9 Ways My Adulthood Has Trashed My '80s Childhood Dreams

by Alyssa Pera
Originally Published: 

Being a kid in the ’80s was totally rad. Not only did I love rocking sky-high bangs, crafting mixtapes and pining for Joey from the New Kids on the Block, but I grew up believing that adulthood would be so futuristically fabulous I’d definitely need to wear shades.

While my Ray-Bans might be back in style, I think they’re unimpressed with the view. Being a grown-up is awesome in many ways, but when I compare my current adulthood to the life I envisioned back in the ’80s, it looks kind of lame.

Here are nine reasons why:

1. My car drives on the ground.

I learned to drive on a 1985 stick shift Jetta. “Stick shift is cool,” my parents said. But as I mercilessly ground the gears trying to get the Jetta up a hill—a line of cars beeping their horns behind me while my mom clutched the armrest for dear life—it felt anything but cool. I fantasized about the day when I’d be soaring through the sky in my Jetsons-style electric flying car, laughing as I passed over the junk pile our old Jetta would be sitting on.

Now my landlocked Honda minivan is the only one laughing.

2. I do not have a robot.

I was absolutely convinced that every household in America would have its own robot maid by the time I had kids of my own. When my parents used to nag me to clean my room or put the dishes away, I’d roll my eyes and think: Thank God I won’t have to worry about this when I have a family. Our own personal robot will take care of cleaning everything, right after she shoots breakfast out of her fingertips and gets us all showered and dressed with her eyeball laser beams.

Nice try, Roomba. You’re lame.

3. I’m expected to have muscle tone.

I’m pretty sure I did not think about my abs, triceps or hamstrings for one second throughout my teenage years, back when I was young and smooth-skinned and playing a bunch of sports. What was the point of muscles when I was dressing in oversized blazers with shoulder pads, my dad’s flannel shirts and pants that were so pleated I could’ve smuggled a small child next to my hips?

Now that I’ve reached my 40s and given birth to two kids, I’m supposed to be all about skinny jeans and tank tops and strapless maxi dresses. Life would have been much better if I could have hidden my postpartum belly underneath an oversized Outback Red sweater. Thanks, 2010s.

4. I have zero otherworldly friends.

Between Mork, Alf, E.T., KITT from Knight Rider and that chick from Small Wonder, I just naturally assumed I’d have an alien or computerized buddy by now. You know, someone slightly ornery and off-kilter but fun. Someone who would keep life interesting with silly but mostly tame hijinks and occasionally engage in deep reflections on humankind or join me in a fight against worldly injustice.

Not one off-kilter but fun alien friend. Not even one.

5. I’ve never been to the moon.

I guess I could blame my lack of alien friends for the fact that I have not yet managed to hang out on the moon. I’m super upset that I had to cancel my 40th birthday party on the moon, which I planned for myself 30 years ago. Apparently, the moon’s not taking reservations, as I was positive it would be in 2015.

Does anyone even care about the moon anymore? Poor moon.

6. I know what’s in delicious snack foods.

Wouldn’t you love to occasionally un-know what we’ve learned about food? So many times I stand in the junk food aisle at the store gazing wistfully at the scrumptious Little Debbie coffee cakes that were a completely acceptable breakfast in the ’80s. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I now eat things like kale and chickpeas and Greek yogurt and that I know better, but sometimes I wish I could just erase my knowledge of Red 40 and hydrogenated oils and BHT and feed my kids some damn rainbow layered finger Jell-O for lunch already.

7. Working out is actually exhausting.

My mom was an aerobics instructor in the ’80s, which was every bit as awesome as it sounds. Lisa Vanderpump’s shoe closet will never be as fabulous as my mom’s drawers filled with braided elastic headbands, high-cut leotards with belts, suntan-colored nylons, layering socks and leg warmers. Occasionally, she’d let me come along to her classes or join her in the living room to do the Jane Fonda workout on the VCR. I couldn’t wait until I was a grown-up so that I could be cool like her.

Now, being a player in the fitness world requires forking over a mortgage payment to Lululemon and doing workouts that are really, really hard. No more Sweatin’ to the Oldies followed by a three martini lunch. Instead, it’s all about CrossFit, powerlifting, Pure Barre, P90X, power yoga and the INSANITY workout, and then let’s go reward ourselves by paying $10 for a green juice that makes us gag. Um, yay?

8. My hair is beyond boring.

Back in the ’80s, I often failed to recognize my parents’ closest friends when they came to visit because their hair changed so drastically and so often. Yesterday’s perm was tomorrow’s frosted mullet and next Thursday’s feathered bouffant.

A few years ago, I went all out and cut myself some bangs. This was a momentous occasion, which I marked by taking my first-ever selfie and sending it out to my friends. Why? Because I hadn’t changed my hairstyle in nearly 15 years. Aside from the deepening lines on my face, photos of me over the last decade look pretty much the same. What fun is that?

9. It still takes five hours to roast a turkey.

I’ll never forget when my parents brought home our first microwave. We gazed through the glass door in awe, watching as it turned flat paper rectangles into bloated bags of popcorn and transformed chunks of orange Velveeta into a first-class chip dip. It felt like the wave of the future, and in my youthful opinion, ovens and stoves would definitely be obsolete by the time the 2000s rolled around.

So imagine my dismay when I still find myself, year after year, using a regular stove and oven, simmering and stirring and poking meat with a thermometer. Now my slow cooker feels like the most modern thing I own. At least I can keep it on when I leave the house!

If it could talk, we would totally be friends.

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