by columnist and author Dave Barry
We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first “lost generation” nor today’s lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand – or are discovering it as we speak. We are the ones who played with Lego Building Blocks when they were just building blocks and gave Malibu Barbie crewcuts with safety scissors that never really cut. We collected Garbage Pail Kids and Cabbage Patch Kids and My Little Ponies and Hot Wheels and He-Man action figures and thought She-Ra looked just a little bit like I would when I was a woman. Big Wheels and bicycles with streamers were the way to go, and sidewalk chalk was all you needed to build a city. Imagination was the key. It made the Ewok Treehouse big enough for you to be Luke and the kitchen table and an old sheet dark enough to be a tent in the forest. Your world was the backyard and it was all you needed. With your pink portable tape player, Debbie Gibson sang back up to you and everyone wanted a skirt like the Material Girl and a glove like Michael Jackson’s.
Today, we are the ones who sing along with Bruce Stringsteen and The Bangles perfectly and have no idea why. We recite lines with the Ghostbusters and still look to The Goonies for a great adventure. We flip through T.V. stations and stop at The A Team and Knight Rider and Fame and laugh with The Cosby Show and Family Ties and Punky Brewster and what you talkin’ ‘bout Willis? We hold strong affections for The Muppets and The Gummy Bears and why did they take the Smurfs off the air? After school specials were only about cigarettes and step-families, the Pokka Dot Door was nothing like Barney, and aren’t the Power Rangers just Voltron reincarnated? We are the ones who still read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume, Richard Scary and the Electric Company. Friendship bracelets were ties you couldn’t break and friendship pins went on shoes – preferably hightop Velcro Reebox – and pegged jeans were in, as were Units belts and layered socks and jean jackets and jams and charm necklaces and side pony tails and rats’ tails. Rave was a girl’s best friend; braces with colored rubberbands made you cool. The backdoor was always open and Mom served only red Kool-Aid to the neighborhood kids – we never drank New Coke. Entertainment was cheap and lasted for hours. All you needed to be a princess was high heels and an apron; the Sit‘n’Spin always made you dizzy but never made you stop; Pogoballs were dangerous weapons and Chinese Jump Ropes never failed to trip someone. In your Underoos you were Wonder Woman or Spider Man or R2D2 and in your treehouse you were king.
In the Eighties, nothing was wrong. Did you know the president was shot? Star Wars was not only a movie. Did you ever play in a bomb shelter? Did you see the Challenger explode or feed the homeless man? We forgot Vietnam and watched Tiananman’s Square on CNN and bought pieces of the Berlin Wall at the store. AIDS was not the number one killer. We didn’t start the fire, Billy Joel. In the Eighties, we redefined the Dream, and those years defined us. We are the generation in between strife and facing strife and not turning our backs. The Eighties may have made us idealistic, but it’s that idealism that will push us and be passed on to our children – the first children of the twenty-first century.
Never forget: We are the children of the Eighties.
I thought I was the only one in the world who remembered the friendship pins that went on sneakers.