I’m really so fortunate to have been born and raised in the time that I was. I know this sounds like an old-fart thing to say, but I really am thrilled to have experienced things that kids today have no clue about.
I’m a Gen-Xer, and damn proud of it. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have texting. We didn’t have computers (that was only for the rich.) We didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or anything that resembled social media. Hell, the words ‘social’ and ‘media’ meant totally different things back then. But ya know what? We survived. And we were happy with what we had, with no sense of entitlement. For as much as technology was advancing in those days, things were still small. Simple. And exactly what we needed at that moment. Nothing more, nothing less.
I tell my kids how it was when I was growing up and it blows their mind. In their world, filled with oversaturation and under appreciation, I try to break it down for them, “old school” style, on how their mama became the person she is today.
*Allowances were earned, not expected. If I wanted a couple of bucks in my pocket, I had to work my ass off to get it. I was washing the dog, scrubbing the kitchen floor, shining my stepdad’s shoes, mowing the lawn, washing my mom’s clothes, taking trash out…whatever necessary. And that couple of bucks I got for a few hours of sweat were like gold to me. It taught me the reward of hard work. It taught me a sense of accomplishment. But most of all, it taught me to respect money.
*Back then, Google didn’t exist. We had to figure out shit for ourselves. Outside of school, I perfected my spelling skills on a Speak & Spell. Because I sucked at math, my dad got me a Little Professor. Finding books in the library required using the card catalog and understanding the Dewey decimal system. The biggest brainteaser was Rubik’s Cube. The ultimate in hand-eye coordination was the Waterfull Ring-Toss. To figure out who was the President in 1935 required picking up an encyclopedia. Turning in reports always required a multi-page bibliography.
*On weekends and during summer break, I would be gone from my house from dawn until dusk. Being social meant riding my bike to a friend’s house, not being behind a computer. I would wake up, eat breakfast and be gone until dinnertime. I would always call my mom from whatever house I was at, using a (gasp) landline, just so she knew were I was. The rule was to head home when the streetlights went on. If I was within earshot, she would scream my name out the front door if she needed me. This is how life was. Smaller. Simpler. Safer.
*Concert ticket prices were reasonable. A night out to see your favorite band, with parking, would cost you $25 bucks, tops. I still have the stub from my first ever Duran Duran concert; February 23rd, 1984. Third row. My Uncle paid $14 bucks. Probably the best $14 bucks he ever spent, because I will never, ever forget that concert. Even at 43, it still brings a smile on my goddamn face. Nowadays, you can’t even leave the house without spending $300 bucks to see your favorite group, minimum. I think there is a serious problem when you have to decide to either take your kid to a concert or make a car payment. Looking back, even paying $14 bucks per ticket, those fuckers still became millionaires, so where’s the justice here? Should I chalk it up to inflation, or just basic celebrity ego and greed?!
*My form of exercising was chasing down the ice cream truck every evening after dinner, riding my bike all over town, getting up to change the TV channel multiple times a day, roller skating all day every Saturday at the local roller rink and using a rotodial phone to make calls. Sitting on your ass playing X-Box and watching You Tube does not constitute as exercise.
*Punishments included spankings and the occasional rap on the mouth. It quickly corrected my behavior, helped me learn right from wrong, taught me to respect my parents, and instilled a huge lesson in discipline. Today, that would be called child abuse. Hence the reason why we have a new generation of disrespectful assholes.
*The most risqué thing on television was SNL. The original cast of Belushi, Chase, Radner, Curtin and Murray were groundbreaking. But by today’s standards, it was tame. There was no such thing as Internet porn or sex channels. The easiest accessible porn required a drive to the video store and a membership card. In that separate room, behind the black curtains, heavily monitored and controlled. Men would exit that room, heads low, quickly paying with cash that almost jumped out of their Velcro wallet, that they quickly shoved back into their Jordasche jeans, as they jumped into their freshly buffed ZROC. Nowadays, it’s all in the open, for kids to easily find. We live in a world with no media discretion. And this scares the crap out of me.
*When going somewhere special, like church, a play downtown or out to dinner, you dressed up. Period. It was about showing respect and taking pride in your appearance, as well as a reflection of family values. I instill these values in my kids today. They sometimes roll their eyes and hate me for it, but oh well. Now quit yer bitching and put on your khakis, we’ve got places to be!
*I admired my mom’s Avon Lady. To me, she was the definition of dedication and hard work. A true go-getter. She would walk door-to-door, schlepping lipsticks and eye shadow, making women feel pretty and hoping to make a few sales. I respected that. Eventually, I took a job in advertising sales. I literally would walk from one business to another, hoping to sell an ad. It was hard work. I knew my success was completely dependant on me. But I was damn proud of myself for making the effort. I thought of my mom’s Avon lady often and would always smile. Today, you can order Avon products online, there’s no skill involved anymore. A whole generation of salesmanship and personalized customer service is gone.
*Screw Miley Cyrus and Bieber. My idols growing up were intelligent writers like Judy Blume and Stephen King. I was 7 years old when I stole my mom’s copy of Christine. His sense of suspenseful storytelling blew my mind. After reading it, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Judy Blume’s YA books confirmed my decision. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Forever, Blubber and Freckle Juice became the ultimate pre-teen survival guides for me. Smart, engaging and well written. I aspire to be half the respected writer they were. Most of today’s celebrities are overexposed, bloated trash. Where’s the talent? Where are the true role models?
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