best childhood ever

The Lost Generation Of Early 80s Babies Are The Real Ones

We’ve lived two entirely different lifetimes in the span of our short lives: half analog/half digital.

The Lost Generation Of Early 80s Babies Are The Real Ones
Jena Ardell/Moment/Getty Images

I was recently describing the tedious process of how to burn a CD to my 10-year-old and he looked at me confused, then burst out laughing in disbelief. This encounter solidified my hunch that I actually did grow up in an entirely different world than kids today. Even though I’m not even that old (I was born in the early 80s), our childhoods could not be more different. And thank goodness!

These young whippersnappers, they have no idea. I’m so happy that my formative years were spent in a much simpler time before this digital dumpster fire era of selfies, smartphones, and now AI.

Those of us who were born between 1979 and 1982 are in a weird, weird place — a generation lost in the cracks between Gen X and Millennial. We were raised with pay phones, mixed tapes that we painstakingly curated ourselves, live television WITH COMMERCIALS, pagers, and the g*ddamn Dewey Decimal System. We have lived two entirely different lifetimes in the span of our short lives: half analog and half digital.

We spent infinite nights listening to top 40 countdowns on the radio. But oh, the suspense of which song would take that #1 slot! We called into the radio station and requested a song to be dedicated to a crush. Our generation endured a transition in music starting from cassette tapes to CDs that we would listen to on a magical little device called a Walkman that you could — wait for it! — carry around with you! My Gen Alpha kids minds: officially blown.

We had riveting shows about childhood like Saved by the Bell, which they tried to redo and it’s not the same. What is this garbage?

Now, our kids find enjoyment in watching other people play video games like Roblox and Fortnite on YouTube. Make it make sense! There wasn’t unlimited amounts of content to stream and your show was only on at a certain time so if you had to miss it, your best bet was to record it on a VHS tape. But somehow my kids still complain there is nothing to watch?

When the phone rang in your house, you had no idea who was calling. You had to just answer it and say, “Hello?” My kids don’t even know a world where people are not glued to their smartphones 24/7 and texting is not ubiquitous.

Remember having to make polite conversation with the friend’s parents while we waited for them to come to the phone? Sometimes, we would even unknowingly incriminate them during one of these conversations, “No Mrs. Douglas, Heather didn’t stay the night with me last weekend.” Then, after all that, your buddy, now pissed, would finally come to the phone.

I miss the days when you would just go knock on the neighbor’s door to hang out. Now kids set up playdates by me texting their mom, and it has to be a whole thing. Many times, I don’t even know her real name, it’s in my phone as Brynleigh’s mom.

There was no such thing as FOMO because we didn’t know where people were at all times. When we left home, we were truly off the grid. There was no internet to tell you the exact location of everyone you knew. You very well may not have been invited somewhere, but at least it was not rubbed in your face. The good news was a special relic called an answering machine would retrieve all your messages while you were away though. That is, if the tape didn’t get destroyed first.

Back in the day, malls were a thing. Doused in CK One (obviously!), we would make a day of it and hit up all our favorite haunts and hunt for cute guys. There were important decisions to be made in the food court: Orange Julius, Wetzel’s Pretzels, or perhaps you could fill up eating samples of a chicken on a toothpick. When you were done, you would scrounge up a quarter and call for a ride home from a payphone.

Remember the best part of the mall? I’ve got two words for you: Glamour. Shots. If you know, you know. If you ever had ten pounds of makeup and self-tanner applied, your hair teased within an inch of its life, and wore a boa in a terrible (and borderline inappropriate) photo, then you are my people.

There was no GPS, which posed a problem for those of us who are, ahem, directionally challenged. I would drive aimlessly for hours because I had no idea where I was. The overachievers among us would read printed out directions while trying not to die while steering the car. For road trips, we used an actual map.

Processed food was the norm. I remember having Fruit Loops for breakfast, a Snickers bar and a Mountain Dew for lunch, and boxed Tuna Helper Casserole for dinner and thinking it was a perfectly fine diet for a growing child. There was nary a vegetable consumed my entire youth. Kale? Quinoa? Clean eating? Never heard of her.

Our biggest concern was getting caught skipping school or slacking off, not getting shot. Our parents had cars with no power windows, so we had to crank the handle to roll the f*cker down. I distinctly remember when we got a car with power windows, I sat in awe wondering what kind of black magic I was witnessing the windows go up and down, all with the click of a button. Growing up, we had aspirations of being a police officer, a doctor, a teacher, or a fireman. Gen Alpha seems to have two main career goals: an influencer or a YouTuber.

Folks brought up in the sacred era of the 80s and 90s have been through it and lived to tell the tale. I’d like to think that we’re made from much sturdier stock having borne witness to such marvels as a land line or the distinct screeching noise of dial-up internet (can you hear that glorious sound?).

Growing up then was the best childhood ever, and I’m eternally grateful to have come of age during those glorious years. I miss it, don’t you?

Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford