Our Personal Chicken Nugget Tally & Other Things 1980s Adults Can’t Admit To

Generation Why

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Photo by Joiarib Morales Uc on Unsplash

If you were born in the early 80s, you are currently in your late 30s. You’re not a Millennial, not yet 40. You are of the only cohort on the planet that remembers being a teenager with the internet, and without. No other childhood can boast such a claim.

But they’re not all badges of pride, our truths. Some of them are unfortunate, rippled with shame like a fancy pint of ice cream, or just downright unhealthy. Good god we did things that would make modern parents keep their children in glass casing.

The thing is, we made it. We’re here. We all brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school and everybody still made it to graduation. And in the spirit of our triumph, in celebration of the fact that we’re all alive and thriving despite the existence of Fun Dip, I’ve decided to take an accounting of all our wonderful, horrible, corn syrup-covered secrets by revealing everything we, as early 1980s adults, can’t admit to. Bike down memory lane with me, without a helmet.

  • Our personal chicken nugget tally. My family, including my grandparents, cousins, aunt and uncle, had lunch together every Sunday at McDonalds for the duration of my childhood. It could be in the thousands for all I know, but I currently have far fewer health problems than my childhood nutrition dictates I deserve.
  • Thinking that “TGIF” TV counted as having plans on a Friday night.
  • Enjoying the scent of My Little Ponies.
  • The anger we feel toward kids in restaurants on iPads while we were left with three broken crayons and a placemat.
  • The addictive properties of Captain Crunch.
  • How little time we’d allow to pass between walking in the front door after getting home from school and picking up the phone to “3-way” our best friends. I don’t even think my backpack had fully fallen to the floor before my clear phone with visible innards was in my hand.
  • Why ranch dressing felt like something that was just for grown ups.
  • The ferocity with which we used Apricot Scrub.
  • How sensitive we really were about the MySpace top 8.
  • How much I hated and simultaneously felt cool for having a pager. (It’s sole purpose was a tethering to my mother, who would summon the police if I failed to answer a page. Thus, it was more just a small, blue leash roughly the size of a deck of cards.)
  • How mad we are that we only got to make slime one day in science class but today’s kids get to make it at home whenever the fuck they want.
  • The number of times we actually saw The Matrix in the theater.
  • We drank things colored neon-green.
  • How walking around an amusement park without parents made us feel grown up.
  • The silent hatred toward to the girl who had the bubbliest handwriting and knew how to fold the cutest notes.
  • How we assumed if you actually played hackey sack you weren’t still a virgin.
  • The quantity of Reeses Pieces it would take to induce a stomach ache.
  • Glo Worms were terrifying.
  • Why we held pizza and burgers made by other people in much higher regard than the same food items made by our parents.
  • The fact that the best part about having to go to Grandma’s house was the good cable TV.
  • How badly we wanted to see inside each others houses.
  • The ease with which we accepted the premise of Ninja Turtles.
  • There was no snack more prized, and more withheld, than Cool Ranch Doritos.
  • The seething, internal rage at kids in cars with individual video screens in headsets while we suffered a childhood scarred by endless battles over the fucking radio.
  • We shared so many lollipops.
  • There was nothing more exciting than the first time you held someone’s hand, and nothing more humiliating and rage-inducing than someone screaming to the rest of the bus, “They’re holding hands!” Honestly fuck that guy.
  • How much we currently miss Colorforms.
  • How having a Squeeze-It in your lunch made you feel rich.
  • Never noticing that our parents freely let us drink Squeeze-Its which are, by and large, six fluid ounces of pure sugar.
  • How fast we got over the Pogs we’d wanted so much.
  • Recycling wasn’t a thing yet.
  • The esteem and high regard we gave to soda, and how no soda tasted better than one you bought with your own money from a machine.
  • Cartoons are the reason our parents got any sleep on weekends.
  • Literally hours of cartoons.
  • The toxicity of hair spray and our mothers’ cautionless application of it while we were in the room.
  • Wanting to be on The Real World more than you wanted to go to college.
  • The volume of pride one could feel for outstanding achievements in Skip-It.
  • How often we ate Crystal Light without water.

Did I miss anything?

Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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