A Writer’s Book of Days (09/02) – He asked you to dance
And I politely said no. I was 13 and suspected every boy had an ulterior motive. Mostly to tease me—I was overweight, shy, and somewhat awkward. On top of it, I had two left feet. Why would a boy ask me to dance?
I watched as my fellow junior high classmates slow danced to the beginning of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” It was a predictable close to the evening—our school dances always ended after the two same songs. Around 8:45 or so, Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For,” would begin to play, and all of the girls would huddle into big circles and sway back and forth to the mawkish lyrics. Afterwards, the cool kids would break off into couples for “Last Dance,” while the rest of us stood on the sidelines until the disco tempo kicked in. At 9:00, sweaty from the crowded church hall, we’d pile into our parents’ cars and take over 90% of the tables at Friendly’s, the unofficial post-event gathering spot.
Over a Reese’s Pieces sundae, my friend asked me why I hadn’t accepted his invitation.
“Eh, he’s kind of weird,” I replied. (Never mind I was wearing a pair of my brother’s baggy jeans, a Pink Floyd The Division Bell t-shirt, peace sign earrings from Claire’s, and purple glitter eye shadow.)
She shrugged. “Maybe he likes you.”
“No way,” I said.
It was just the beginning of teenage years and a young adulthood oblivious to boys who liked me. Unless they came out straight and said so, it went right over my head. I couldn’t tell flirting from teasing and genuine interest from, “Oh, he’s just being friendly.”
Luckily, my now-husband was a bit more straightforward when we first met. (He even asked permission to flirt with me—ooh, a boy likes me!)
I do wonder, though, what life would have been like had I just accepted my classmate’s dance invitation, or in my later years, a post-dinner drink.
To all the men out there I may have inadvertently rejected or made feel awkward, my apologies.
But trust me, you still don’t want to dance with me. I’ll step on your toes all night.
Inspired by my friend Meg’s discussion about glitter roll-ons that were popular when I was in high school, I decided to focus on the typical day of a teenage girl in the late ’90s. The result: a 23-point list of how we spent our days, from morning to night, drawing on mine and my friends’ experiences in high school.
I had no clue how big this Buzzfeed article was about to blow up.
It was merely an experiment for me, to see how far a Buzzfeed article would go just by my promoting it a few times on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Buzzfeed gave it a nod and a bump, and suddenly the hits started pouring in. I was elated that 500 people looked at my article.
Then at 11:56, I got an email ding on my phone. Buzzfeed sent an email that I had won a 1,000 views award. I was awed and crowed about it on Facebook. 1,000 views—take that! My friends congratulated me on my accomplishment. I then went to sleep.
The next morning, I was awoken by another ding on my phone. The 10,000 views award. In only six hours! Later that day—at 81,000 views—I received an email from a PR exec I work with out of Pennsylvania. “There was a Buzzfeed link being passed around our office this afternoon on being a teenage girl in the 90s. And then I saw your picture and byline on the article. There are many jealous PR girls that want your job right now (and it has to be more fun than writing for real estate) J,” she wrote. And then I received another email from a women I know in Florida. It was getting around!
I started seeing friends posting it on both Facebook and Twitter, not realizing that I’d written it. One of the best reactions was from my best friend Karen (one who didn’t realize) commenting how #22 was her life—she’d been my inspiration for that very bullet point!
By the end of the day, I had shot into the Top 10 of Buzzfeed community contributors, and my article had gone viral on Facebook and Reddit. The following day, it went viral on Tumblr. I was receiving emails, tweets, and Facebook messages galore about how I hit the nail on the head and it was like I was spying on people’s lives. (I only really needed to spy on my own to write it… no matter how many of us thought we were beautiful, unique snowflakes back then, we were for the most part—as the Buzzfeed reactions prove—the same.) By the 15th, it had hit 1 million views, and as I write this today, it’s well over 1.7 million views.
None of the subsequent articles I wrote for Buzzfeed gained the same sort of traction, although 15 Smells That Take You Back To Elementary School did fairly well. It was nothing like my first time, though. Every few days I get a tweet or email about the Typical Day article, with people adding their memories or noting what I forgot (I still refuse to acknowledge Tamagotchis).
What a trip—who knew high school days would hit such a good nerve?
Today, my friend Alshawn said, “Everyone says that people born in the ’80s and ’70s have better common sense than today’s generation, and I’m here to tell you that’s utter bullshit. We just didn’t have YouTube and Facebook to permanently memorialize our stupidity.”
Amen. These kids are in for a rude awakening the day they discovered their future employers—or even future children—have Googled them and found these “memorials.”
I wonder what I would have found on my parents had there been YouTube and Facebook in the ’50s and ’60s?
Today, I spent the afternoon at my best friend Melanie’s new house, helping her and her sister Karen put together dining room chairs she bought at Big Lots. It was one of those complicated, pack-flat chairs that involved a multitude of screws and Allen wrenches. Each chair involved 12 screws of various sizes, so I asked Melanie to go to Target and buy a cordless drill and hex bits to make the process go a little faster. After she left, I called her and told her to a;so pick up those fuzzy felt pads you put on the bottom of the chair to stop it from scratching up your floor.
After I hung up the phone, I turned to Karen and said, “Whoa, that was such an adult conversation.” You think being 30, I’d be used to it now. But it seemed like only yesterday we were building chairs—out of Waffle Blocks. In reality, it was 20 years ago. The Five Amigas—me, Mel, Karen, Margaret, and Alyse—would spend hours building furniture and forts with Waffle Blocks. How easy it was to click those big pieces of plastic together!
Two decades later, Karen and I sat in contortionist positions, trying to make sure the screws lined up perfectly with the chair legs. And instead of playing supermarket with plastic food, Melanie was getting frustrated picking out the right drill and bits. Those afternoons of playing house and other games have finally translated into actual adult life.
We still have four chairs to put together. I think I’m going to tell Melanie to go dig the Waffle Blocks out of her parents’ basement instead.
If you were born in the Reagan and Bush 41 years, admit it—you’ve got a soft spot for the ’90s. In fact, a lot of people do. I recently wrote my first article for Buzzfeed (as a contributer) outlining the typical day of a teenage girl in the late ’90s—and within a mere 48 hours, it began going viral, with nearly 1.2 million hits. When you go to Buzzfeed Rewind, you’ll see it’s quite the popular decade.
After the Buzzfeed article made the rounds, I was asked if I wanted to review Amber Humphrey’s Did I Do That? The Best (And Worst) Of The ’90s, which focuses on the kid culture of the ’90s—so don’t expect references to flannel shirts or Kurt Cobain.
In the words of the immortal Michelle Tanner: “You’ve got it, dude.”
The book is broken down into 40 chapters, each highlighting a popular fad in the ’90s, from Super Soakers to Skip-Its and Tamagotchis to TGIF (which you know doesn’t stand for “Thank God it’s Friday”). But the book doesn’t just fleetingly mention a trend: Amber often delves into the history of the fad, peppered with images, sketches, and her personal memories. As I read the book, I found myself constantly nodding in agreement—it’s almost like we lived the same childhood. The book ventures into the obvious—think Spice Girls and Beanie Babies—to things you’ve pushed to the back of your memory bank. (Rollerblade flick Airborne, anyone?)
Amber does warn in the introduction that the toys, games, and show in the book are ones that played a role in her own adolescent years, meaning that all fads weren’t included. Even so, I felt glaring omissions when I finished the book. No Macarena? Windows 95? Men In Black? Body glitter? The Baby-sitters Club? But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—I think Amber can easily pull off a Volume 2 of the book, crowdsourcing trends if she needs to. For one, I would have loved to see more mention of food and beauty products, like Crybabies, Fruitopia, Dunkaroos, and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers (although some did get shout outs, like Shark Bites fruit snacks and Ecto Cooler).
The book is a must for any ’90s kid at heart. It would be an especially good gift for someone experiencing a quarter-life crisis or turning the big 3-0. (On the other hand, it may just make them depressed for the good ol’ days.) The book even comes with a nifty “Did I do that?” iron-on transfer, complete with Steve Urkel, in the back of the book. You know it would look phat on an oversized white t-shirt—tied to the side with a scrunchie, of course—over brightly colored Spandex bike shorts.
My only complaint is that the book cover is slightly low quality, and it’s already looking a bit worn out (more so on the back cover). This book is meant to be passed around at parties, shared with friends, and perused through every time you need that dose of nostalgia. I’d love to see a hardcover edition.
Title: Did I Do That? The Best (And Worst) Of The ’90s
Author: Amber Humphrey
Publisher: Abrams Image
Price: $19.95 (US)/$21.95 (CAN)/£11.99 (UK)
Release Date: March 12, 2013