1. The explicit lyrics label was a cool badge of honor. The music industry has been labeling albums with explicit lyrics since the 80s. But the standard black and white label that says, “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” was officially introduced in 1993.
If you had any albums with this label on it as a kid, you were probably considered a badass in the schoolyard. It also signaled to other kids that you had the coolest parents. Other kids would sneak visits to you just to get their forbidden listening in.
2. Secret stashes. Changing browser settings or deleting internet history to browse adult websites is too easy. Back in the 90s, you had stashes of adult magazines hidden somewhere that you’d raid with other boys. If you didn’t like a group of kids you would try to find out where they kept their stash and steal it.
Personally, I liked to dig a hole in the woods big enough for a milk crate full of Playboys and Penthouses. Then, I’d get a wooden board and put some old roofing shingles on it. That would cover the hole and give the nudey mags protection from rain and other elements. Then I’d cover the board up with leaves and dirt so nobody could find it.
3. Tree houses and forts. You tried to build a fort or some kind of secret getaway place. But some kid and his dad always outdid everyone with a professionally built model. Sleepovers at this kid’s tree house or fort are summer pastimes.
4. Rough sandlot sports. Whether it was baseball, street hockey, football, soccer, or basketball, it didn’t matter. You started playing, and without adult supervision, things would get rough.
Kids always got hurt. But somehow everyone always played again the next day.
5. Fights. There was no clock on the rough sandlot sports. They usually ended when you had to go home for dinner. But, there was usually a fight that broke out before then. Two kids would roll around wrestling on the ground and you chanted or rooted for someone.
That was a sign the game was over.
6. Copying VHS tapes. Whenever your favorite movie was playing on TV, you’d get a blank VHS tape and record it. Stopping and resuming recording to edit out the commercials was a real skill.
7. Biking without a helmet. There was nothing better than speeding down the street on your bike and feeling the wind blowing through your hair. But during the 90s many towns came out with laws that everyone under a certain age had to wear helmets when riding a bike.
I got a dorky, white and blue helmet that made me look like Toad from Super Mario Brothers. I hated it. I think I stopped riding my bike around this time.
8. Rollerblades. These were a big thing back then.
9. Rollerblading, falling, and ripping your jeans.
10. But it wasn’t a big deal because ripped jeans were in style.
11. Junk food galore. As a latchkey your parents probably stocked the refrigerator and cabinets with snacks. This was before the health food craze and lunchables were considered a healthy snack back then. Everything else was the junkiest of junk food. Regular Lays potato chips, sugary drinks like Ecto Cooler, fruit rollups, dunkaroos, and microwave kid cuisines were all fair game.
And you had no guilt about eating anything and everything.
12. Sega sucked. Sega genesis vs. Super NES was a debate among your friends. But I’m sorry Sega sucked. You had hit “select” to toggle between punches and kicks on Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat. Super NES has enough buttons on the controller for light, medium, and hard kicks AND punches.
Plus, Mario Kart for Super NES was the best Mario Kart of all time.
13. TV Sitcoms. Kelly Kapowski was hot. Uncle Jesse was cool. Danny Tanner was the guy you saw everywhere. And Urkel was hilarious.
14. Collecting baseball cards, comics, pogs, etc. You were always trading the latest and greatest with other kids in the neighborhood.
15. Trading and getting ripped off by the older boys. I hated trading with the older boys. They always ripped me off and I felt powerless against them. I would have the worst feeling in my gut for days after making bad trades with them. But I kept doing it anyway. I didn’t want them to beat me up and I thought hanging with older kids would make me seem cooler to kids in my grade.
“Give me that Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card and I’ll give you this Mackey Sasser AND Charlie O’Brien card. You like the Mets so you’re getting not one, but two Mets cards. It’s a great deal!”
16. Going into town. Whenever you went into town without adult supervision it was a big deal. Usually you grabbed lunch somewhere and left a mess and annoyed the workers while being oblivious to it all.
17. Arcade games. You would always go play arcade games after lunch in town. Calling the arcade game “cheap” and pounding on the controls after you lost was a common reaction. Those machines sure could take a beating.
18. The habit of giving “bitch-out” gifts. Going to birthday parties used to be a big deal. You had to think long and hard about what you wanted to buy as a gift for the birthday kid. But at some point, people just stopped thinking about gifts and starting bitching out and giving gift cards.
This trend started back in 1993. Blockbuster video (remember them?) sold the first gift cards. Little did they know it, but they started the whole phenomenon of “bitch-out” gifts.
As a kid, my personal “bitch-out” birthday present was a gift certificate to Sam Goody. Today, it’s the Amazon or Amex gift card.
19. Lying to your parents. Your parents would come home and ask, “So did you do anything fun or interesting today?”
“Oh, not much…” you always replied.
Then, you’d just wash, rinse, and repeat everything the next day.