I’ve been thinking about the ‘80s a lot lately. I mean, I always think about the ‘80s, because I am obsessed with them. But I’ve been thinking about them even more than usual, because I’ve been reflecting on my childhood and realizing that I had it pretty good as a kid.
I know people argue that nostalgia is a lens that makes the past look better than it actually was, and they’re not wrong — but you guys, growing up in the ‘80s was pretty awesome. I mean, I was too young to be worried about the economy, or Reaganomics, or doing too much coke. No, for me the ‘80s were all about ALF, John Hughes movies, sitcoms starring Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman, and sleepovers where we listened to Debbie Gibson and experimented with blue eyeshadow (bad) and crimping our hair (worse). When people think about the ‘80s now it’s reduced to stereotypes — everyone was running around in acid-wash jeans and neon socks with new-wave hairdos. This is sort of true. I remember owning a lot of day-glo clothing and loving it. I also had an acid-wash jean skirt (ruffled no less!) that was my pride and joy. But the ‘80s were a lot more nuanced than we give them credit for, and there was some pretty rad stuff going on. I read a great book recently, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s set in 2044 and the world is looking pretty grim. A series of climate crises have ravaged the earth and the general population is living in crippling poverty. Most people spend almost all of their time plugged into a system called OASIS (like the Matrix, but people are actually aware that it isn’t reality) that was designed by an eccentric billionaire obsessed with the ‘80s of his childhood. When he dies without an heir, he leaves a series of clues to his vast fortune hidden within the OASIS, and each clue requires those seeking his treasure to be well-versed in ‘80s pop culture. I won’t say too much, but check it out if you get a chance & are so inclined — I couldn’t put it down.
Anyway! As much as I loved the ‘80s of my childhood, I can’t help but be a bit jealous of the Finn — I was a mere youngster during that decade (I turned 14 in 1990) but the Finn was an actual TEENAGER in the ‘80s! When I look back through hid photo albums it’s all there — prom pictures featuring girls in pink and blue pastel puffy-sleeved dresses, the guys decked out in white ruffled tuxes. The hair is simply amazing — new wave, mullets, hair-sprayed bangs for the girls, and even one adventurous friend with a mohawk. Everyone just looks like they’re having so much fun — and yes, I know, nostalgia is a lens — but I’ve asked the Finn, and he tells me that they were having fun, that high school in the ‘80s was awesome. Those halcyon days before the advent of grunge and the inherent angst and apathy of the ‘90s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘90s too, they were the decade that saw me through my teenage years and young adulthood. But the ‘90s bounced from one extreme to another, from the too-cool-for-school pessimism of grunge (everyone’s a sellout! damn the man!) to the soulless cheese of Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys-era pop. And don’t even get me started on the age of irony and contrarian hipsters that the new millennium has spawned.
Anyway, my favorite stories of the Finn’s are the ones about his high school dances, where everyone in his group of friends would pile onto the dance floor as a collective group and sing along with the words to Roxette’s ‘The Look’ or Gowan’s ‘Moonlight Desires’. Apparently everyone knew the moves for Men Without Hats ‘Safety Dance,’ and when to do the hand claps during Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. How awesome is that? I picture it as a utopia of synth riffs, dance beats, and unbridled enthusiasm. And yeah, maybe I am idealizing the past. But I’ll tell you this: if anyone ever gets around to inventing a time machine, I’m setting the dial back to 1985 and hightailing it to the nearest high school prom. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one in the white suit, pink shirt, skinny tie and day-glo socks.
In honor of the ‘80s, my Song of the Day is one of my faves from that era, Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’. See ya on the dance floor!