The Magic of the ‘90s
From runways to video games, the ‘90s are hot right now. What were they like for us and our families? Were they the “wild” years of the post-Soviet era when money vanished and mafia ruled? Or the times of frizzy hair and first music videos? Or just a childhood when all of this seemed normal? We asked around:
“You’re going to marry my brother,” my friend Julia told me. “And I’m going to marry his best friend.” The year was 1994. I was 13. We’d just polished off a frying pan of oatmeal fried with butter and sugar. It was our own culinary creation – delicious and could be concocted with ingredients at hand. There wasn’t a whole lot on hand as far as ingredients.
I decided not to tell her that my parents had rented a first-floor apartment downtown and opened a casino. So far it wasn’t changing the ingredients situation. And I had overheard them talking about how the local wise guys were forcing them to sell, and how mom had to go on a stakeout that night. Why mom? Because my engineer dad was working a night job guarding a textile mill.
In a few years, we’d learn to buy fur coats in outdoor clothes markets and find real Levi’s jeans in second hand stores. By the end of the decade, we’d be transcribing tapes for foreign journalists and saving money for a bus ticket to Rome. But for now, we simply put “Ladies, Love Simple Romantics” by Bravo on repeat:
I don’t have many personal recollections of the ‘90s because I only made an appearance in this world mid-decade. I blissfully napped, played, ate and cartoon-watched through the whole mayhem, though I do recall my parents looking somewhat hassled at times. My connection with this epoch is primarily a cultural one. Boy did the ‘90s serve us well in that respect.
First of all, Spice freaking Girls. I can’t and I don’t want to imagine my tween years without this lovely, audacious, colorful bunch. The onset of the Cool Britannia culture, the great Oasis vs. Blur Britpop battle, boy bands craze, pop punk and grunge renaissance, the riot grrrl movement and the divine “Pay my own fun and pay my own bills” Destiny’s Child (that song actually came out in 2000, but whatever).
And the movies, oh the movies (plus the TV): Clueless with its iconic “Ugh, as if!”, Problem Child, “Alrighty then!” Ace Ventura, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Art Attack and, of course, Friends. The start of the Harry Potter series and the first installment of the Star Wars prequels (that I’d prefer to forget, though). Scrunchies, overalls and hair clips were grand too. I’m glad they’re back.
Growing up in Australia, I spent most of the ‘90s at school, being told to "slip-slop-slap", a special slogan used to help Australians avoid getting sunburnt, and ultimately skin cancer. I also spent a good part of the 90s wishing I had been a teenager in the ‘80s, where my big hair would’ve been a hit.
I can’t say I have strong memories of the ‘90s besides growing up, having chicken pox, playing hopscotch and watching cartoons. But when I mention to my Russian friends in conversation some banal aspects of my childhood like whiteboards in classrooms and frozen fish fingers that you cook in the oven for a snack, they look at me like I came from another planet.
Some of my friends in Russia look back at the ‘90s with a tear, and some with nostalgia, remembering the times when they barely had a penny, when the city infrastructure was falling apart and they found themselves standing in queues with special coupons for purchasing all their basic needs. From the stories they shared, sometimes they had to wait for several hours to purchase something but then there was nothing left. And if today the hot water gets switched off every summer for a few weeks, I can’t imagine what the ‘90s would have been like here.
They say that being born in the ‘90s doesn’t make you a ‘90s kid and I totally agree. Born in 1994, I technically was there, but I missed it all obviously, and I’m kinda glad I did. However, there are still some things that distinguish me from my Gen Z brother, the main one of them being that he was born into a life of technological bliss, and I wasn’t.
I belong to the last generation who remember what it was like to not have the internet at home. Now, when I’m 25 and I use my smartphone for everything from watching movies, surfing the web, emailing, communicating with friends, and online banking to checking the weather, booking tickets, navigating in the city, taking and sharing photos, etc., I’m still glad that I “escaped” it all as a child.
When I was a kid, smartphones and Wi-Fi simply didn’t exist, and my peers and I didn’t know any better than to spend all our after-school free time outside, playing hide-and-seek, hopscotch, tag, and trading Pikachu for Skitty.