& not realising a lot of them are recycled!) and then realising she’s too old to be ‘hip’ as the ‘current’ generation come out with new things!
As parents, we can only try and ensure when she gets to the teenage years, *gulp* she’s as safe and sensible as possible. My husband and I both look back and think to some stupid things we did as kids fondly but now with an understanding for why our parents were maybe a bit uptight about it..! I think back to certain events with a whole new perspective (must remember to apologise for a few things..!) a perspective I’m going to try and remember my baby won’t have until she has kids of her own, if in fact she even chooses to have kids of her own.
So do I look forward to the day Scarlett says she’s going for a quick drink with friends and then we get a 4am call asking to be picked up from some nightclub? Not at all! But is it a right of passage for her to take her turn in making her own, probably not very sensible, decisions? Sadly…yes it is!