When I look back on my adolescent and teen years, stretched across the 1990s, I recognize that there were a lot of important influences in my life then who shaped who I am now: My parents, my teachers, my grandparents, to name a few. All concerned, dedicated adults who wanted to make sure I turned into viable, not terrible human. But you know what else made me who I am today? MTV. America Online. Clueless. For better or worse, I — like much of my generation — am a product of 90s pop culture. I may like to think that I’m a not-uncool person these days, but I know that, deep down, I have Clearly Canadian running through my veins, Oasis in my heart, and Empire Records permanently branded on my brain. I may have not learned everything I know from the 90s — after all, the 80s taught me the importance of hologram-producing earrings, and without the aughts, I would never have known to shake it like a Polaroid picture — but the 90s gave me many vital life lessons that I carry with me to this day.
So what did the 90s teach you? Keep reading for 18 essential lessons that — if you’re a 90s kid — may sound familiar.
You have to actually make plans.
These days, I find it endlessly frustrating that many people seem incapable of making real plans. With so much instant communication technology at our fingertips, it’s way too tempting to say, “Want to hang out later? I’ll text you when I get there.” But in the 90s — when the closest thing to texting was AIM on your desktop computer, and your dad’s cellphone weighed three pounds — we knew we couldn’t just make loose plans and figure out the rest later. We had to decide when and where to meet, when to be picked up, and so on. If we didn’t, we risked wandering aimlessly around the mall for hours, searching for each other blindly, like two ships passing in the night. (If ships in the night wore butterfly clips and ill-advised body glitter).
Some things will never be as good as you want them to be.
Case in point: Crystal Pepsi.
Apartments in Manhattan are super affordable.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to move into my giant, rent-controlled dream home in the Big Apple when I grew up. I’m still waiting.
Electronic pets are not as satisfying as actual pets.
Remember this when the robot apocalypse comes.
Talking face to face (or phone to phone) is important.
Kids these days could live their entire social lives through texting and emoji, but 90s kids remember the value of a hearing someone’s voice and seeing someone’s facial expressions during a conversation. Back then, the height of jerkdom meant breaking up with someone in a phone call; now we should just count ourselves lucky if it doesn’t happen via Snapchat. (Is my “Get off my lawn!” showing yet?)
Identical twins = Shenanigans
See: Sister, Sister and The Parent Trap. (To be fair, they knew this in the 1960s, too)
Always buy as many oxen as possible.
Oxen are the key to survival. (Side note: When some of my oxen inevitably died while playing Oregon Trail in the 90s, I always wondered — even as a child — why my digital family and I couldn’t eat them. Wouldn't that make sense? I mean, I get that it’s morbid, but there is no room for sentimentality on the Oregon Trail. NOT IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE.)
The Internet is a weird, scary place.
The World Wide Web was uncharted territory in the 90s, full of viruses and chat rooms populated by 50-year-old men pretending to be teenage girls. Now the Internet is an inseparable part of our everyday lives, essential to the most basic ways we work and communicate. But — as high profile hacks and bizarre trolling campaigns have taught us — the Internet is still weird and scary.
Good geography is important.
With the advent of Google Maps and GPS navigation systems, people these days almost never have to look up where anything is. But we 90s kids know the importance of geographical knowledge — how else are we going to catch the criminal masterminds out there?
Investment schemes involving small stuffed toys are a terrible idea.
It was true then, and it will be true forever.
The Real World has a lot more drama than we thought.
It’s hard to imagine television without reality TV, but back in the 90s, we were just learning how addictive it could be to watch seven people, picked to live in a house, and have their lives taped….
If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends.
Say what you will about the Spice Girls, they’re not wrong.
“Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd.”
“Do we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human being's varied behavior? I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch — and see what life teaches.”
Oh, Log Lady. We will heart you forever.
There are things that you don’t want to know about public figures.
I get that there were lots of issues at play in the very public Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, including accusations of perjury and doing very stupid things in the Oval Office. But the blue dress? The cigar story? I did not need to know about that.
Life is a cruel, dark place. (Don't even look at this GIF if you don't want to start sobbing uncontrollably).
Prime example: The Lion King. See also: My Girl, Stepmom, and Titanic . Speaking of Titanic…
You should try ALL the ways of fitting on a door before you just give up and die.
From Titanic, we learned that self-sacrifice is noble and all, but so is exploring all of your options.
Be kind. (Rewind).
The 90s taught us that little bits of consideration for others — even tiny things like rewinding a video after we watched it — are worthwhile. Small kindnesses add up.
Things probably aren’t going to turn out as badly as you think they will.
At precisely this time in 1999, we were all collectively losing our minds over the possibility that the world would end when the calendars switched over to “2000.” Fortunately, Y2K was not the computer apocalypse we all feared it would be, and the transition turned out to be NBD. The lesson? Chill out. It’ll be OK.