1. Midnight snacks.
As kids, we would sneak candy into our room at like 9pm and revel in boxes of fruit roll-ups, warheads, and airheads for like 10 minutes, until we crashed and fell asleep. We never knew what it was actually like to have a midnight snack and so we naturally romanticized this idea. Now, as 25-year-olds (side note: I am 25 and therefore so are all of you.), we have come to the sobering realization that midnight snacks are NOT all they’re cracked up to be. Sure, it might be fun at the time to gorge on a chocolate bar at 1:30am when you get up to go to the bathroom, but come back to me in the morning and I can assure you you’ll be writhing in pain. Your bowel movements will be off, you’ll wake up feeling as if a stray cat pissed in your mouth, and your face will be as bloated as Rob Ford’s. Yay midnight snacks!
2. Losing your virginity.
I blame American Pie 1 for all of our sexual woes, and primarily this one. Goddamn Kevin and Vicky, with their incessant discussions about sex, trying to make their first time magical and intimate. Or Oz and that god forsaken Heather—they lost their v-cards to one another on a blanket under the stars.
For a more accurate portrayal of what it’s like to lose your v-card, I suggest you DON’T watch American Pie the movies, and instead track the success of the American Pie franchise. Take a long hard stare at American Reunion in all of its bleakness and blatant attempts to make the actors look young. THAT is what losing your virginity is like.
Because it genuinely was fun to get buzzed off a glass of Manischewitz at Thanksgiving when we were 8, we all presumed to have years of alcohol-filled joy ahead of us. Then, we all went to college and learned that the most joy we’ll ever get from alcohol is the morning after peeing-out-of-butt thing that happens.
4. High School.
I blame Varsity Blues for this one. Not one boy in my high school had the hair color and texture, nor the facial structure and piercing blue eyes that Paul Walker had (RIP). High school also didn’t have that same navy, glazed-over look to it. Rather, it involved a lot of C’s, lots of frustration, and horribly behaved kids.
5. Being an adult.
Like living in your own apartment, and responsible shit like that. GREAT in theory. ALARMING in practice. You figure that by the time you’re 25 you’ll know how to kill a spider or ensnare a mouse, right? WRONG. Last time there was a cockroach in my apartment I just said “fuck it” and let the little fucker have the place to himself.
6. Having a job.
I used to play this game with my sister and our friend where we pretended to work at a company called Brooks and Dunns—the purpose of which was never really stated. We’d get “phone calls” and “take notes,” and I know all of you did some permutation of this as well.
And it’s weird, because now when I try to hand in similar “notes” to my boss and call it “my work for the day,” I’m told it looks like Wingdings and am given a warning.
7. Valentine’s Day.
Perhaps our tendency to romanticize this contrived holiday had something to do with how our schools and teachers treated it. When we were young, we were all encouraged to bring in a gift for every single one of our classmates, which made each one of us feel prettttttttty damn special.
I remember the first time I had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. We made plans and then, the day of, he cancelled them. Now, if I’m lucky, I’ll get a pack of smarties from my mom.
8. The zoo.
“Oh wow! Look at the whale!” was never followed with, “And see all of those abrasions? Those are self-inflicted. Know why? Because the whales here are treated like slaves and so they’re constantly suicidal” as a kid. It just wasn’t.
Vitamin C once sung, “As we go on, we remember, all the times we, had together…” to a really catchy tune if you were white. It instilled in us an undue amount of appreciation and sentimentality for graduations—one that’s typically bursted on the day of your college graduation. There is usually one thing and one thing only that’s keeping you from skipping the whole thing and sleeping in. And that is your parents.
10. Los Angeles.
I remember going to LA as a 7-year-old, trying tangerine juice, and being smitten. I even met the cast of Frasier. LA was truly all it was hyped up to be. Then, 12 years later, I lived in LA for a hot minute and can remember little else from my stay there than a sea of traffic, almost running over multiple humans, and heels by the pool—lots and lots of heels worn by pools.
As a kid, McDonalds is your favorite restaurant. I used to play this really sad game with myself where I’d buy two cheeseburger happy meals and see if I could finish them before exiting the drive-thru. Spoiler alert: I always did. An even bigger spoiler alert: this is what the chicken nuggets look like before they’re fried:
Maybe we romanticized sleepovers as a kid because they truly were romanticized for us. There was always a magically clean extra bed, made just for you; endless snacks; and a feast for you when you woke up. Sleepovers now are not as fun. It’s us who has to do the cleaning now, not the magical and invisible elf who did the cleaning for us back when we were kids. And it’s never not grim waking up to loose pube-looking hairs scattered about your bed that you know aren’t yours. It makes you wonder where those hairs were when you were 8?
13. Ricky Martin.
Similar to Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin was one of those 90s pop stars who was wholly awash in a pristine, spandexed image. He sort of represents the 90’s ability to grossly romanticize people and images. And in this case, they did so in such a way that prevented Ricky Martin from coming out as gay for years. Is it bad that I can still get off to the “She Bangs” video? Don’t answer that.
14. Britney Spears.
“It’s not enough to meet her, I want to be her,” I distinctly remember saying about Britney. This was obviously during her “Slave 4 U” stage, when she was arguably a perfect specimen. If there’s one human who’s entire career and mental stability sums up the fraudulence of our media and the twisted trajectory of pop culture, it’s her. My god, nothing says death to our childhoods like the photo below, and then learning that her younger sister Jamie Lynn is set to be a teen mom.
But perhaps nothing was romanticized more when we were kids than race. Consider Zack Morris. He represented the ultimate white dude and was depicted as someone who every young boy should emulate. And yet, quick Wikipedia search now will tell you that he’s half Dutch, half Indonesian. We glorified his whiteness, despite the fact that he wasn’t even fully white. And we did this to the detriment of every minority who grew up watching Saved by the Bell too.