Sunday, June 16, 2024

growing up 80's

In the rear view mirror, coming of age in the 1980s was a simple time, yet I can still intimately recall how complicated it felt on the inside. Many of us raised ourselves through the complex nuances of being a teenager. Hormones, acne, fashion, economic and social classes, friendship and love. We had the world on our shoulders and and not yet our own fresh slate to begin a life of our own creation. Fitting in whilst desperately trying to create and find yourself was the constant quest. 

We wore neon colors, bold patterns, shoulder pads, leg warmers, French rolled jeans, stirrup leggings, and huge bangs with a mother load of hairspray. Punk one day, preppy the next. We bought Swatch Watches, Guess Jeans, Espirit, Benetton, and Forenza. Rubber bracelets donned our Madonna inspired arms. 

The hair...this was the goal. You were only limited by your imagination and Aquanet or Still Stuff Hairspray.

Proof I existed in this decade. Permed hair, probably from JC Penney, and an Espirit sweatshirt. Circa 1987-ish. 13 years old.

There was no online shopping, so malls were EVERYTHING, including the first place your parents let you go by yourself. It was a place to discover fashion and socialize, eat a burger or pizza and drink an Orange Julius. You could get your hair and makeup done, your ears pierced or Glamor Shots taken, the outside world only reachable by payphone.

There was no social media. We got advice from MTV and highly anticipated monthly magazines like Seventeen, as well as the movies that ended up defining the decade. Ones like Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, and 16 Candles.

These movies united the otherwise nothing in commons. They made us believe in love and friendship, and perhaps more importantly, finding ourselves. We quickly learned, movie soundtracks were as essential as our beating heart.  The 1980s were a transformative decade for music, marked by a blend of traditional rock, the emergence of new wave, and the advent of synthesised pop. We saw ourselves in the characters we were like and the characters we wished we were.

Listening to the St. Elmo's soundtrack with my 13 year old this morning.

I think it’s easier to look at life through a lens of retrospection. When we've skipped ahead, and we know the ending. Collectively we review these times through, hopefully, an older and wiser lens. Holding onto what we forgot that matters and cherishing what still matters that we could never ever forget. We are no longer defined by our parents choices, their divorce, or car or income. Our life is our own creation.

Over the weekend I revisited the decade through the documentary “Brats,” where Andrew McCarthy attempts to come to terms with being part of the Brat Pack, the not so affectionate term for the group of young actors who were ascendant in ’80s movies. The movie centers on for some, the profound impact that term had on these young stars lives- some like McCarthy much more than others. 

Writer for CNN, Jeanne Bonner says, “When I watch the trailer for Andrew McCarthy’s new documentary, “Brats,” my pulse races as if I’m watching old home movies of myself and my friends.” 

As McCarthy examined his past, I examined my own. In it you can feel the decade, you can see your own younger self, and feel the angst McCarthy feels for not being seen as how he saw himself. You can feel the pain of being 20-something and not yet having a therapist or the communication ability and self awareness to articulate your own struggles to then be able to work through them. 

Bonner also writes, on a deeper level it also appears to be about the passage of time, the vagaries of fate and the way labels can loom large enough to change lives. Mccarthy was so viscerally affected by this term, by his ‘label” it’s as if he absorbed it and it became reality. His fear of being ostracized or typecast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In it he authentically discusses his own constant fear and shame based internal voice. The irony being, the original article didn’t even list him as part of the "official" Brat Pack.

We are Gen X, a product of the 80s-our “good old days”.  Like every decade before or since thinks of their own childhood. Through the gift of time and retrospection, we know we are not the labels bestowed on us by media or society. We have learned that we all have so much more in common than we ever could have thought. 

Screenwriter of The Breakfast Club, John Hughes, already knew that. The plot of this movie follows Five high school students in vastly different social groups, as they report for Saturday detention and ends with the a written letter I will never forget, illustrating the changes the students undergo during the course of the day; their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are now completely different. 

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... ...and an athlete... ...and a basket case... ...a princess... and a criminal. Does that answer your question? 

Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club



  1. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Parker is your mini me! Your picture is him with longer hair!

  3. Deep dive of your blog posts recently! You are sunshine. Thank you for sharing you and yours.