I Wrote Jake Ryan's Name On My Binders

by Meredith Gordon
Originally Published: 

I love the ’80s. There, I said it. I love the ’80s in a way that only children of the decade can really appreciate. Truth be told, I feel smug when those flannel-wearing ’90s kids brag about their grunge music or when a Millennial boasts about the value of auto-tune.

The ’80s were a special time when life felt like a John Hughes movie and awkward reigned supreme. Life was extreme and so were my shoulder pads. Life felt like one big synthesizer-music party.

But, that’s not why I really love the ’80s. I love the them because I was a teen then, and teens, by nature, are idiots. Teens wear stupid things and speak in one-word sentences. Teens think they know it all, and teens think they invented style.

What they don’t know is that 20 years later, they’ll look back at old photos showcasing their teen fashion choices and cringe. But what we ’80s teens had going for us, unlike teens of this generation, is that we could be idiots without the permanence of Facebook posts, Instagram photos and Snapchat hackers. In other words, we ’80s teens could be idiots in private. Thank God, or someone might remember when I did these totally embarrassing things that only an ’80s teen would do.

I practiced writing “Mrs. Jake Ryan” on my binder over and over again. After my early ’80s crush on Andy Gibb, I moved on to Sixteen Candles‘ fictitious hot guy, Jake Ryan. I was sure that someday Jake and I were meant to be Mr. and Mrs., so I practiced my married-to-Jake-Ryan signature over and over again on my binder at school. At least I didn’t get my towels monogrammed.

Step aerobics. I did step aerobics. Until my knees started to creak like the Tin Man’s and before the first time I took a header over the step and fell in front of my entire class, step aerobics class was a totally fun way to get in shape while wearing neon Lycra. Step aerobics is also one of the most embarrassing workouts other than the ThighMaster. And yes, I did that too.

I made wallpaper out of photos of Cindy, Christy, Naomi and Linda. I had the most unbelievable girl crush on all of the George Michael video supermodels. In fact, I covered my bedroom walls in floor-to-ceiling photos of them. And when no one was looking, I’d practice my supermodel walk. Sadly, my supermodel walk usually included me tripping down the catwalk, also known as the shag carpet in the bedroom of my childhood home.

Double polo shirts! Remember those jerks who wore two polo shirts with the collars turned up? Well, I was one of those jerks. My nickname in high school was “Double Polo.” That many shirts weren’t really necessary, but I was determined to coordinate my collars.

Everything had to be pink and gray. During my preppy phase, I was determined to wear only pink and gray clothing and shoes. It was cute for a while, but it got old very fast. Just ask my mom, who was forced into helping me dye pennies gray so they would work with pink penny loafers.

I looked like a spokesperson for Esprit. I owned so much clothing from Esprit that I looked like I worked for the company. I should have. I’m sure my mom would have appreciated the discount on all of those identical sweatshirts that all read, “ESPRIT.”

Leg warmers, moon boots and other things no California kid needed to wear. I’m not sure who started the leg warmer trend, but I ran with it. And I don’t remember when the moon boots fashion trend began, but I took those on as well. The only problem was that I grew up in California, where no child’s legs ever need to be kept that warm. So while I was on-trend, I was also sweaty. Whatever. At least I looked cute.

I permed my hair. I went through a hair phase that can be best described as “Shirley Temple on Red Bull,” because that’s what my otherwise straight hair looked like after my first perm. Based on the smell of an ’80s perm alone, I’m surprised they were legal. Based on the results, they shouldn’t have been.

I dreamed of being one of Sting’s back-up singers. No true child of the ’80s ever missed a good concert, and I was no exception. So when Sting went solo and came to my town, I was there front and center. I immediately fell in love–not with Sting, but with his synchronized back-up singers. From then on, I’d practice my back-up singer moves in my mirror at home and dreamed of going to a college where I could major in back-up singing. If only I could sing!

I wore shoulder pads, sweater dresses and plastic jewelry. While ’80s fashion may have consisted of flammable items made of synthetic fabrics, it was still pretty fabulous and over the top. No other generation boasts clothing with shoulder pads thicker than pillows and long dresses made entirely of sweater. Though if you ever had a loose shoulder pad incident, you know that a shoulder pad in the wrong place is pretty much the worst.

So while children of the 1990s can sing the lyrics of every Nirvana song and Millennials think Taylor Swift is a genius, we ’80s kids know for a fact we had the best of all worlds. After all, we could be idiots without anyone really remembering just how silly we looked in our shoulder pads and moon boots. Respect.

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