I Don't Understand '80s Nostalgia, And I'm OK With That

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 

I am a child of the ’80s and ’90s. (Okay, more of the ’80s than ’90s, but let me have this, mmmkay?) In any event, I should be all over the teen nostalgia that’s all the rage right now.

Except, well, I’m not.

I was a shy kid, always just on the periphery of the “cool kid group,” and we lived in a teeny-tiny town. So I missed the boat on a lot of trends. I didn’t see any Star Wars movies until I was well into my 30s with kids of my own. I still haven’t seen Mystic Pizza, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or any of the Indiana Jones movies. I didn’t go to a NKOTB concert, and our family didn’t have cable so I never watched MTV.

Simply put: I’m a bit of an outsider. Always was, probably always will be. And I’m 100% okay with that.

Whatever the reason, this is what it’s like when you grew up an “outsider:”

1. You often don’t know people are talking about.

I only recently figured out what the “It’s Gonna Be May” memes are all about because I wasn’t a huge NSYNC fan. I had to Google it. Seriously. You get used to nodding your head, fake-smiling and uh-huh’ing when people make pop culture references.

2. You were spared some embarrassing pictures.

I didn’t get into that jean-tight-rolling trend so popular back in the day until about 2 weeks before the trend went out of fashion. (Side note: I literally just learned this is called “pegging.”) I didn’t tease my hair to the heavens, and I only used one scrunchie at a time (not 15). And THANK GOD FOR THAT. Because while I have a shit ton of awkward photos from my youth, the ugly fashion trend reminders are minimal.

3. You have resilience — and sympathy — for those times when your kid feels left out.

My oldest son was quite literally the last person in his grade to get a cell phone, and believe me, he reminded me of it on a daily basis. But when you grow up as the only kid without cable and A/C (true story), you get pretty resilient when it comes to the “but I’m the only one” arguments from your kids. At the same time, you can also empathize and appreciate their angst in an all-too-real way.

4. You learn that different is good.

Maybe you missed out on childhood trends because your family didn’t have extra money to blow on passing phases. Or maybe your culture, religion or upbringing distances you a bit from what was accepted by the “in crowd.” Or maybe you just marched to the beat of your own drummer and were never really into what was deemed “cool” by everyone else. Whatever the reason, when you’re out of the loop, you learn that different is good. You learn to appreciate hidden gems and little-known surprises. You learn to fly under the radar and do your own thing.

I spent most of my life feeling like I didn’t fit in, and truthfully, it kind of sucked. But at some point, things all even out. You realize that life isn’t about trends or pop culture. It isn’t about knowing all the inside jokes or movie lines. It’s about being comfortable being you. And that never goes out of style.

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