Don’t call me “Generation X,” call me a child of the eighties
by Bryant Adkinspublished in The ReflectorJanuary 20, 1995
I am a child of the eighties. That is what I prefer to be called. The nineties can do without me. Grunge isn’t here to stay, fashion is fickle and “Generation X” is a myth created by some over-40 writer trying to figure out why people wear flannel in the summer. When I got home from school, I played with my Atari 2600. I spent hours playing Pitfall or Combat or Breakout or Dodge’em Cars or Frogger. I never did beat Asteroids. Then I watched “Scooby Doo.” Daphne was a Goddess, and I thought Shaggy was smoking something synthetic in the back of their psychedelic van. I hated Scrappy.
I would sleep over at friends’ houses on the weekends. We played army with G.I. Joe figures, and I set up galactic wars between Autobots and Decepticons. We stayed up half the night throwing marshmallows and Velveeta at one another. We never beat the Rubik’s Cube.
I got up on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. to watch bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons like “The Snorks,” “Jabberjaw,” “Captain Caveman,” and “Space Ghost.” In between I would watch “School House Rock.” (“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”)
On weeknights Daisy Duke was my future wife. I was going to own the General Lee and shoot dynamite arrows out the back. Why did they weld the doors shut? At the movies the Nerds got Revenge on the Alpha Betas by teaming up with the Omega Mus. I watched Indiana Jones save the Ark of the Covenant, and wondered what Yoda meant when he said, “No, there is another.”
Ronald Reagan was cool. Gorbachev was the guy who built a McDonalds in Moscow. My family took summer vacations to the Gulf of Mexico and collected “Muppet Movie” glasses along the way. (We had the whole set.) My brother and I fought in the back seat. At the hotel we found creative uses for Connect Four pieces like throwing them in that big air conditioning unit.
I listened to John COUGAR Mellencamp sing about Little Pink Houses for Jack and Diane. I was bewildered by Boy George and the colors of his dreams, red, gold, and green. MTV played videos. Nickelodeon played “You Can’t Do That on Television” and “Dangermouse.” Cor! HBO showed Mike Tyson pummel everybody except Robin Givens, the bad actress from “Head of the Class” who took all Mike’s cashflow.
I drank Dr. Pepper. “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” Shasta was for losers. TAB was a laboratory accident. Capri Sun was a social statement. Orange juice wasn’t just for breakfast anymore, and bacon had to move over for something meatier.
My mom put a thousand Little Debbie Snack Cakes in my Charlie Brown lunch box, and filled my Snoopy Thermos with grape Kool-Aid. I would never eat the snack cakes, though. Did anyone? I got two thousand cheese and cracker snack packs, and I ate those.
I went to school and had recess. I went to the same classes everyday. Some weird guy from the eighth grade always won the science fair with the working hydro-electric plant that leaked on my project about music and plants. They just loved Beethoven.
Field day was bigger than Christmas, but it always managed to rain just enough to make everybody miserable before they fell over in the three-legged race. Where did all those panty hose come from? “Deck the Halls with Gasoline, fa la la la la la la la la,” was just a song. Burping was cool. Rubber band fights were cooler. A substitute teacher was a baby sitter/marked woman. Nobody deserved that.
I went to Cub Scouts. I got my arrow-of-light, but never managed to win the Pinewood Derby. I got almost every skill award but don’t remember ever doing anything.
The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.
Did a teacher come in and tell your class?
Half of your friends’ parents got divorced.
People did not just say no to drugs.
AIDS started, but you knew more people who had a grandparent die from cancer.
Somebody in your school died before they graduated.
When you put all this stuff together, you have my childhood. If this stuff sounds familiar, then I bet you are one, too.
We are children of the eighties. That is what I prefer “they” call it.