My life changed the day I moved to California and stood outside my front door watching the older girls in my neighborhood roller skate around our cul de sac. They all had white skates with bright orange wheels, and I looked down at my stupid adjustable skates that fit over my shoes. My father said they were more practical because they’d “grow with my feet,” but when you’re the new kid, who wants “practical?”
I didn’t want to be practical or have anything grow with me. I wanted to be like the cool girls with the Farrah Fawcett hair cuts and roller skates with actual laces, dammit.
That was the first time I remember wanting to have something come hell or high water, and man, was I determined to make it happen. I may have only been seven years old, and it was the ’80s so the Internet wasn’t a thing, but the girls in my neighborhood (and movies like Footloose and shows like Square Pegs) were enough to make me start coveting all the things.
If you were a child of the ’80s, chances are things weren’t handed to you. You worked and saved your allowance for anything extra because a lot of us came from bigger families with one income. Expensive jeans weren’t just purchased on a regular Saturday afternoon for the hell of it. They were saved for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas, or we worked around the neighborhood walking dogs and shoveling poo until we could buy it our damn selves.
There was so much deliciousness we all wanted (but usually had to wait for, or never got). Things like:
1. Guess Jeans
I wanted a pair of these for two years before I actually got a pair that were on sale. There was no way my parents were going to buy me $50 jeans in 1985 and I still remember the sound of their laughter their first time I asked for a pair.
2. Call Waiting
Originally invented in the ’70s, most of us didn’t get this until a decade or two later. This was technology at its finest in the ’80s. No more busy signals or having to dial someone’s phone number on the rotary phone over and over until you got through. Also, how important did you feel the first time you got to say, “Hang on, I have to take another call?” Oh, I would have been so much cooler if I had perfected call waiting earlier — I always ending up hanging up on someone.
3. A Swatch Watch
A Swatch was the only watch to have and I love how mine had two different colored bands. In the ’80s, you were cool if you had one of these bad boys, but if you had three going up your arm, even better!
4. A Benetton Rugby
When you walked through the halls wearing anything with Benetton printed on it, you knew you’d made it. My rugby was white with turquoise letters and I felt reckless whenever I wore it.
5. Anything Esprit
In junior high, all the girls had the cute little Esprit backpack that resembled the Nike backpacks all the kids have today. Esprit clothing was all the rage too, but it was hella expensive. I mean, if you were going to wear something with the label on it, it needed to be huge for all the world to see.
6. Jordache jeans
Oh, these were fine acid wash jeans with a high waist. If I recall, the pockets were high as was the top of the pants which came complete with buttons, zippers, and the option to fold them down.
7. Store-bought sweets
I don’t care if it was sugar cereal, Oreos, or Drake’s fruit pies, we all wanted the high-fructose corn syrup in our mouths. Many of us had parents who didn’t splurge on such nonsense at the grocery store and forced us to eat homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and the like. We all wanted to stuff you could buy in the stores that has a one hundred-year shelf life, and a lot of us still feel deprived.
8. A perm that actually looked good
Raise your hand if you and your besties indulged in the home-perm movement because your parents gave you a big fat N-O when it came to getting your locked frizzled into place at the salon. We all had high hopes as we inhaled the spiral perm fumes, but many of us were left with Brillo pads instead of the luscious curls we saw in the commercials and magazines.
9. Michael Jackson’s first album
It was my first cassette, and my sisters and I would listen to every song over and over on our boom box outside in our front yard. We’d even moonwalk for the cars as they drove by. I’m pretty sure if there were camera phones in those days, we would have gone viral.
10. A leather bomber jacket
Speaking of Michael Jackson, he started the leather bomber jacket trend and we all wanted one to go with our Guess or Jordache jeans. Then, the movie Top Gun came out and instead of a want, it became a need. My first one was fake and it wasn’t long before the faux fabric wore out and revealed the blue nylon underneath. But it was fun and I felt like I was in charge while it lasted.
I have to say, I think coveting these things while we were younger and having to earn them — or waiting until we were older to enjoy them — is one of the things that makes Gen-Xers so damn amazing and hardworking.
Honestly, if I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing about all the goodies I wanted but had to wait to buy myself, borrow from a friend, or unwrap on a birthday. Because it made them all the more special.