The golden years of the 1990s seem like yesterday, but no, they ended a decade and a half ago. Where has the time gone? I know where the last five years of my life have gone—I’ve been busy having babies and trying to balance home life and a writing career. But before that? Hell if I know.
The ’90s are clearly marked in my brain because I met my husband, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, in February 1990. After a whirlwind, long-distance courtship, we were married in October, and I moved from Florida to Virginia to be with him. What can I say? I know a good thing when I find it. We spent three years in Virginia (well, mostly I did—he was gone a lot), then we moved to Charleston, South Carolina. In January 2000, we left South Carolina for Newport, Rhode Island. So the 1990s are a blur of young love, depressingly long deployments and two major moves.
What do I miss most about that sweet decade?
The whole world opened up when the Internet went mainstream. I still remember that little thrill I got from hearing those magic words: “You’ve got mail!” AOL was email for the masses—those of us who didn’t really understand computers or the capabilities of the Internet, who just thought email was a quicker way to write our friends. When I joined in 1992, AOL was a paid subscription service. It’s free now, and I still have (and use) my original email address, but I do miss the original AOL and that happy voice telling me someone had written me and knowing it probably wasn’t spam, because spam didn’t really exist in those early days.
2. My First Cell Phone
I don’t remember if it was 1992 or 1993, but I finally got my own cell phone after convincing my husband to get one a year or so before me because he worked all kinds of crazy hours and had an unreliable car. Oh, the freedom of having a phone that allowed me to be reached no matter where I was! I’d only had a cordless landline for about three years at that point, so a cell phone seemed almost magical. Yes, I have a lifelong aversion to new technology, unless you can demonstrate that it will improve my life immensely. In this era of smart phones that allow us to live our whole lives on a five-inch screen (including checking my AOL email), I miss the simpler days of “dumb” phones that didn’t even have texting capabilities. Those were the days … real phone calls and that familiar refrain, “Can you hear me now?”
3. ‘Mad About You’
It first aired in 1992, and I’m pretty sure Jay was deployed, but he caught up with me on the reruns. This story of a pair of quirky, neurotic New Yorkers made me laugh and sigh. Jamie and Paul’s love story was nothing like my own, but I still adored them and their dumb but lovable dog Murray. I hated how the series ended, the love story tarnished, but oh, those early days! The series went off the air in 1999, but Jay and I have been watching it again and reminiscing about our own early romance.
4. Bill Clinton
I loved Bill Clinton. I loved—and still love—Hillary Clinton. I loved their daughter Chelsea and their cat, Socks. I loved that Bill Clinton’s campaign song was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” I loved that he played saxophone and seemed like such a down-to-earth guy. Mostly, I loved that the Clinton era seemed like a gentler, more innocent time in our country’s history. Oh yes, there was Monica and the blue dress, but the fact that it was even considered newsworthy seems so inconsequential and silly in retrospect. I miss the sense of hope I had when Bill Clinton took office. I miss the way his presidency made me feel like only good things could happen.
5. Life Before 9/11
Like Bill Clinton’s presidency, life seemed gentler before September 11, 2001. There’s a naivety to that era, maybe even an ignorance to our assumptions that anywhere in the world can be safe from terrorism and hatred, including the United States. I miss feeling like nothing bad can happen as long as I’m home, whether it’s in my house or simply in my own country. I miss those naïve days, I miss the person I was then—more trusting, more hopeful, more innocent to the tragedies of life. And I will always miss that New York skyline.
I have a fondness for the 1990s that is surpassed only by my love of the 1980s. I came of age in the ’80s, but I really grew up—and into the woman I am today—in the ’90s. It was a good time, some of the best of times. But despite my fond memories, the decade wasn’t all sunshine and cupcakes. It was an era where I was still trying to figure out who I was, as a person, as a wife, as a writer, and there were growing pains in every area of my life. I have most of it figured out now, and I would never want to go back when there is so much to look forward to.