Scrolling through all the First Day of School pics in my Facebook feed a few days ago made me think about how different life is nowadays than it was when I was a kid. Not that I’m a cane-wielding geriatric, but I’m no spring chicken, either.
And, let’s face it, if you’ve got kids in high school, you aren’t either.
When my kids come home from school, they’re sucked into the zombie-creating arms of technology. My 8-year-old doesn’t even put his iPad down when he goes to the bathroom.
He takes it with him, which launches me into a full lather, because I’m worried the child has addictive tendencies - what starts now as an addiction to his tablet, will surely progress to a full-on addiction to booze and heroin later in life.
And also, ew.
My teenager never looks up from his phone when he walks in the front door. He heads straight up to his bedroom, gets on his computer, and only takes a break when a meal is involved.
Here’s a glimpse into a day in my 12th grade life, so you can see just how different things were for us Back In The Day.
The scene: It’s October, 1987 in Gainesville, Texas.
7:10 am - Standing in front of the mirror, I'm totally barfing out about how grody my hair looks. I’ve been back-combing my bangs for 20 minutes, and after giving up on my banana clip, I’ve sprayed half the bottle of Rave Ultra Hold to freeze my spiral perm into place.
I throw on my jeans, fold the bottom of them over, then roll up a few tiny cuffs, so they’re nice and tapered. I’ve got on shorty socks, white Keds, an Izod top, and giant, heavy silver earrings with elephant heads in the middle. I slather up my lips with tons of lip gloss.
8:00 am - I pull into the parking lot of the school in my rad white 1979 Ford Mustang with red and black houndstooth cloth interior. Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” is blaring and as I’m about to get out of my car, my best friend, Kim, barrells up in her maroon Cutlass Supreme.
We walk into the school together, talking about our plans to meet up with a big group of girls later that evening, so we can toilet paper the houses of our favorite football players.
10:14 am - Kim and I are sitting in Computer Science class, spazzing out over the gnarly new computers. We sit next to each other and type as fast as we can, waiting for the words to appear on the screen and catch up to what we know we’ve typed (speedy fingers, thanks to 7th period Word Processing class!).
11:47 am - Kim and I are in line at Taco Casa, where I’m ordering a bean burrito with extra cheese and a Diet Coke, and Kim’s ordering a regular bean burrito, but then - just like she does everyday after we get our food and sit at the table - she opens the burrito up and scrapes off all the cheese, and - as usual - I totally have a cow because, why won't she just order it without the cheese? She's such a goober!
Driving back to school after lunch, we’re blasting my Boston cassette, rewinding to play “Smokin’” over and over, while the windows are down and we’re singing as loud as we can. We stop at a red light and a policeman is pulling up to the light opposite us, so we turn the music down and prop our elbows up on the edge of the rolled-down windows, and act all chill.
Right behind the cop is my ex-boyfriend, driving the car we used to make out in. I can see he’s wearing that Z Cavaricci shirt he looks so hot in. I bet he smells like Polo cologne. He always does.
2:14 pm - The hallway’s crowded with all grades - 9th through 12th - in between classes. This is the first year I haven’t had to deal with that trashy ditz, Tanna Murphey, pushing me around in the hallways just because she didn’t like the fact that my boyfriend was my boyfriend and not hers.
She’s been pushing me into the lockers and calling me a bitch in between classes for years, but bullying isn’t a thing yet, so I dealt with it by timing my treks down the hallway to coincide with my boyfriend’s or his friends’, knowing she’d be on her best, albeit super-skanky, behavior. By some miracle, she graduated last year, so I don’t have to deal with her this year, and for that I am super stoked.
I’m a senior, now, and despite a tumble down a flight of stairs on the first day of school, I cling to the last shred of social status I have remaining, in an attempt to reclaim my position alongside all the other seniors at top of the high school food chain.
3:02 pm - One of my best friends, Greg, is sitting next to me in our Success Seminar class, where our teacher walks us through Ziz Zigler’s See You At The Top!, which served as our textbook.
Greg drives an old pickup truck - manual transmission, with the shift on the fly, and plays on our school’s tennis team. He and I talk about how cool it would be if he could play at Wimbledon in 1990, and while we chat, we’re doodling around the edges of a note we wrote to Kim, which we’ll fold up and stick in the slot of her locker after class to tell her to meet at Braum’s for an ice cream before golf practice. I hope she goes to her locker. Sometimes she doesn't, and she misses the notes I leave her.
I wish there was another way for us to communicate during the day!
4:47 pm - Kim and I are shagging balls on the golf course and talking about our upcoming Homecoming. We already have dates lined up, so we know we’ll go to the dance with them, and - because we’re seniors - we know we’ll have enormous mums. Real mums. Not the cheesy wannabe ones.
They’ll be gargantuan, with a little netting around the flowers to hold them together, and we’ll pin them to our bedroom bulletin board afterwards, where they’ll hang and drop dried-out petals onto the floor for the remainder of the school year.
7:12 pm - Driving out of my neighborhood, I’m listening to Depeche Mode, and I’m driving my mom’s older model 280ZX. I pass this totally hot guy that I have like a total crush on. When I see him coming, I make sure my hand is resting on the steering wheel so I can do the cool 2-fingers-up wave, so that I don’t seem interested, but inside I'm like totally wiggin' out!
9:04 pm - We’re meeting in the Scivally’s parking lot with a group of friends, who pile into the back of a pickup truck with, for sure, like, a hundred of rolls of toilet paper.
There are four people piled inside the cab of the truck, the rest of us are in the back. The back window of the pickup is open so we can hear the radio, and we drive - fast! - through town, singing and yelling. We stop every once in a while, jump out of the truck, and throw toilet paper up into the trees of our football player friends, and take pictures with our camera.
Earlier, we’d gone through the drive-through liquor store for a bottle of Peach Schnapps, orange juice, and a few bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 and Strawberry Hill. None of us is 21, yet, but the liquor store is owned by the uncle of a good friend, and they're super chill, so they pass the goods to us through the window without batting an eye.
10:20 pm - We’re riding the drag, which is two streets in an “L” shape. We pass our friends, who are doing the same, for the next few hours, yelling at each other from inside our cars. McDonald’s is at one end of the drag, a convenience store is at the other.
We’re at a red light on the long stretch of the “L,” and my friend, who’s sitting next to the driver, looks both ways and then slams her foot down on the gas pedal, and even though the driver has her foot on the break, the truck’s tires scream and smoke, and we catapult through the red light. I kid you not.
I was like, "Oh my God. No way!"
Everyone inside is screaming and laughing and singing and dancing to Lionel Richie's “Dancing on The Ceiling.”
Along with a few other carloads of teenagers, we drive out on a dirt road to a clearing, where we park and sit on our trunks and tailgates and plan to party hardy. We talk about cow-tipping, and playing strip poker, but we decide to go mudding through the creek nearby.
I jump in my friend, Russell’s truck, which has a lift kit and KC lights, and has Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” pumping out of the tape player.
11:14 pm - We head back into town and Kim and I get in my car to hit the drag. We have to gas up, so we go to our friend’s family’s gas station, which has a self-service pump and a full-service pump, but they always pump my gas for me and clean my windshield, even if I pull into the self-service area.
My other BFF, Shelia, gets stuck in the mud on that dirt road with her boyfriend, and the two of them concoct a story about her car breaking down because of a faulty coil wire, but her dad won't fall for it, because he knows her car doesn't even have a coil wire.
11:50 pm - We’re at McDonald’s, along with all the other cars that have been on the drag all night. Everyone needs a bathroom break and a snack, and the lines of teenagers are long and loud. We get our food and drinks and congregate in the parking lot. We’re all laughing and being obnoxious to the max, but nobody runs us off.
11:59 pm - We all go our separate ways, because our parents probably wonder where we are, since we’ve had no communication with them since before school this morning, and besides, we have a midnight curfew, and the last thing we need is a bunch of home phones ringing across town, from worried parents calling around and looking for their kids.
I tell my friends I’ll drop the film off this weekend and I’ll let them know when the pictures from our fun night come in, in like a month. Then I go, "Psych! Tom Thumb is pretty fast, they should be in in a week or so." And my friends are like, "No duh, Kristan! You're such a dweeb!"
Going through these memories makes me realize how much trouble we could have gotten into - how lucky I am to have survived some of the things I did with my friends in high school (and I didn’t do half the stuff most kids did!).
I’m thankful my teenager doesn’t go out galavanting like I did, but at the same time, I hate that so much of his time is spent in front of an electronic device.
I want him to get out, have fun, kick some dirt up, get in (a little) bit of trouble, experience life, and have real relationships.
He’s doing some of that, but most of his social time is spent with his friends online, where they play video games together or text each other. And my third-grader is starting to do the same thing. He FaceTimes his cousin, who lives three hours away, every single day.
I’m thrilled they have a close relationship, and I suppose it’s not too different than when I would spend hours on the phone when I was young. But I wasn’t doing that until I was much older. Certainly not at eight years old!
I’m trying with all my might to get these kids to take time off their devices in exchange for real human face-to-face time, but it’s like putting a junkie through detox.
Ack!! I do sound just like a little old woman. But whatever. As my 80's self might say: Word to your mother.
Your turn! What do you have to say about the way things are now vs. the way they used to be?