It goes without saying that the years surrounding puberty are a nightmare for most of us: Awkward, ever-changing bodies, cliques, rampant bullying, and overbearing parents make for an incredibly perplexing and sometimes painful period of life. But for us, certain prime pop culture real-estate saved the day and made these otherwise-unpleasant years not just bearable, but actually pretty damn fun in retrospect. Here's a collection of the cultural artifacts that kept us going when we weren't exactly the coolest kids in the world.
1. Mean Girls
When our grandkids ask what it was like to grow up in the early 2000's, we will transmit a .mov file with this movie on it to the microchips in their brains. If you graduated high school between the years of 2002 and 2008, you are, in fact part of what I like to call The Lohan Generation, and Mean Girls is by far the most accurate depiction of your adolescence.
2. Gel Pens
God, I loved these things. Does anyone know where I can buy them now? In my adult life, lurking social media has replaced "doodling" and (Lisa) Frankly, I'd probably be better off drawing hearts and stars and writing stuff in "bubble letters" than spying on my high school frenemies' Facebook profiles.
3. The Dance Dance Revolution
I'm not talking just about the video game-- I mean the sudden onslaught of dance culture brought on by You Got Served, Saved The Last Dance, Wade Robson (*swoon*), The VMA's (when they were still good), and basically every music video that got retired on TRL between '98 and '04. Because of this "movement," back-up dancers became super stars (see Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Federline), Mickey Mouse Club Members became sex symbols (Britney, Justin, Christina, JC Chasez), and dance-off reality shows were revived for the first time since the 60's. Hip-hop dance classes were brought to suburbia, and much like being a DJ in today's world, being something as trivial as a background dancer became a viable career option!
4. JNCO's (And All Baggy Pants)
If you opened a tool box in front of me I could only respond with a blank stare, but I sure as hell wore carpenter jeans for the better part of the late 90's & early 2000's. Many a millennial celeb could be credited with starting this amazing trend where crotches breathed freely and legs could cross with ease, but to decide between Aaliyah or Avril Lavigne would be much too difficult for me right now. Let me ponder it while I peruse PacSun and Gadzooks and I'll get back to you.
Instant Messaging was a portal straight into the vortex of teenage drama. AIM was a special place where rumors started, crushes were outed, and we were spared (acne-riddled) face-to-face interactions of utmost awkwardness. Also, we wrote away messages as though the masses were reading them and everyone totally cared that we were "having girls night...hit the celly!"
6. The WB Afternoon Programming
The WB babysat my sister and I after school for way longer then I'd like to admit (our actual baby sitter was way busy smoking a pack of Marlboros in the back yard and calling her weird boyfriend J.C. on the cordless phone). "7th Heaven," Sarah Michelle Geller schooling vampires, endless "Friends" & "Will & Grace" reruns, that weird dancing frog who was all dressed up with nowhere to go, this lineup really had it all. Then in high school, irony kicked in, I entered my "experimental" phase and my friends and I still came home to watch the WB, although perhaps less earnestly. Once the whole CW debacle happened, this treasure trove was lost forever in a sea of "Gossip Girl" and unnecessary remakes of "90210," but shame on us if we ever forget the glory that was The WB.
7. The Neptunes
"Got Your Money," "I Just Wanna Love You," "Southern Hospitality," "Shake Ya Ass," "Superthug," "Nothin,'' "Pass the Courvoisier," "Take Ya Home," "Caught Out There" "Knock Urself Out" "Hot in Herre," "Girlfriend," "Lapdance," "Hella Good," "U Don't Have to Call," "Hit the Freeway," "Grindin'," "Light Your Ass on Fire," "Luv U Better," "Beautiful," "Work It Out," "Milkshake," "What Happened To That Boy," "Excuse Me Miss," "Rock Your Body," "I'm A Slave 4 U," "Frontin'," "Hollaback Girl," "Drop It Like It's Hot." Need I say more?
8. Flip Phones
Sometimes I just pine for a simpler time, OK? I do remember I was the first to get a flip phone that had a color screen. However, it's really anyone's guess as to who I was calling at this time besides my mom.
9. Abercrombie & Fitch Shorts/Pants
Looking back, this was an absolute visual affront and I would actually like to retroactively apologize to everyone who laid eyes on me in 7th and 8th grade. However, back then I (as well as every member of *NSYNC) was OBSESSED with the Abercrombie and Fitch cargo pants that unzipped at the knee to become shorts. I don't know if I can give you adequate reasoning for why this thrilled me so much, maybe it was the ingenuity of the design, maybe it was the aforementioned *NSYNC endorsement. What I do know is that the one time I made my grandmother take me to the mall too buy some, she copped a pair too. Only difference is she still wears her to this very day.
Ah, remember the quaint, pre-Perez Hilton days when you would sit in your room reading about Bennifer (the unholy, mind-bending union of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and their celebrity kin in US Weekly? Now Ben is a serious director and married to Jennifer Garner and J.Lo is still being J.Lo, albeit with less Ja Rule collabos. At the peak of this affair, Ben actually starred in the video for her modern masterpiece "Jenny From The Block" (the video also featured the premiere of Manolo-Blanik Timbs, which, honestly, best shoe ever, amiright?!) They were just such a weird couple, but sexy weird, and I was totally infatuated with it.
Honorable mentions include: Snake (the cellphone game), Mario Kart, Fruit Roll-Ups, Ruff Ryders, Starter jackets, butterfly clips, Tamagotchi, Bill Clinton, Napster, Scooters, The Spice Girls, Elian Gonzalez, "WHASSSSUUUPP" beer commercials, Blink 182, Windows 2000 and, last but certainly not least, Fat Joe.
If these ten things meant anything to you, join us this Thursday -- and every Thursday after it -- for "All That," our new party at New York's Mister H.