Today, if someone asks me if I want to go the mall, I am likely to ask them if they're joking. However, I wasn't always a hater. Flashback 20 years, and a day at the mall in the '90s was epic.
I worked at the mall at a record store in high school, thus fulfilling my '90's Empire Records fantasies. My best friend worked at the Athlete's Foot, and another friend worked at Express. Between shoes, clothes, and music discounts — we had the mall wired.
My boss at the record store dubbed weekday holidays off from school (like the upcoming President's Day holiday) "pick-up day" because teens and tweens of all kinds frequented the mall to check each other out (rarely buying anything), and if they were brave enough, ask for the phone number of their crush.
These holidays were also spent perusing the discount rack at Claire's, stuffing our faces at the food court, seeing a movie, trying on tons of clothes we never intended to buy at places like Forever 21 and the Wet Seal, gossiping with our friends, and fulfilling every Clueless stereotype we could before our parents came to pick us up.
Now, as a quasi-grownup, the mere suggestion of a trip to the mall makes me cringe and break out with hives. I am one of those people who loathes shopping (unless it's online) — but to be fair, in the '90s, shopping was the last reason I ventured to the mall anyway. Here's what a typical day at the mall was like for '90s kids.
10 a.m. Your Parents Dropped You Off at the Mall
In that far flung decade called the '90s, parents were thrilled to get the kids out of their hair for a day, so asking for a ride to the mall to meet your friends was probably met with some enthusiasm. In the Midwestern suburbs, where I grew up, the mall opened at 10 a.m. These days sending your middle schooler to the mall for an entire day might be met with criminal charges, but in the '90s, being let loose with a few buck burning a hole in your pocket with an entire day of possibilities stretched out ahead of you was thrilling for both parents and kids alike.
10:30 a.m. You Met Up With Your Friends
You and your friends most likely designated a mall meeting spot so you could plan your day. Maybe you met at the Orange Julius in the food court, or at the fountain in the center of the mall where you could have the best view of who else was at the mall that day, because that kind of information was vital.
11 a.m. You Cruised the Mall to See Who Else Was There
Before you could commit to planning your five or six hours at the mall in the '90s, you had to see who else was there. And, because this was in the last century, before cell phones, this required doing a lap around the mall and a good pair of eyes. Maybe you were looking for your crush (so you could actively ignore him or her), maybe a friend or even a frenemy. Whatever your search turned up — this piece of information was vital.
12 p.m. You Had Lunch at the Food Court
After your lap around the mall with your crew, you were hungry, and the mall food court in the '90s was the best place to scan for anyone you may have missed on your aforementioned lap. For adults, the mall food court is basically a cafeteria from hell. Throngs of people wait in line, for what feels like days, for overpriced fast food. But for tweens and teens in the '90s, the food court lunch was the ultimate social hour.
1 p.m. You Hit Your Favorite Stores
You likely didn't have that much money with you at the mall in the '90s, but luckily stores like Claire's and Forever 21 were always in your budget. Maybe you and your BFF got one of those "best friends forever" necklaces where you each took half and pinky swore you'd never take them off. Come one, you know you had one.
2 p.m. You Applied Every Lotion at Bath and Body Works
2:30 p.m. You Saw a Movie and Talked Through the Entire Thing
If you planned to meet up with your crush during your day at the mall in the '90s, a movie was a pretty safe bet. You could both bring your friends, and if things got too awkward you could always ignore each other and each talk to your own friends during the entire movie. Or, maybe you bought a ticket for that PG-13 movie and then snuck into a rated-R flick instead. This was the ultimate badass act, and guaranteed to impress your crush and your friends.
4:30 p.m. You Grabbed the Latest Single from the Record Store
Since you needed a cassette or CD to play in the car on the way home to annoy your parents, a stop at the record store was a must. The latest singles at the mall in the '90s cost $1.99, which is how much you had left in your pocket after lunch, Claire's and the movie you talked through.
5 p.m. You Called Your Parents From a Pay Phone to Pick You Up
5:05-5:25 p.m. You Laughed at All Of the Random Stuff at Spencer Gifts
While you were waiting for your parents to pick up from the mall in the '90s, you made one last pit stop: Spencer Gifts. This place was epic for hundreds of wacky items you would never actually need but someone how could not imagine your life without. Spencer's was always good for a belly-busting laugh, and if you we're really brave you ventured into the adults-only section where you acted really mature by giggling and pointing.
Whatever your jam in the '90s, the mall is something you'll always be able to look back on fondly when the hectic pace of modern life feels like too much. Seriously.