Surviving An 80s Childhood

Chances are if you survived a childhood in the 80s your parents were Baby Boomers, who, after a wild foray into hippie culture at their tertiary educational facilities in the 70s, realized that it was time to put down the bong, buy a house, get a job in the public sector and start raising a family. And what better time, they thought, than the 80s. Real estate was cheap, hairstyles were crazy and while everyone nursed their disco hangover, unnervingly upbeat pop music kept spirits high. My parents were also migrants, which, to an extent, gave the 80s cultural cringe an extra zest (their homes were brick veneer bungalows, their hairstyles were extra crazy and their dance moves were applied wherever possible with wanton abandon. And, from time to time, they’d play Nana Mouskouri in the company of others).

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, your parents probably got divorced. Among my friends and I, married parents are an anomaly. We were probably too young to completely understand divorce at the time, so we nursed ambiguous feelings of betrayal, sadness and hurt until we hit puberty and finally faced the issue head on, which is another story entirely (Surviving Puberty In The 90s).

If you were born in the 80s, you might remember quite an idyllic suburban life. I spent my childhood riding bikes, tadpoling in the river at the end of our street and climbing trees. My parents always felt safe enough to let me play with the next door neighbors’ kids on the pavement, and our games involved everything from Barbie to collecting bugs in jars. One of my favorite things to do after it rained was to take my shoes off and squish snails between my toes, or, when it was hailing, wear my bright pink Stack Hat and run around the front yard in circles. If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you definitely had a Stack Hat in an outrageous color.

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you probably remember watching The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and Milo & Otis, and you can probably still sing the words to “Scrubbing Day,” and “Walk Outside,” respectively. I was also exposed to many movies that probably weren’t appropriate for a child of my age (ah, the innocence of the 80s!) like Die Hard and a plethora of films in which the plot would be entirely irrelevant/ non-existant/ peripheral to Tom Cruise. If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you definitely loved Saved By The Bell and Full House.

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you probably had a dumb hairstyle. My hair was so long it reached to my tailbone, and I used to make my mum divide it into a million teeny-tiny braids before I went to bed at night so that when I took them out in the morning my hair would be a huge frizzy crimped mess. Then I’d make mum pull it all into a giant ponytail on one side of my head, about half way up my face, right above my ear so that a) it looked like I had a giant hairy bush sprouting from my head and b) no one could sit next to me on that side. If you were a little boy, I’m guessing you had either a mullet or a floppy bowl cut.

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you probably have an inexplicable obsession with Bruce Springsteen. My mum saw Springsteen play live several time in the 80s, and I don’t think that there was a single adult person in my life who wasn’t Springsteen-mad. My mum also loved Billy Joel, and my dirty little secret is that I know all the words to Piano Man. Other parental musical obsessions may have included (but are not limited to): Van Morrison, The Beach Boys “Kokomo,” R.E.M and David Bowie, and if you were Australian, Icehouse, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil.

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you probably played lots of DOS games and remember floppy disks. I used to sit on my dad’s knee and we’d play Bouncing Babies together, although I sometimes relished in letting the babies fall to their death in pixellated green and black splatter. Later, I’d play Kings Quest and as each chapter of the game became more evolved, I always hankered for Kings Quest 4 where you had to type in commands i.e. “walk left,” “talk to elf,” “pick up jewels.” In rare moments where my parents were absent I’d type in naughty words I’d picked up like “sex” and “fuck.” The game always responded with “wash your mouth out!” or “how rude!”

If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you probably remember the 90s vividly, and are probably very nostalgic and affectionate towards that particular decade. While I love a lot of 80s pop-culture (like doing the “Locomotion”) I hit puberty in the 90s, so the most profoundly deep/ tumultuous/ earnest/ self-indulgent moments of my life occurred there, in tandem with alterna-girl culture and a brief grunge phase. If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you’re probably starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, even though you’re not really. You just can’t help feeling old when you’re at a bar and you meet someone who was born in 1993. If you survived a childhood in the 80s, you may, from time to time, wonder what growing up with an iPhone, Katy Perry and the Internet must be like, and how you survived without all the things that seem so intrinsic to your survival now. TC mark

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