I spent my teen years growing up in the Midwest during the late 70’s-early 80’s. I raised my children in the same town I grew up in just a few miles from where I lived as a child. My youngest, Andy, just turned 19 a few weeks ago and it’s hard to believe that after 11 years of teenagers, I am nearing the end. Looking back, I can honestly say that their teen years spanning 2004 through the next year are very different than mine. What a difference a few (okay….more than a few….like 25 or more….) years make!
Here’s me as a teenager circa 1978-81ish:
1. Phones Part 1– We had two phones- both rotary dial and both attached to the wall. Lucky for us, my parents got sick of getting clothes-lined or tripped by the phone cord being stretched to its limits by one of us trying to find privacy and they purchased longer and longer cords. The phone upstairs was in the kitchen and no matter where you tried to stretch the cord there was no private place. I had more luck with the downstairs phone, which reached to my room with enough extra play in the cord for me to close my bedroom door and still have freedom to sit on the floor by my bed.
2. Jordache Jeans– Designer jeans were a big deal back then. Jordache were my favorites while my best friend preferred Gloria Vanderbilt. And they had to be skin tight. Seriously tight. So tight we had to lay on our beds and suck in our stomachs to get the zipper zipped tight. Sitting was not fun in these jeans. But it was worth it because we thought we looked so good in those jeans!
3. T-Shirts with provocative sayings– The perfect thing to compliment those skin tight jeans was a t-shirt with a suggestive saying printed on it. My mother actually bought me a t-shirt that said “I only sleep with the best”. Mind you, I did not sleep with anyone. I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17 and even then, sleeping with a boy was the farthest thing from my mind. I don’t know what my mother was thinking when she got me that shirt!
4. Black liquid eye-liner– My make up completed the look. I couldn’t leave the house without my face fully made up, black eye-liner and all. When I ran out of the black liquid liner that ringed my eyes, I would light a match and dip my eye-liner pencil in the flame to soften it so I could get that dark look around my eyes. Since I was as blind as a bat and wore thick glasses, no one could really see my sleazy eye make up.
5. The HAIR! I wore my hair feathered. Since it is naturally straight as a stick and thin, it took quite some time for me to get it to feather using a curling iron. I lost count of the number of times I burned my forehead or the side of my face with that curling iron! Then, to hold the style, I used tons of hairspray- Aquanet most of the time. I sprayed it until I could lift up the feathered part in one full piece. (Somehow it always fell by the end of the day anyway!)
6. Phones Part 2– We did not have call waiting or an answering machine until the early 80’s. Having 3 girls in the house meant our phone was in use- A LOT! Without call waiting, it’s a wonder our friends ever got a hold of us. On the flip side, I remember trying to reach my best friend for hours on end because her mother was always on the phone. After fighting my sister for control of the phone, it was frustrating to dial my friend’s number only to hear that busy signal on the other end.And without answering machines, if someone wasn’t home to take a message (and remembered to write it down), you never knew when you missed a call. Imagine that!
7. Waiting for your favorite movies– Before cable and VCR’s we had to wait for our movies to come to tv. I remember it being a major event when The Sound of Music or Wizard of Oz was on. That usually only happened once a year.
8. Tiger Beat Magazine– I got all of my news about my favorite tv and movie stars from Tiger Beat magazine. I would pull out the pictures of my heart throbs and tape them up on my bedroom walls. Shaun Cassidy was my all time favorite. Leif Garrett and Scott Baio were also in the running back then. I couldn’t wait for the latest issue to come out and I would rush up to the neighborhood drugstore to buy it.
9. Music– I listened to my favorite record albums on a record player. It’s from listening to those albums over and over that I developed my habit of always listening to albums from start to finish. To this day, I have to listen to my CDs that way. In my head, I’m always anticipating the next song to play and that’s what I want to hear! Sometimes records would get scratched and then the needle would skip when it was played. There are songs that to this day, I still expect to hear the skip that was in the album I had as a teen. Silly, huh?
10. Atari– My video game of choice was Pong. To be honest, for a long time, that was the ONLY game I had. I had to laugh at the episode of That 70’s Show when Kelso wanted to make the paddles smaller on Red’s Pong game to make it more challenging. While Pong was addictive, it also lost its challenge after endless hours of play!
That was my life as a teenager. The funny thing is that back then my favorite things to do were read, write stories and listen to music. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Here’s a little something to end with- it was released in 1979 and became one of the top hits of 1980- Enjoy!