Monday, January 14, 2013

My Top 14: Things I Loved When I Was 14

Ah, fourteen... that magical age of braces, bad hair, social ineptitude, and general awkwardness. 

Okay, yeah, maybe that wasn't everybody's experience, but I sometimes think of that year as being the beginning of a personal downward spiral, one I wouldn't emerge from until... well... I'm still not sure I've totally emerged, to be honest. It was a gross time and I don't tend to look back on fourteen (or fifteen, or sixteen) fondly.

But when I decided to challenge myself to think of fourteen things I actually enjoyed back then, I was surprised to find it wasn't a difficult task. I may have been a blundering ball of hormones, but I did have interests, some of which I still have today. (And some of which are almost too embarrassing to print!)

That said, I'm betting I've accidentally left off at least one, so I reserve the right to make an addendum.

But as it stands now, here's
My Top 14: Things I Loved When I Was 14

14. Full House Reruns

I guess I should start by explaining when I was fourteen. For those of you who don't know my age -- well, you get to do some math -- I was fourteen between September 4, 1994 and September 3, 1995. And it was in that first September that Full House began its eighth and final season. And it was bad. Like, bad. The writers had apparently used up all their ideas, continuity went out the window, and the episodes were... eh, halfway decent at best.

But that didn't mean I had to stop being a fan of the show. One of our local channels would air episodes in the late afternoon and/or early evening. I can't exactly remember when they aired that year, but I'm fairly certain there were at least two episodes a day, five days a week. That meant they could cycle through the whole series a couple of times a year. I loved it when they'd play the old, old episodes, where Michelle was a baby, Stephanie had those wild curls, and DJ wore big sweatshirts with skirts and called it good.

13. The Nickel Arcade

One place my dad would often take my brother and me was Wunderland, a local arcade where about half the games were free and the other half cost a nickel. The free games were mostly old-school ones like Frogger, Toobin', and Marble Madness. The nickel ones could earn you tickets, which could earn you prizes. There was this one game, with plastic cylinders (seen to the left) that you had to sweep into a pocket with an electric arm to score points for tickets. I developed a knack for it and was able to get some really good prizes. I think they've changed the mechanics of the machine, now, because during a recent trip to the arcade, I found it's much harder to sweep the cylinders into the pocket than it used to be. And I don't think it's because I've forgotten how. Really, I think they've made it harder. Darn carnies!

12. The Mom & Pop Video Store

A mile or two from our house there was a mom and pop video store that my parents would take me and my brother to fairly regularly. Not every weekend, but often enough. And the thing I remember most about it is browsing... for what seemed like hours. Walking to and fro among rows and rows and shelves galore of cardboard VHS boxes, their bright covers beckoning. If one caught my eye, I'd read the back. I'd figure out which actors were in what movies, and try to find other things they were in. After however long of browsing, I'd usually end up taking home something I knew I'd like... ie, something I'd rented before. But it's funny because I have this heightened familiarity with most of the movies that were released between 1992-1995 because of how often I looked at those covers. How many of them have I gone back and watched? Alas, very few. Very few indeed.

11. Bowling & The Used Book Store

I have to lump these two together because visiting them always happened together. There was -- okay, still is -- a bowling alley not too far from my house. As a young teen, I loved to bowl... I thought it was great fun. Now, not so much. (I won't even mention my average.) So my dad would take me and my brother to the bowling alley, we'd play a couple of games, and then afterward he'd take us to the used book store around the corner. This book store was amazing. There was a cat who roamed the place. The shelves were floor-to-ceiling, and they were everywhere. There were even two places in the store where you could actually wind yourself into a dead end (surrounded by books!) I would say I miss it, but since I think it's still around, I ought to just stop being lazy and drive over there sometime.

10. Writing

At fourteen, I had one of those "I want to be a writer" epiphanies that have struck, oh, five or six times throughout my life. (You'd think a person could just have one.) I was reading Highlights one day, when I discovered that they paid $100 for published stories. I COULD BE RICH! I JUST HAD TO WRITE A STORY! I became convinced that this would be the most lucrative, fun career of all time. A few months later, I actually won an essay contest and got an $100 savings bond, fueling my passion, but Highlights politely rejected the one story I sent at the time. Annnd then I pretty much kept everything else hidden for the next four years, until fanfic came along. But that's another age altogether....

9. Babysitting

There are some teenagers who never take to babysitting, and I get that. And I must admit that in my later teens I began to see babysitting as a drag that paid too little. (My mother, having earned a whopping 35 cents an hour back in the 60's for her babysitting jobs, balked at the $3 an hour I'd earn and say I was getting paid too much. IN THE 90's!) But when I first began babysitting, I loved it. I was right down on the floor playing with the kids... I had about as much energy as they did... and when it was time to go home, the parents would hand me a wad of cash... for playing. Not only that, but I was living out all the fantasies I'd saved up from years and years of reading Baby-Sitters Club books.

This is not to say I don't still enjoy babysitting once in a while -- and a lot of it depends on who I'm taking care of -- but the sheer thrill that it had as a young teen is, I'm afraid, long gone.

8. Barbies

Okay, so this is the embarrassing confession I alluded to earlier. I still played with Barbies at 14. When I was 10 my dad built me a Barbie house with six rooms and an attic. And I was still playing with them in high school. Mostly I liked making up soap-opera-esque stories for them, or posing them in chairs like a photographer might. I think playing with them helped develop my love of storytelling. So laugh if you want, but Barbies were the best, and I won't tell you how old I was when I finally boxed them up. Nope. Because I've already said enough.

7. Pocahontas

Long before Disney tried to capitalize on the popularity of their "princesses," I was interested in any Disney movie with a female, human lead.  As it had been three and a half years between Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, I was definitely ready for another "princess" movie. Now, I've talked about Pocahontas before in this blog. I know about all the controversies, BUT... I think the film had and has a lot to offer. But I won't go into that. I'll just talk about how much of a fanatic I was. Posters, Burger King toys, stuffed animals... anything my pitiful allowance could afford. I especially adored Meeko, the raccoon.

Now, do I still feel the same way about the film? Well... not really. It's still watchable, but I haven't held on to my love for it like I have with Beauty and the Beast. This may or may not have something to do with Mel Gibson (voice of John Smith) turning to the dark side. Or maybe it has everything to do with that?

6. Step By Step

Okay, so I've talked about this show in the past on this blog, and I won't bore you with the same old stuff. I just want to say that this was the show that more or less replaced Full House in the sitcom department for me that year. Just as FH got lame, SBS got awesome. I loved Fridays. Why are Friday nights so boring now?

5. Recording Things On The VCR

At 14, I had a tiny allowance ($3 a week), didn't make all that much babysitting, and my parents were only willing to take me to movies they wanted to see. So that year I didn't get to the theater very often (The Lion King, The Santa Clause, and Pocahontas are the only movies I recall). I was also too young to rent anything from the video store down the street, which required you to have a driver's license or I.D. And to top it all off, my parents really didn't own any movies on VHS. (We had a few Disney movies and one or two Shirley Temple things.) But they had, at least, taught me how to tape stuff off the TV. So, at about 14, I started doing it myself. I would buy blank tapes for $2 apiece and fill them with all manner of TV-ish things. In my later teen years, I would become quite crazy, taping every TV show I could (not having any inkling of DVD boxed sets in the future). But when I first started, I mostly taped made-for-TV-movies. 

So if your cable ever goes out and you're just dying for a marathon of Mother, May I Sleep With An Unwed Axe Murderer's Baby?-type movies, call me. I'm sure I can provide.

4. Computer Time

Computers in 1994-95 were so... simple. Before the internet came along, you could use a PC to type stories, draw pictures, and -- if you were lucky -- play a couple of games, such as Sim City. But even with its limitations, that PC of ours provided hours of entertainment. We had a card-making program that I enjoyed (I had no idea what the printer's ink cost, and didn't care!) and I enjoyed drawing things in, what was it, MS Paint? Something like that.

And then my brother got a program called Klik & Play. He used it to design little video games which he'd show off to his sixth-grade friends. 

Later he would adapt one of those games into an award-winning iPhone game.

Meanwhile, I used the Klik & Play to make tiny little avatars and pretty pictures!!

3. My Girl 2

It's weird to think how much I used to adore this movie. I think it was my age. The movie's about an awkward teenage girl who gets the chance to take a trip without her parents and, along the way, discover who she is. Plus she meets a cute guy. PLUS she gets to have a baby brother, which made me so jealous. Mainly because...

2. Babies

When I was 14, I was obsessed with babies. Baby clothes, baby toys, and, of course, the entities themselves. This obsession is not unheard of in humans, but for many of us it hits in our twenties or thirties, when that annoying bio-clock starts chiming. For me it happened at 14, and it wasn't that I wanted to HAVE one (gross!); rather, I wanted my parents to have another. I was sure that if I asked enough times or made compelling enough arguments, they'd be all for it. But I never got that baby sibling. Meanwhile, my babysitting clients got younger, and, for the first time, I was asked to babysit for an infant. I was even asked to babysit for this baby and his toddler brother, at our home, overnight once. It was then that I learned how much -- or rather how little -- sleep a person gets when there's a baby in the house. And while I still thought having another sibling was a nice idea, that one overnight experience convinced me that, when I really gave it some honest thought, maybe babies were nicer just to look at than to actually have for keeps. But you know, that's just me. I love other people's babies. Thank you for continuing to have them, my friends.

1. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman

This one earns the number one spot, and for good reason: I was pretty much obsessed with it. Words can not describe how much I loved this show. I would tape and watch the episodes Sunday night, then re-watch them all throughout the week. That year, season 2 was airing, and it was EPIC. Lois and Clark fell in love and basically got together. I mean, he proposed... and then there was a summer-long cliffhanger (TORTURE!) There were some great episodes, such as That Old Gang Of Mine, Season's Greedings, Tempus Fugitive and And The Answer Is... so many more. Shoot, even just talking about it makes me want to get out the DVDs and have a marathon.

Ahhhh happy memories.


And the inevitable addendum:

The Nanny
Wow, how did I forget this one?? (Well, the fact that it was 18 years ago COULD be a factor....) The Nanny was a must-watch show for most or all of 1994 & 1995. I also enjoyed Dave's World, the show that followed it.

I got my own Gameboy in 1995, and with it, Tetris. I don't like to brag, but I'm prrrretty good at that game.

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