As the semester approaches finals week, we all need a good laugh and a little relief from stress. Sometimes, I’ll take a few minutes to procrastinate and surf the Internet, where I’ve been coming across more and more reminders of my childhood, whether its old fashion trends, television shows, movies, books, or toys. If remembering the better times doesn’t bring you a little smile, I don’t know what will. So go ahead, waste some time, and embrace the nostalgia.
1. Jelly Shoes- A fashion must-have for any girl between the ages of 5 and 10. These shoes, either in sandal, flat, or clog form came in every color imaginable and were often sparkly. Did they make your feet sweat? Yes, indeed. Did they leave some nasty blisters? Absolutely. However, they were too pretty to pass up and cheap enough ($1-$5) to keep the parents happy, even if our growing feet kept these jellies in constant demand.
2. Babysitter’s Club (Books and Movie)- The series made famous by Ann M. Martin featured the stories of ten middle school girls from fictional Stonybrook, Connecticut, who run a business that helps parents find babysitters for their children. The club is admirably organized, with specific meeting times, useful diary entries, dues, club positions, and fundraising. Even better, the members of the club, Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn, Mallory, Jessi, Shannon, and Abby, were all best friends, who went through some conflicts, but always made up as they perpetually remained in the seventh grade. These books were easy to read, entertaining, and came to life in 1995 with the release of The Babysitter’s Club movie.
3. Tamagotchi- One of the first handheld digital pets, these Japanese toys gave kids of the early 90’s the first taste of what it means to care for something. The Tamagotchi pet was housed in a small, egg-shaped computer and the owner was expected to give the Tamagotchi everything it wanted: food, games, nursing it back to health, cleaning after it, and even shutting the light off when it was time to go to sleep, all which depended on pressing the right buttons at the proper times. If you took good care of your Tamagotchi, regardless of more important, real-life responsibilities (like schoolwork and teachers), your pet would behave well and evolve from a baby, to a toddler, teenager, adult, and then finally a senior. However, if you ignored Tamagotchi, it could die in as short as a half a day. Perhaps Tamagotchis were one of the most distracting toys created, but at least they introduced children to the sad consequences of leaving a pet, even a miniscule electronic one, unfed and unbathed.
4. Gel Pens- As a girl, I loved to write notes to my friends or keep a daily record of the breaking news of my middle school life. However, with the introduction of gel pens, my writing could become all the more exciting. On black or dark paper, when writing utensils became futile, gel pens of every color and shine were the new fancy way to write my messages and encryptions. These pens were messier than the average ballpoint and seemed to dry up quite quickly, but they were such a pretty sight in my new diaries, scrapbooks, and memo pads.
5. Mary Kate and Ashley- Do I really need to say more? These girls had it all: movies, money, fashion sense, and even better, they had it in double. It took me years to finally accept my parents’ insistence that no, I did not have a long-lost twin, nor could I go find someone who looked just like me to play with everyday. So I settled for living vicariously through the Olsen twins.
6. Skip-it- I have never had so much fun getting exercise as I did with the Skip-it, the toy that looped around your ankle and spun around you as you basically skipped in place, a 90’s update on the age-old tradition of jump rope. Most Skip-its came with a counter on the side so you could use the toy to track how many times you’ve skipped over the plastic cord, creating a little self-competition. As they got more popular, Skip-its started coming in glow-in the dark, flashing colors, and noise-makers so the toy could be enjoyed at any-time of day. The concept was simple, but the enjoyment was immense.
7. Clarissa Explains It All- Of the many popular Nickelodeon shows of my childhood, “Clarissa Explains it All” had to be one of the all-time favorites. Melissa Joan Hart, before she became Sabrina the Teenage Witch, played the star role of Clarissa Darling, who boldly explained everything happening in her life. She voiced her annoyances with boys, her annoying little brother, being a pre-teen and the horror of pimples. I don’t think many girls my age would have gotten through the preteen and teen years without Clarissa’s understanding, advice, and gifted explanations while always keeping it light and fun.
8. Barbies/American Girl Dolls- While Barbies were created much earlier than our collective childhoods, the obsession with these plastic dolls massively expanded during the 90’s. Barbies were no longer just blonde beauties that wore elegant evening dresses. Barbies could have red, brown, black, even purple hair. They could be Caucasian, African American, Asian, Latina; all ethnicities are represented. Furthermore, Barbies could have any occupation we wanted them to, teacher one day, scuba diver the next, and astronaut after that. I still have a plastic tub in my basement full of Barbies, along with their clothes and accessories. Alongside the Barbie obsession were American Dolls. Girls could either choose between one of the six featured dolls that came with their own stories from respective time periods (Samantha, Molly, Kit), or make their own doll to look just like them. They could dress these dolls, do their hair, and bring them anywhere; American Girl gave girls all the essentials needed for creating the perfect, dependable best friend. The explosion and spread of Barbies and American Girl Dolls was a new era for young females: dream big cause it’s our time and we can be anything we want to be.
9. Harriet the Spy- Michelle Trachtenberg plays the starring role in one of the most popular preteen films of the 90’s. Harriet considers herself a childhood spy. She gets to shimmy up a laundry chute, secretly behold the backroom of a Chinese restaurant, and get involved in a pretty extreme paint fight. While kids her own age are just playing games in the park, she is poised over her notebook, hyper-observant and waiting to find the excitement in the normalcy of growing up, as well as maneuver some pretty impressive spy gadgets.
10. Scrunchies- Velvet, bedazzled, ruffled, rainbow, plaid, or polka-dotted. Simply said, a ponytail never looked so cool (not to mention they made pretty stylish wrist decoration when in a fashion pinch).
Did I miss any of your beloved 90's favorites? Comment below!