Every generation has certain quintessential experiences that define their school years. A glancing memory of which can immediately transport you back to that scratched up plastic desk with the built-in chair. I'm not gonna brag too much and say that the '90s was a better time to be a kid (since I'm a little bit biased). But the '90s still seems like a simpler time. Technology was just beginning to creep its way into the curriculum — it wasn't mandatory to bring any gadgets to school, and your classmates weren't updating their Facebook during lunch. We didn't have cellphones, we had pagers. We didn't have text acronyms, but we could write "boobs" on the calculator. And the closest we came to staring at a screen all day was caring for our demanding Tamagotchis attached to our JanSport bags that needed to be fed every few minutes — or they'd die!
I have a lot of fond memories of going to school in the '90s. It was a bifurcated world — the colorful rainbow land of Lisa Frank and Gelly Roll pens versus the grunge-tastic sphere of Doc Martens, plaid shirts tied around the waist, and Bonne Bell Lipshades in "Mocha Sheen." Our teachers, friends, and those pivotal school experiences shaped us into the "competent" adults we have since become. While some may write it off as "Millennial nostalgia," it is important to hold on to these memories. It would be hard to live without Google, Uber, Seamless, and unlimited text, but we did! We can sure miss those days and take the time to remember why we loved it!
1. Debuting your perfect first day of school outfit
Weeks before school began I would agonizing over what to wear on the first day. The singular day held this mythic possibility of change and popularity. I'd scoured the Delia's catalogue for just the right outfit, and hit up vintage stores for something laid back and cool (ripped jeans please!). After a long summer, it seemed that if one chose the right outfit, they could change their place in the school pecking order. Plus, it's the first time you see your crush after the summer vacay, so you gotta look good!
2. Making The Entire School Bus Laugh With Your "Yo Mama" Jokes
I remember agonizing over finding the perfect "yo mama" joke to use (aka you mama so this, you mama so that ... you were there, you remember). In the untamed anarchy of the school bus, she/he who had the best comeback ruled. If you didn't want to get picked on, it was best to fight fire with fire, and shut the bullies down quickly. But if you start with the jokes, it could turn into a "yo mama" battle, with the first person to run out of jokes declared the loser. You had to memorize a lot of jokes if you wanted to impress. Thankfully, the entire school bus would be laughing. Which made it kinda worth it.
3. Being Assigned Your Year-Long Locker And Decorating It
Getting your own locker essentially meant that you were basically an adult. It was your own assigned space to keep all your books, your makeup, and pretty much whatever could fit. The inside of the locker expressed your individuality. Decorating your locker was a right of passage, and def set the "cool kids" apart. Pasting pictures of friends on the inside door, hanging a mirror to touch up lipstick, or some of your especially cool artwork or political statements could really make or break your hallway popularity.
4. The AV Cart
These days many schools have projectors and screens built into the classroom, but in the '90s watching something in class was a big deal. Everyone looked forward to the appearance of the AV cart cause that meant you got to watch TV instead of doing actual school work! Of course, that's when "audio visual" meant rolling a cart with a basic Tube TV into the classroom, and watching your teacher troubleshoot the VCR for 15 minutes. But nobody cared cause it was way better than reading a textbook!
5. Doodling in your trapper keeper
Class could get pretty boring, and doodling on all your notebooks was the perfect way to stay awake and distract yourself from how cute your crush's new middle-parted Bowl Cut looked. Drawing the Superman S by connecting six straight lines was a badge of coolness. 3D block lettering your name and classes on every folder along with sketches of your favorite cartoon creatures made you feel like Keith Haring— but even cooler (if that's possible).
6. Getting A Message From Your BFF On Your Pager
Nothing says "I love you" like 143... cause that's the pager code for "I love you." You could talk all day via pager with you BFF (477) and feel special, even if it was just to say "hi" (14). Having that chunky piece of tech clipped on to your jeans was beyond cool, so don't hate, smart phone lovers.
7. Trading Valuable Lunch Items
Need I remind you of Lunchables, Fruit Roll Ups, Dunkaroos, and 3D Doritos? If your parents wouldn't let you have junk food at home, the cafeteria was practically a blackmarket of valuable snacks. Get ready to trade some notes for a ring pop — cause '90s snacks were da bomb!
8. Making A Pump Up Mix Tape For Your Walkman
Wearing a pair of Walkman or Discman headphones around your neck was a style statement in the '90s. Before stylish designer headphones and and teeny tiny iPods were a thing, we were rocking it old school with one tape or CD to listen to all day. By the time the school bell rang, you knew every lyric to your chosen record. The original iPod shuffle was a mixtape, and dare I say, we curated it better back then.
9. The Library
Remember when libraries were filled with... books? Remember searching desperately through the Dewey Decimal System praying that someone hadn't taken out the book you needed for class? Wikipedia and other Internet databases may have changed the way we write and research papers, but back in the '90s we had to spend a lot of time in the lovely library if we wanted to find the info to complete our homework.
10. Passing Notes In Class
Before cell phones and texting, students used a primitive form of messaging during school hours called "passing notes." The art of passing notes was a high-stakes, and oftentimes hilarious game. Everyone had a different tactic for trying to sneak a carefully folded slip of paper to their friend's desk. These little messages made class actually kinda fun. Entire romantic relationships were started by circling "yes" or "no" if you liked someone, and passing back the paper. Texting has chipped away at the art of note passing, but with more and more cellphone bans in school, perhaps one day it will come back!
11. The Music At The School Dance
School dances in the '90s were the ultimate scene ('cause we were a little too young for actual raves). We were spoiled with amazing music throughout the decade, and we all learned how to shake our booties to it. From the vital rap scene pumping out albums and anthems like Dr. Dre's The Chronic, Wu-Tang, Tupac, and Biggie to grunge and alternative rock and all those danceable boy and girl bands like the Spice Girls and NSYNC — there was no shortage of amazing playlists to inspire a first kiss on the dance floor.
Images: Buena Vista Pictures, Giphy