To be a teen in the 90s.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

I was inside of a high school building today. It was live, that is, students and teachers were actively doing what students and teachers do, and I was there in the middle of it when the P.A. crackled and issued forth the following announcement: “Students are reminded that coats are not allowed in the classroom. They are to be kept in your locker, along with your cell phones and ipods.”


Even though I myself have a cell phone and something of an ipod, the announcement reminded me of how much space exists between the current high school generation and my own. Light years. To be a teen in 2008 is so vastly different than to be a teen in 1998. Of course this is true as any decade passes. In 1998 we had technology our 80’s teenage predecessors did not: most families had computers with the increasingly popular internet, we had CDs and Discmans and maybe a fledgling DVD collection (I was still a VHS girl). Pagers were fairly popular, and a few of the elite had cell phones, although most students saved their envy for greater things—personal cell phones were not necessary and were even seen as a bit decadent. Clueless, for all of its satire, was prophetic. (But how were we to know?)


We did not text, we did not facebook, we did not myspace, we did not youtube. We did not blog.


We were not at war.


Instead we worried about Y2K, stored freshwater in our bathtub and stocked our basements full of canned goods and plastic wrap. We were prepared for anything, so we thought. We were the classes who ushered in school shootings and, soon after, school shooting drills. We distracted ourselves. We argued about who was truly the “first graduating class of the new millenium,” class of ’00 or class of ’01. (’01, for the record.) We listened to some really bad music. In general, we liked ourselves, but under the microscope maybe we didn’t.

I once thought I would write a story about this, about teens who lived their teenage years during the 90’s, but it’s already been done so many times, and with much greater accuracy I’m sure, by writers who were themselves immersed in the 90’s at the time of writing. The 90’s are now history, and I’ve never done well with history. I’ve never really liked the 90’s. But that may be common, for a person to reject the decade surrounding their high school years. Is it?