1. The back grind.
First it must be said that grinding was a thing. It was also rather simple too — let a boy place his leg between yours, kind of sit on it like it’s a fragile pony, and then sway from left to right. But perhaps less memorable was the back grind, which saw its heyday in 2002 and then dutifully crawled back to where it came from. The back grind is not as simple as the front grind; for one thing, it’s practically nonconsensual. You see, the essential ingredient to a commendable back grind is the grindee being unaware of his or her immediate future. There should be no signs or forewarnings of an oncoming back grind; you simply deduce that there must be a boy softly rubbing himself up against your bum, start swaying and try your damn hardest to stay in sync. To dislodge yourself you fade your sway and, when you’re ready, walk forward.
2. “Your mom.”
And unfortunately, no, I don’t mean your mother was cool in 2002. It’s very likely she was, but what I’m referring to is the phrase “your mom,” which was the punchline to every joke and could shut down any Yo! MTV Raps battle. Only two words, yet rife with so much power.
3. “The lasso” dance.
2002 saw many songs that each came with an easy-to-remember dance. And for some reason “the lasso” fixtured prominently. And by “the lasso” dance I of course mean the I’m-holding-an-invisible-lasso-while-jumping-and-spinning move (I can’t believe you even had to ask). There was Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump On It,” whose chorus dared you to move your hips and show off your best “lasso.” And how could we forget the “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” which saw success despite every aspect of the song and its production working against it? And then there were the more subtle “lasso” moments, which usually came about when a friend held up his or her pretend lasso, “caught” you with it, and then reeled you in. And there you have it: “The Lasso” 101.
4. Stick-straight hair.
Blowouts were welcomed in 2002, but stick-straight hair was always preferred. If you didn’t have a hair-straightening iron, you were most likely a frizzy outcast. But because of someone like me, who has always had straight and lifeless hair, 2002 also saw the lesser-known perm fad. Legally Blonde had just come out and, after Elle won the case because of a perm, we all felt a heightened sense of respect for the hairstyle. My mom wouldn’t let me get a perm for my bat mitzvah, so I did the next best thing and kept curlers in my hair for twenty-four hours. The final product looked like Coolio, but with payot.
5. Older sisters.
It’s unclear whether this was contingent on the year or my age (13), but in 2002 older sisters were IN. They were instantaneously cool simply because they were older (re: 7th graders vs. 11th graders) and, as someone who has an older sister, I was fortunate enough to taste the residuals of her fame. In other words: as her sister I was, by extension, fairly cool. Re-watching my bat mitzvah tape, it’s now clear to me that my sister and her friends stole my thunder. There’s a seven-minute stretch where not one of the 13-year-old boys moves a muscle, but instead they remain frozen and transfixed on my sister and her friends dancing.
6. Baby-G Watches.
Before cell phones, iPods, and even beepers, we had the Baby-G. It was a chunky mass of a watch that came in clear, clear blue, and clear pink — the other shades were irrelevant. Some Baby-Gs could even tell you the weather and the date (which, to be clear, was cool at the time).
7. Betsey Johnson dresses.
2002 had a lot of love for Betsey Johnson; she allowed young girls to dress suggestively and to entertain the possibility of sloppy-second base. Her dresses usually featured a floral print, except the print was against a black backdrop and therefore more risqué. And perhaps most significant of all was the off-the-shoulder look that she arguably popularized. Back then, an exposed shoulder was just a roundabout way of saying SEX.