10 Things 90s Kids Will Have To Explain To Their Children

While most things we experienced as tots in that headiest of eras seems pretty self-explanatory (plaid was everywhere, Leonardo DiCaprio was the molten ball of light around which the solar system turned, and there was no color too bright for your sweatpants) there are some things that will be a bit harder to explain. Here, a primer for when your future children want to know what the hell you were doing with your boxy, multicolored electronics.

1. Topanga was at some point in human history considered not only a legitimate first name for a human being, but the kind of name that would inspire in malleable teenage boys a life-long infatuation. Topanga, in our day, was leading lady name-material. Topanga (pronounced Tah-payne-ga, for those who will have only ever seen in it written down) is the name of the quintessential girl-next-door who will live, along with Feeney, in our hearts forever.

2. At some point, we carried around little plastic eggs with tiny screens on them — in these screens lived our hearts, our pets, our raison d’etre, our very own Tamagotchi. We loved them, we listened to their tiny electronic screams of malnourishment, and we occasionally forgot to pick up their poop for long enough that they died a tortured, poop-filled death. They were perhaps our first foray into the life-consuming world of electronics and self-absorption, later to be fully manifested by Facebook.

3. The black Power Ranger was black and the yellow Power Ranger was Asian because…we were so completely ahead of our time and beyond the capacity to even think in terms of something as inconsequential as race that… uh… I don’t know. Casting directors were racist in the nineties.

4. Long before he was spending his days foisting his mediocre children on us, Will Smith was actually the perfect human specimen. He also undoubtedly holds some world record for saving the world the most times while simultaneously delivering flawless catchphrases and giving cool guy nods to the camera. The Men In Black rap song, at the time, was created and received by the public without the slightest trace of irony. Really. He was that good.

5. In some inevitable shift of the time-space continuum in which James Cameron continues to rob humanity of all that is good and sacred in this world, Fern Gully will be known as that movie that ripped off Avatar. It will be up to us to crusade for what is right. It is up to us to explain that Fern Gully was not only a predecessor to Avatar, but far better, in that it contained both Tim Curry as a singing pile of molasses and Robin Williams rapping about animal testing in the pharmaceutical industry. (As a side note, if you have not recently listened to the full lyrics of the “Batty Rap,” I recommend you do, as they are horrifying.)

6. A neighborhood boy who completely disregards your family and puts a ladder directly under the teenage girl’s window to climb up at his discretion is not only acceptable, it’s charming. It’s the kind of stuff that would make said family take the ladder boy under their wing and into their heart. The nineties were a simpler time, one where we didn’t have to worry about things like breaking and entering. Clarissa today would have steel bars on the inside of her window and her father would continually remind her that the next-door boy with his ladder and his touchy hands have no place in his household.

7. Though on the surface, they are the exact same thing in every conceivable way, whether you liked The Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC said more about your character than all of the terrible macaroni art you could ever make for your child psychologist. Essentially, liking *NSYNC meant you liked Justin Timberlake, as he was clearly the Seabiscuit in that race from the get-go. You even liked him with his terrible, icy-blond mini-fro. Liking the Backstreet Boys gave you a bit more of a cultured palate, as there was no clear Diana in those Supremes. Nick was kind of the wholesome, if northern-Florida-redneck safe choice (save for his humiliating younger brother, Aaron). Brian was the shy, sensitive type. AJ was the hottt, dangerous meth addict. Kevin Richardson was mute with sexy, sculpted facial hair. No one liked Howie. Choosing between the two groups was like choosing between two beloved children, but once that line was crossed–there was no going back.

8. “I wanna really really really wanna zig a zig ahh,” has a meaning, and all true nineties kids know it, but we must never share it. Like the Illuminati, it must remain between us, the keyholders. With great power comes great responsibility.

9. Lisa Frank is not the name of a woman, it is the name of a movement, a culture, a way of living. It is a theory, a concept, a belief in something greater than yourself. It is the belief that all girls are entitled to dolphins covered with rainbows, jewel-encrusted frogs, and unicorns in acid-trip colors hugging each other. It is the ideology that no notebook is complete until it literally hurts your eyes to look at from so much color saturation. It is the hope that no school supply, no matter how insignificant, will be left un-bedazzled. It is the knowledge that your eraser cap, and that of your granddaughter’s, and her granddaughter’s after her, will not be some boring little nub–it will be a diamond covered with butterflies in a rainbow of colors. It is the dream of a better tomorrow.

10. Incredibly depressing women in Indiana covered in cats and glass figurines they buy at The Hallmark Store used to troll the web 1.0 to invest thousands of dollars in tiny stuffed animals filled with plastic beans. That happened. Beanie Babies were not just significant, they were the first example most of us had of envy, greed, and wrath. If someone messed up that little heart-shaped Ty tag, so help you God, that was the end of whatever contact you had with that monster of a human being. That tag-less Beanie Baby was now trash, and you had to deal with the consequence. It was at that moment, that de-valued Beanie Baby moment, that most of us accepted the truth… we’ll never have nice things. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

    As a child, I always thought Ben Savage’s character was cute…
    Now looking at his adult self, I’d say he’s fuckable.

    • Anonymous

      nuh-uh. fred savage is cuter.

      • VA

        Hell yeah.  Fred Savage can get it

      • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington

        Why are y’all discussing EITHER of the Savages?

        Um, Rider Strong, duh, hello?

    • http://gofuckyourself.com terdbasket

      This is unfair, a very narrow minded picture of the nineties. I was around for the whole thing and there were a lot of amazing things going on and incredible bands. I read an article like this and it alienates the years that I experienced as a kid. What I will be explaining to my kids about the 90s is how amazing Oasis and Weezer were.

  • Caitlin

    Tomagachis made me realize I should probably never have children or they’ll likely drown in a sea of their own feces.

    • nina

      Always got the snake..

  • Guest

    i wholeheartedly agree with this article except for one small thing in #4:  Will Smith’s ‘mediocre children’.  


    • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I want to rescue fierce Willow from those crazy, closeted cultists.

    • DSRY

      They are so below mediocre that it’s not funny. Will clearly did not pass any of his “cool” genes on to his dorky, talentless kids.

  • Cat

    I never wanted this to end. Write a part 2 please?

  • Anonymous

    This is just so great.
    Future children, take note.

  • http://ifonlyhehadabeard.blogspot.com Katherine Speller

    Since the advent of Tumblr and “we remember…” facebook pages, I worried that 90’s nostalgia was one of those things that couldn’t be entertaining or funny anymore because it’s just everywhere, inflating our generation with this insane sense of self worth because we watched Nickelodeon and ate Lunchables. Maybe that’s not the case. I liked this. 

    • Amara

      I was totally thinking the same exact thing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=696196762 Alexis Carek

    When I die, I’m leaving all of my worldly possessions to the Lisa Frank corporation for introducing me to colors only available in the deep recesses of the mind long before I knew of Timothy Leary.

  • http://twitter.com/palespectre flipside of a memory

    Tamagotchi you mean.

  • Sam

    Um, do people remember McDonald’s beanie baby craze? Or should I say, Teenie Beenie? Good god, that was a terrifying time.

    • guest

      the cause of my temporary high cholesterol, I swear

      • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington

        Girl, I ate a shit ton of caramel sundaes.

  • Clairellis628

    This was amazing and I also didn’t want it to end. Lisa Frank changed my life. And N*Sync is still the greatest. Although I divided my love evenly between them and the Backstreet Boys. Best 90’s article I’ve ever read.

  • M90999

    My friends’ parents were investors in Ty and even published all of the official “Beanie Baby Handbooks.” Lets’ just say they did really well and pulled out before the trend passed. They’re on their third new home, by the way.

  • http://twitter.com/kaimcn Kai

    I lived through this, but I would still love to take your course on 90s Kids and the Monsters They Became.

    P.S., Back me up on this: isn’t everyone born after 1989 totally suspect?

    • Rob

      Without a doubt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jhonna-Tirpak/43702638 Jhonna Tirpak

    furbies, polly pocket, wind breakers, stir up pants

    • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington


  • Wes Janisen

    Can we just give Chelsea a standing ovation for over a thousand ‘facebook shares’ in a few mere hours!!? Great article!!

    • Wes Janisen

      Sorry, I meant FIVE THOUSAND!

      • Anonymous

        You’re a sweetheart. :)

  • Ysabel08

    no one liked Howie. hahahaha

    • MidnightPeapod

      I can never remember Howie’s name! Although, I was an N*SYNC fan. . .I liked Joey best.

  • Jenna M Starkey

    The beanie baby thing is my favorite. Rip the tag off so help you God. I’m laughing..

  • Anna

    I always got so pissed when my Tomagatchi shat on itself that I would immediately reset that bitch.

    • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington

      please never work in a care facility.

  • XOCB

    lol HEY NOW, I liked Howie! hahahaha, he had a really cute smile :)

  • Msmojorisinbjae

    although I had over 200 posters and pics of nsync all over my walls, i was still a fan of the lesser boy bands such as LFO and 98 degrees.  yeah, summer time girls!

    • a.

      I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch…

    • ramnik

      It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do…to turn around and walk away pretending I don’t LOOOOVEEE you.

    • http://timjonesyelvington.com Tim Jones-Yelvington

      BBMak played instruments!

  • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans


    • Cait

      Rap like an animal
      But I’m a mammal

  • Alex

    “The black Power Ranger was black and the yellow Power Ranger was Asian”

    Whoa, never put that one together.

    • Angela

      Probably because its not that serious.

      • Jo

        Good lord. Relax a little.

    • Rishtopher

      Wasn’t the red ranger Native too? Yeah, that show was great.

  • http://twitter.com/LulabelleNiche Gabrielle Bodek

    This was seriously laugh-out-loud funny! 

  • Angela

    Do you guys know what racism means? The yellow ranger being Asian is not racist. Power Rangers is derived from a Japanese show, where the yellow ranger is Asian every year. Are they racist too? They’re costume colors, for goodness sake.

    And saying all NSYNC fans liked Justin is a big assumption.

    • http://www.youtube.com/boredgeek boredgeek

      You do understand that this is a comedy post right?  Why the seriousness?

    • Jo

      You’re taking this whole thing WAY too seriously.

    • Rishtopher

      Obvious troll is obvious. If you are actually serious, then this whole article went right over your head.

      • Angela

        Of course I know this is in jest. I’ve seen the “Power Rangers is Racist LOL” meme all over the internet, and I just don’t find it that clever or funny.

      • Brandon h

        How much lube did you have to use to get that stick up your ass?

  • Anonymous


  • http://twitter.com/answerthecalls dahlia

    as a kid, howie was my favorite BSB and lance was my favorite N*Sync member. what does that say about me?

    • a.

      I use to have a little crush on Lance… when he came out, all the gay crushes that followed, finally made sense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=582330579 Charlie Cowan

      Lance probably had the best post music-venture. I mean, he can now tell people he was in an internationally successful boy-band (arguably the least many job title) and a cosmonaut (possibly the most, next to bare-handed lumberjack). 

      • Steve

        I’m completely baffled – possibly because I’m not American. What does “least many” mean? (And of course “most many”.)
        Nice article!

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