Chances are, if you survived a childhood in the 80s, you were forced to survive puberty in the 90s. You probably started high school somewhere in the middle of the decade, and accessorized accordingly. Your binders and notebooks were probably either covered in holographic Winnie The Pooh contact paper (your first attempt at ironically ‘liking’ something) or images of Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo + Juliet you tore out of Smash Hits magazine. Instead of concentrating in class, you were either popping bubbles in the clear contact over Leo’s face, doing love math with the names of cute boys in the back of your books, writing the names of cute boys inside love hearts all over your books, writing your name with the surname of cute boys all over your books, or creating fancy headings in your note book using fluro-coloured gel and glitter pens. You were probably also passing notes about your feelings and chewing gum, pulling it out of your mouth and winding it around your finger every now and again, in a really apathetic, petulant sort of way.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, chances are you had to deal with your parents’ divorce, and/ or remarriage, even if one/ both occurred in your 80s childhood. You probably wrote meaningful poetry and diary entries about it, and acted out (drinking, swearing, lying) because of it. You definitely tormented your parents, regardless of whether they were divorced or not, because you know, you were a person, with so many feelings, that they didn’t understand. If you survived a 90s puberty, you probably spent a lot of time genuinely believing the whole world revolved around you, vowing to stick it to the man, and wallowing in your angst.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you were probably deeply affected by Kurt Cobain’s death. You either cried when he died or wore an oversized Nirvana t-shirt every day for the next month, or both. You definitely did séances trying to summon his spirit. If you were anything like me, you probably locked yourself in your room, alternating between listening to “Lake Of Fire” and “Adam’s Song” by Blink 182, and writing suicide notes even though you had no intention of actually killing yourself.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you spent a lot of time thinking about sex in an incredibly emotional way. Shows like Degrassi Junior High, Dawson’s Creek, 90210, and Heartbreak High probably informed your concept of sex and how it should be carried out. If you were anything like me, your sex bible also involved watching Mallrats over and over again. Kevin Smith was your 90s puberty sex guru. Extending your angst to encompass your sexual awakening probably led to many whimsical mid-distance stares, some meaningful nakedness, same-sex kisses and again, more heart-wrenching poetry and diary entries.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you probably remember watching movies like Reality Bites and Trainspotting, and feeling hopeless about the plight of your soul, making maudlin expositions on the futility of life, identifying as a ‘nihilist,’ and becoming curious about drugs. Or, if your mother was anything like mine, you were banned from watching these movies and had to wait until your early 20s to see them. Despite this, you probably still once snuck out of your tent in the middle of the night on a family camping trip to make a bong out of an apple with some local boys at a bonfire on the beach. If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you loved bonfires. And developed a knack for creatively constructing bongs.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you may have gone through a euro trash trance/ rave/ dirty house phase. That’s not to say you weren’t totally post-grunge and into Korn or Pearl Jam or a little bit haunting-femme listening to violin music and Fleetwood Mac covers by The Corrs—damn, it was the 90s, and you were totally versatile and sincerely into everything. But all the same, you probably loved wearing white pants, platform Sketchers and glitter tops with a glow stick stuck between your tits and ‘raving’ at underage clubs where you could (very strangely) smoke inside and where they offered free soft drinks. If you were anything like me, you loved “Zombie Nation,” and had The Real McCoy and Venga Boys albums on CD.
If you survived a puberty in the 90s, your dumb 80s hairstyle probably evolved into an even dumber 90s hairstyle. Pre-‘The Rachel’, if you were a girl you probably pulled your hair back into a tight, high, gelled pony tail and let two ‘fringe-bits’ hang on either side of your face, which you would then paint with hair mascara (probably blue), rendering them completely stiff. If you were anything like me you also went through a phase of twisting the front parts of your hair back to mid-cranium and securing them with multi-coloured butterfly clips before crunching the rest of your hair into hyper-gelled curls/frizz. You may have also gone through a Chrstina Aguileria phase where you dyed the top of your hair black and the underside bright red (come on over, bebe). If you were a boy, your Nick Carter mop probably evolved into a head full of perfectly curated individual spikes, like that guy from Five. Oh and you probably had highlights.
If you survived a 90s puberty, you definitely, at some stage, wore bootleg, hipster jeans, a la Britney Spears.
If you survived a 90s puberty, you probably identified with a character from Friends. If you were anything like me, you were a Rachel but wanted to date a Chandler. Your parents probably lambasted you for favoring Friends over Seinfeld, and if you’re one of the blessed few who, as a teenager, did actually favor Seinfeld over Friends, then congratulations, you win, you were much, much cooler than the rest of us, and a little bit before your time as well. As Phoebe says, “I would give anything to not be appreciated in my own time!”
If you survived a 90s puberty, you remember your first mobile phone, probably a Nokia ‘brick’ with an interchangeable cover. You probably played a lot of snake and still secretly think that shitty snake is way better than Angry Birds. If you survived a 90s puberty, you’re probably adaptable and tech savvy, given the constant changes in technology you’ve lived through. You remember what it was like to use a PC, and how exciting it was when a new version of Windows came out, but you’re probably a Mac now. If you survived a puberty in the 90s, you probably still wish it was the 90s. You wish could still throw your phone against a wall and it wouldn’t break. You miss how everything was riddled with layers of meaning, and you probably have a secret yearning for the earnestness of the decade that defined your coming of age. You revel in having grown up through the 90s, because it’s sort of like being part of a secret, special club that no one understands except the ones that were there with you, and even still they don’t really understand you; because despite your cynicism, you still hold onto a scrap of that poor, tortured, isolated, misunderstood soul a puberty in the 90s gave you.