This weekend, I went to my nephew’s 7th birthday party. He’s become quite intersted in bowling, even though the bowling ball is bigger than his entire body. Obviously the party was at a bowling alley. What seemed like a million little people zoomed around the lanes, jumping for joy when the bumpers that were up (for kids only, I discovered. I’m too old to bowl with bumpers. Damn) pushed the ball into a few pins. They screamed and ate Transformers birthday cake and pizza.
I started to think about my own birthday parties as a child. I didn’t have a big blowout every year, but the ones I had were memorable. I think one–maybe my 6th–was at Pizza Hut. Today that would be a lame location, but then, in the 80s? It was heaven. Nothing like pizza, the ultimate kid food and endless friends running around. I eventually had one at Showbiz, now known to kids as Chuck E. Cheese. It was the best, even though I was terrified of the Gorilla that played the piano. That was real fun.
What do kids have now–period. Nothing but computers, cell phones and a few visits to Incredible Pizza. Confession: I went to Incredible Pizza for the first time this month and had as much fun as the children. Shame.
Reading Danyel Smith’s Tumblr, The Smithian, I came across a quote taken from a recent story in The Independent, “The internet comes of age: Meet the tweeny bloggers’.” According to the story, “Children as young as three are firing up their laptops and connecting,” says Susie Mesure.
There’s nothing–absolutely nothing wrong with developing bright minds early on. The world and everything in it is driven by technology, but is it really good organic fun? I’ll tell you what I enjoyed in my childhood and why it’s better than what these kids have now.
We had better cartoons. Better yet, we had Saturday morning cartoons. I remember being as young as six or seven, getting up early at 7:30 a.m., fixing a bowl of cereal and wrapping up in covers on the couch to watch cartoons for two straight hours—until wrestling came on at 10 a.m. From Gummi Bears to Kid N’ Play and Alvin and the Chipmunks, we had the best. I can’t forget about He-Man, Transformers, She-Ra, Ducktales, ThunderCats and anything from Warner Brothers and Disney.
We had better toys. What do kids play with these days besides PS3’s and iPhones? I know I’m not the only one who remembers the Sears Wishbook distributed for the holiday season. I wanted everything in that book (except boys’ toys). The EZ Bake Oven? Barbie California Dunebuggy? Legos?
We had better music. Let it be known that 80s/early 90s music crushes music today. Sure, we have beats and sounds we never could have imagined then thanks to Timbaland, Swizzy and Kanye, but there’s so special about the generic sound of Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” (shout out to Babyface) or “If Your Heart Isn’t In It” by Atlantic Starr. It beats the hell out of listening to Wacka Flocka scream his name out over and over again. And if you need any more proof that 80s music was better, grab a Purple Rain soundtrack. Cased closed.
Our electronics sucked, so we had to interact with each other. Even I, an only child, had my fair share of “playing outside,” running through the sprinklers and playing “Red Light/Green Light” in the middle of the street. I didn’t have cell phone that can do anything imaginable to entertain me for hours on end like kids today. It pains me to see a group of children sitting together, but glued to their phones. The closest thing we had then was the Atari and Nintendo. True, the Nintendo went hard–really hard–but after a while, even it got old. I couldn’t imagine sitting in front of a computer web-surfing. Do you remember the first Apple computer? The print-outs had perforated edges. No color. Straight analog.
We had real television shows. As opposed to “reality shows.” Kids today don’t know the fun of singing your favorite television sitcom’s opening song. If you didn’t know the words to “Married with Children,” “Cheers,” or “A Different World,” something was wrong. Then we had family oriented shows that allowed everyone to watch television together without covering eyes or ears. Thursday and Friday night television lineups were major events in my house. Umm, what comes on now? Don’t worry, I’ll wait….
Our fashion was better. Really, I didn’t have much of a choice of what I wore as I child, but thank God my mama knew what was “in” then. I say our fashion was better because it’s being repeated right now, but we rocked it first. I’ve already seen kids with high-top fades and Gumby cuts, so I’m waiting to see a Coca-Cola shirt any day now. I’ll never forget the day I got a pair of British Knights and L.A. Gear “Brats.” They came with five different sets of colored shoestrings. Yeah, it took me like, an hour, to tie my shoes, but it was worth it. We could have fun with our clothes and wear anything without the pressure of “fashion bloggers” and critics.
Now, tell me. Do you really think you can top that? What do you think was the best growing up?