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When The Hogan Family Was Still Valerie

There’s an e-mail that most of you have seen a hundred times that explains what it means to be a child of the 80s. And while it is clever and well-written (the original one, at least), it does not apply to anyone my age. See, we are not children of the 80s. We are children desperately trying to remember the 80s.

We look back on Voltron fondly, though we don’t recall it well enough to realize that it was just an animated version of the Power Rangers, created by the same entertainment company. We hold fast to the life lessons we learned from Punky Brewster even though we can’t really remember the plot of any episode. And we constantly quote Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller and Princess Bride despite not having been old enough to see any of them in the theatre and those movies having all come out in 1985 or later.

A child of the 80s needs to have lived through the entire decade, which anyone younger than 23 didn’t do. But since most of us don’t remember much before kindergarten, I’m going to up that age to 27 and say that anyone younger than that who associates themselves with growing up in the 80s is a big faker.

I don’t remember listening to Toto, other than seeing them recently on a commercial for hits of the 80s. Very few of my female friends owned leg warmers, and those that did got them as hand-me-downs from their older sisters. And though I watched Knight Rider and A-Team and Dukes of Hazzard, all were after they stopped making new episodes. Because when those shows aired originally, I was in bed before prime time.

Who shot J.R.? I have no idea, because I was two at the time. What was I doing during the fight for the Falkland Islands? Teething. And to me, Corbin Bernsen is not a vain lawyer from Los Angeles, rather Billy Dorn, a veteran third baseman with the Cleveland Indians. I first saw Major League in 1992. That’s right around when I grew up.

For someone my age (23, for those not keeping track) to claim that they grew up in the 80s is like a kid from Long Island saying he’s from New York City. Sure, he was raised close to New York City. His fondest childhood memories might have even happened in New York City. But the differences between the Long Island Railroad and the subway are almost as big as the differences between Madonna and, well, Madonna.

I was technically born in the seventies, having a birthday in the last few months of 1979. But I still don’t pretend to know what was going on around me until 1986. That’s when my Mets won the World Series, and I was just old enough to understand that it was cool. But watching a few baseball games was all the pop culture I had.

Most current freshmen in college were born in 1984 (gasp!), making them six when the decade changed. And the 80s, pop-culturally, really stopped around 1988. 1989 was just a transitional year, featuring things like C&C Music Factory - not exactly Boy George. Think of a four-year-old that you know. Are they watching movies and buying their own clothes and going to concerts and developing an acute sense of pop culture? No. They are playing on swings and coloring outside the lines and wearing whatever their parents give them and learning how to read, just like we were. And hopefully when they grow up, these kids will not pretend to be children of the nineties, having lived there for just two years.

Yes, I loved Thundercats. I had a passion for the Back to the Future series. And I was a whiz with a snap bracelet. But this does not make me a child of the 80s. This makes me a child of the late 80s and early 90s.

I once met someone who told me they were from New York, and I asked them what part. They replied, “Greenwich.” They didn’t mean Greenwich Village – rather Greenwich, Connecticut which is “just a half hour outside the city.” But there’s no ignoring that it’s in a different state. Much like the state anyone my age was in when anything resembling the 80s actually happened.

Maybe it’s easy for me to criticize Connecticut Yankees who pretend they’re New York Yankees because I grew up in Queens. But if my story were different, I wouldn’t lie about where I was from – I’d be proud of my heritage, whatever it was. Even Jersey.

So cast off Family Ties in favor of Saved By the Bell. Forget Atari, we had Nintendo. And Rambo? Well, everyone had Rambo because they made way too many of those movies. But you get my point. We are not children of the 80s. And it’s about damn time we admitted it.

Right after I forward that e-mail, of course.

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