Speaking as a card carrying member of Generation X I decided to write an article about what things were like back when I was just a lower case b. I’m not much for labels, but at least we got a cool sounding moniker. Back when we were young we didn’t have the luxuries that today’s Millennials now take for granted.
We didn’t have the Internet.
We played outside until the street lights came on.
We made our own fun with hand built forts in the woods.
We rode our bikes all day, EVERY DAY.
We had paper routes when we were still in the single digits.
We spent hours upon hours playing with other kids with virtually no parental supervision.
I could go on and do below, but you get the idea.
These are just a handful of the scenarios shared by my generation that helped form us into the people we are today. But these aren’t the only things that differentiate Gen Xer’s from the other generations. We lived through/ were subjected to many things that today might be considered child abuse.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m super glad to have been born and raised when I was, but things were a lot different then what today’s generation considers normal. And before you think I’m coming across winy or touting that Generation X is better than the Baby Boomers or the Greatest Generation let me say this. Our parents lived through an entirely different time and have stories that no doubt rival these. The generation before them has much the same. And the generation before them and the generation before them and I’m sure the generation before them.
Let me put it like this… I never ate blood soup, never had to save rubber, peach pits and woman’s nylons for the war effort or even had to practice air raid drills in grade school. We didn’t live through the Great Depression or Prohibition or woman’s suffrage, the Cuban Missile Crisis or even Nixon.
This post is about my generation. The generation born in the early 70’s to early 80’s. It’s not about how we are better or worse or why they don’t make them like us anymore. It’s merely a post about a slice of life and the time during our formative years when we grew up in an era that was not nearly as technically advanced. It was a time where many different beliefs about other races, cultures, religions and ways of life that weren’t accepted like they are today.
Disco  was dying, but not quite dead and Michael Jackson  was still black. We were just babies when vets were returning from the Vietnam War. We lived in a time where PTSD was known as shell shock. A time where casual racism, mis-understanding and fear of Gay culture were the norm. We were merely adolescents when 918 people in French Guyana drank the kool-aid and died in the Jonestown Massacre.
We didn’t have cable tv, microwave ovens or vcrs . We didn’t have Google, Internet Porn, Smart Phones, Xbox, Play Station, Netflix or Amazon Prime Shipping. We lived in a time of 4 television channels. We cooked food on a stove. Our cars didn’t have GPS and our phones were only for talking and not taking pictures, playing games, streaming videos or telling us how far we walked in a day.
It might sound like complaining, but this was all we knew. It was a time that was more innocent in some ways and yet more brutal and real then today. We grew up fast and were given more independence at a younger age. We didn’t have helicopter parents unless mom and dad were actually physically in a helicopter while we were busy playing in an open field, woods or empty lot far from home.
In addition to being left to our own devices Generation Xer’s share in common many life experiences that I’ve outlined below. Chime in on the comments if you can relate or have some true-life examples that I didn’t mention here.
Generation X Wore Bread Wrapper Insulated Boots
Before Amazon was a gleam in Jeff Bezos‘ eye we ordered a lot of our clothes out of catalogs. If we wore holes in the knees of our tough-skins Mom would iron patches to them like a blown out tire. Likewise when we strapped on our moon boots  to go play in the snow we’d also don a pair of bread wrapper like socks to stay dry and warm. I know this sounds like sounds Depression era shit, but in a time before Gortex or Under Armor this was necessary if you didn’t want to lose digits to frost bite.
We Walked to School without Parents in Kindergarten
This is one I can’t imagine letting my kids do at such an early age. When I was young (pronounced in an old man raspy voice) we’d meet up with the rest of the grade-schoolers on the street and walk to Kindergarten. Imagine streets lined with kids still in the single digits walking in herds to school. It’s a far cry from the line of cars we’re used to when we drop off our own children.
In all honesty, I don’t think this is so bad. We did have to cross a busy intersection to get to my grade school, but I’m writing this right now so things ended up working out for me. Frankly the idea of letting my kids do this on their own freaks me out. It’s just one example of how we were given more responsibility at an earlier age. Be it good or bad we seemed to manage to live another day.
Satan Was Actively out to get us through Music
From the mid 70’s to the early 80’s society became obsessed with Satanic Panic. It seemed that the devil was right around every corner gunning for your kids. He creeped his way into Christian homes through of all things music and board games like Dungeons & Dragons. The prince of darkness had chosen heavy metal as his Trojan horse to invade the home. Hell’s murder row included the likes of Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne and Dee Snider to name a few.
The devil’s disciple Rob Halford of Judas Priest was dragged into court under the grounds that his music had hidden messages embedded within the tracks that would influence listeners to follow the dark lord. Prepare your eyes for the devil’s incantation.
Better by you better than me. You can tell what I want it to be. You can say what I only can see.
Things came to a head for Halford in 1985 when 2 teenagers committed suicide in a park while listening to Judas Priest. As absurd as it sounds there were enough alarmists that believed there were hidden incantations in the lyrics. I believe Bill Curbishley Manager for Judas Priest had the best argument before the trial when he said the following.
“If we were going to do that, I’d be saying, ‘Buy seven copies,’ not telling a couple of screwed-up kids to kill themselves.”
It was as recent as 1990 when this case actually went to trial. It was around the same time that Tipper Gore started the PMRC or Parents Music Resource Center to legislate government labeling of records they deemed threatening to the hearts, minds, morals, and/or eternal souls of American youth. It was the PMRC that would eventually get the Parental Advisory Label  added to any rap, rock or comedy album with questionable content.
Which segways nicely into the next topic..
We Didn’t Have PG-13 Rated Movies
In the recent past, I found myself revisiting The Goonies before playing it for my oldest. Low and behold it was a bit randier than I remember. Not only did it have some language you couldn’t use in a PG rated movie nowadays, but it also dabbled in homophobia and racism that eluded me as a child. They don’t make kids movies like this anymore.
In fact it wasn’t until 1984 that parents were outraged by the inappropriately PG rated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where a man has his beating heart ripped from his chest. I remember seeing this as a child and was horrified.
By August 10 of the same year the first movie to get a PG-13 rating was the Patrick Swayze classic Red Dawn. A classic tale about a group of high-schoolers who form their own militia when Colorado is invaded by Soviet insurgents. Only in the 80’s.
People Smoked EVERYWHERE Including our Grade School Teachers
These days blowing a butt is greatly frowned upon, but not so long ago you used to be able to smoke EVERYWHERE. Hospitals, air planes, movie theaters and yes public schools. I remember getting papers back from my 6th grade teacher that just wreaked of second hand smoke. It was so bad I was sure my parents would have a talk with me about it, but it never came up that my teacher was the Marlboro Man .
In Fact We Could Buy Cigarettes for Our Parents
We Didn’t Wear Bike Helmets or Seat Belts
I’ll often get the Stink Eye  when I’m biking with my daughter and she’s not wearing a bike helmet. The truth is if we weren’t on a 3 block ride to get ice cream or there was actual possible scull bumping potential she would have her helmet on.
Generation X managed to live through the eighties where I personally road my bike everywhere and not once wore a helmet. Granted there were a couple home made picnic table jumps that would have warranted one, but I’m none the worse for wear.
I guess it’s a moot point when we came from a time where seat belts weren’t mandatory. In fact, when I was 3 I used to stand on the front seat between my parents on the regular. It was common place to sit in the back of a station wagon un-belted on long drives up north. In fact, Ford amongst other auto manufacturers had a station wagon with side and rear facing seats for the kids. This was a perfectly acceptable design back in the day and yet most of us Gen Xers survived this flawed vehicle line.
We found Porn in the woods
This is by far the strangest right of passage shared by many Gen Xers. I still don’t quite understand this one, but it’s definitely a phenomenon among my generation. I’d have to say 98 – 100% of us all found porn magazines in the woods. Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the numbers are definitely on the high side.
This bizarre right of passage is shared by an alarming number of folks that fit the demographic. All you have to do is Google “finding porn in the woods” to witness the epidemic. It’s as if there was a Johnny Porno Seed planting Hustlers, Ouis & Penthouse magazines in the woods that surrounded suburbia all across the United States.
I don’t claim to understand the phenomena, but I know I’m not alone.
That’s all folks
Well that’s all for now. Like I said, it’s merely an unapologetic slice of life. A record of a time gone by. A Polaroid . of a recent past not so long ago when we were all a little bit safer and a little more likely to wind up on a milk carton. A time lacking technology, but abundant in joy and innocence. A time of casual intolerance and almost common place racism.
For the good and the bad it was what it was and I’m glad to have grown up/ survived my Gen X childhood.
[FFM] Footnotes for Millennials
- Footnote: Cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. Commonly found in books. Books are analog versions of the Internet printed on paper.
- Disco: 70’s club music that’s been re-purposed for soundtracks in today’s movies.
- Michael Jackson: A popular singer in the 70’s & 80’s who started his career as a musically talented black boy and ended it as a pedophilic white man.
- VCR: Video Cassette Recorder or VHS (Video Home System) is a standard for consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes. This is how people watched movies before DVDs. DVDs are how people watched videos before streaming media.
- Moon boots: You probably just know them as boots. They didn’t come in designer fashions and surely didn’t cost $104. 80’s moon boots
- Marlboro Man: The Marlboro Man was a ruggedly handsome man who was the face of Marlboro cigarettes since 1954 until he died of lung cancer and career suicide in the late 90’s.
- Stink Eye: The look you get when someone knows you’re full of shit.
- Polaroid: A camera from the 70’s & 80’s that took photos that developed instantly. This is not an app for Instagram .
Footnotes for Baby Boomers
- BTW: (ac·ro·nym) By the way
- FYI: (ac·ro·nym) For your information
- JFY: (ac·ro·nym) Just for You
- Parental Advisory: The Parental Advisory label is a warning label first introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1985. It’s a label added to any music, comedy or spoken word album with questionable subject matter. It was put into effect back when most of us youngsters were introduced to 2 Live Crew.
- Instagram: Another social network you don’t understand.
Generation X Rites of Passage Click To Tweet