THE 80’S: THE DECADE THAT HAS NEARLY TRIPLED ITS LIFE SPAN
Updated: Jun 16, 2021
Let’s face it. The 80’s will NOT go away. To those of a certain age, I apologize in advance for this cringe worthy factoid, but we are a cool 28 years out of the 80’s. Yet, the neon lights still burn brightly. The kids’ section of Old Navy carries brightly colored jelly shoes during the summer months. Those shimmery synth sounds and smooth sax solos weave their way into current pop culture just as they did nearly 3 decades ago and songs like Shut Up and Dance (by Walk the Moon) could have been released in 1989 and been chart toppers. The Goldbergs would have been hilarious, albeit in a different way, if it were released “in its time” and... Stranger Things? Need I say more? The 80’s sticking power is as strong as a can of Aqua Net sprayed in a 1987 Brett Michaels’ hairdo, yet it’s been nearly 30 years since we’ve actually been there. It’s a curious thought! What is it about the 80’s that keeps going.. and going...and going?
There is a very practical reason for the iconic 80’s recreation and repackaging of imagery, sounds and ideas that goes beyond merely the power of love for the decade past. We of a certain age are running a lot of the things right now in the world- producing, writing, idea generating, creating and performing. So we are at the helm of this 80’s ship, keeping it sailing onward. We push our childhood nostalgia on all of you who act as the wonder bread to our generation. But our intentions are pure. We want you to get into the groove and feel the 80’s how we experienced them. Adventures were made of a “clue” found on the ground next to your BMX. Music could be such a revelation. And the future while it was so bright, didn’t seem to far away. And frankly, many of us just might just not be ready to move out of the 80’s because its NOT the future yet- the hover boards and flying cars haven’t arrived as promised!
I know for me, my love of the 80's and my desire to constantly experience it (and hope everyone around me will join in the fun) lies in the small things. Small things were so incredibly BIG in the 80s and so incredibly satisfying! And it’s a type of satisfaction that is hard to experience in this instant gratification era. Like the feeling of finding 2 quarters to take to the rink to buy one of those totally radical metallic unicorn or rainbow KING OF STICKER stickers to add to my sticker book. Or saving enough allowance to buy a new pack of Garbage Pail cards and actually getting one I didn’t have already. SCORE! Walking in town all day long with no destination, there are no cell phones, no way to track anyone except by who’s bike is outside of what pizza place. It’s what we would call “completely off the grid” now. Adventuring in the woods or down by the train tracks. It was just exciting and completely gratifying. But 80’s gratification wasn’t instant. In fact some of the wait took painfully long.
It was 1989. School let out for the summer and my mom was driving my friends and I to a man made lake in the NJ suburbs. This was no ordinary trip with my best group of girl friends. This time, the boys were going too and my middle school crush was going to be there. I fell for that 7th grade sax player over middle school marching band music. But let’s face it. In the 80’s, if you played the sax, it didn’t matter if it was band music you played- when you held that sax, you were hot. At age 12, a 2 month long summer vacation felt like a million years and I was afraid that this would be the last time I would see my crush until September because remember, if he wanted to talk to me, he would have to call my house phone and talk to one of my parents before he could actually get through to me. And I wasn’t about to call and talk to his mother! See you in September was going to be the theme song of the summer. I knew I couldn’t just rely on his school yearbook picture to get me through the summer so I needed to take action.
I spent my allowance money on a roll of film, and brought my camera fully loaded, with the main purpose of snapping a picture of him so I could look at him all summer. Back in the 80’s you had, at most, 36 chances to capture your entire event on one roll, and that was if you sprung for the more expensive, higher quantity roll. Sometimes, depending on how tightly you wound your film into the camera, you would wind right over your first picture leaving you with 35 chances at documenting your history. So much for 35 selfies to get just the right pout! And to that point, you would NEVER waste a picture on a selfie- you cut off half of your face no matter what (believe me- I tried). In reality, you had NO IDEA if any of the pictures you were taking were actually coming out! Blurry? No idea. Enough lighting? No idea. Did you blink? No idea. You had to snap and pray that you caught your precious memory on film. Oh! And god forbid you didn’t rewind your film before you opened the back of the camera to remove it for developing? Destroyed.
Ready for the worst part? Once you had your event and took all of your pictures, you had to wait. You had to wait and wait and wait. You had to wait over a week for your film to be sent far away to a lab for developing. And there was no set date when they would be in- “about a week” could mean 10 days or even 2 weeks! But for as much as I call this the worst part, it’s secretly the best part. It’s the part that makes the story telling so sweet and the memories so unique to the 80's.
So back to my crush and my mission. Because of my adept film installation skills I took 36 very precise pictures that day. I prayed to the le clic gods above for one clear picture of my crush. 2 LONG weeks later, my film was in. I dropped my things right there on the floor of CVS, kneeled down on the floor and started looking through each picture. Perfect lighting. One better than the next. Clear shots of my friends. So many smiles. Could it be? Had I done it? And there it was. One. Perfect. Picture. My crush, wearing quintessential 80’s sunglasses, smiling right at the camera, messy hair freshly wet from the man made lake. I could even hear his cute laugh in the shot as I somehow captured it with this archaic tool! I could’ve fell right over on the floor of CVS. Mission accomplished. A gratification so well worth the wait. A satisfaction so strong and so sweet that 20 something years later it’s as clear as day. It’s one of those things that is just so 80’s. Yes... the 80’s nostalgia is strong with this one. And for me... it’s definitely in the small things.