Back in the day

February 18, 2016


The other night a friend’s teenage daughter showed me a photo of her senior prom dress. You know, what we used to call “gowns.”  It was beautiful, bare midriff and all.

“Bare midriff?!” I turned to her mother, a little shocked.  “Is that her belly button?? She’s not quite 18!”

She laughed.

“It’s always the ones who were wildest in their own youth that get that shocked,” she said.  Yeah, I thought. And those of us who don’t have kids.

But it got me thinking about how our culture has changed over the past 75 years or so.

It’s been 50 years since I was in my middle teens. It’s jarring to even type those words–where did the time go?  When I was 15, people 50 years older were  born in the early part of the 1900s. Their teenage years had about as much in common with mine as mine have in common with the teens of today. Which is “nothing.”

Now, I know that every adult generation thinks the younger generation is “going to the dogs” –that’s what they used to say back in the day.  I’m no different. Every time I’m around the teens of today I’m gobsmacked at how different their lives are from my own teen years.  I want badly to say that some things are better. But that’s not always how I see them.

Yes, I know this is not representative of teens in the 1960s. But you get the drift.

Yes, I know this is not representative of teens in the 1960s. But you get the drift.

Back when I was a teen, kids would come home after school and have a snack there. If your mom was a happy homemaker, you’d have home-made cookies. If not, you might have a couple of Oreos and some milk.  Maybe you’d go to a soda fountain and sip Cokes with a friend. As a child, I was concerned, because I didn’t like Coca-Cola. Did that mean that when I got to be a teenager, I couldn’t have what we called “Coke dates?”   So, I began drinking Coke to get used to the taste. Oh yes, that was the innocence of the times.


starbucksThings are way different today. Visit a Starbucks near any school–elementary even–and after school you’ll see students charging sugary drinks and snacks on their smart-phones. The products above cost around $20. Multiply that by at least five a week–where do these kids get that kind of money? I wonder.


When I was a kid, only the very luckiest had a phone number of their own, or even a phone in their room. We all coveted these pink Princess phones. If we didn’t have our own phone, we were forced to use the family phone, which is to say the only phone in the house.  Of course, we wanted a long cord so we could pull the phone into a closet or other private place to giggle with our friends.

smartphWhere I live now, most teens have their own smartphones. That means a phone number of their own with a data plan and a phone they can take anywhere. They aren’t cheap, either.

220px-Zippo-Slim-1968-LitConcerts were different, too. We all lit our Zippos or other cigarette lighters at concerts–we had lighters because smoking (pot or tobacco) was still part of our culture in the 1960s.

candle appToday, concert-goers light their candle apps on their smart phones.  It’s just not the same.

monoplyAt home, we’d amuse ourselves with board games that had actual boards and pieces. Who didn’t like Monopoly? Or Risk? Scrabble? Yahoo? I still love to play those games and sometimes can even coax M. into playing one.

sim gamesToday’s teens play apps on their phones or XBox. They’re usually action-packed and violent. Even young kids play violent games.  And it’s no surprise that our nation has gotten significantly more violent.

Music is always an interesting bellwether of where our culture is. Songs in the 20th century had true innocence. Do you remember this obscure one? Listen to the words.

Elvis did it in a 1960 film. I heard it the other day and had to compare to the songs popular when I was a teen. Remember when Ed Sullivan wanted the Rolling Stones to change “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”?  Compared to Wooden Heart, it’s very risque.  But today, that seems so mild, compared to this goodie from a few years ago:

By the time I was 17 I’d smoked marijuana and later, small “c” coke meant something entirely different. I’m a proponent of legalizing pot; I think alcohol is the bigger problem in our society.  But marijuana is small potatoes today.  Today, kids take Adderall as if it were candy and are way too familiar with drugs like Klonopin, Oxy and Ritalin. And not because they have some sort of physical problem. They take these to get high. Or low, as the case may be.

The world keeps turning, evolving or even devolving and we can’t stop it. Time moves us inexorably forward and we can’t stop it, no matter how much botox we use.

If you’ve ever responded to a phone survey on some political issue, you’ve heard the question, “Do you think the country/city/state is going in the right direction?” I don’t like that question because I really don’t know what it means. If it means the direction our culture is taking, I can’t help but feel it’s the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a prune-faced prude.  I’m pretty liberal. But I do think we’ve gone way over the edge and accept things that will bite us in the ass long after I’m gone.

After I’m gone. Those are words that had no meaning when I was younger. But now, I find myself saying to M, “Thank God we’ll be gone by the time X happens.”

I’m curious, though. I hope I get to look in from the afterlife and see what’s next for our culture.  Will the pendulum swing back? Or will it go further and further out until it reaches a point of no return?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

44 comments on “Back in the day
  1. I bet they’ll swing back….look at history and the Victorian age!!
    It’s fun to compare the ages, but I’m not sure it was “better”….man, do I wish I would’ve had a cell phone all the times my car broke down as a youngster!! jodie

  2. Kate says:

    What’s remarkable to me is how technology, and the many ways it affects our culture, is forcing change at a faster and faster pace. My son will be 36 next month. The difference within his lifetime is astounding, let alone during my 64 years on this planet. And then there’s my 87 year old mother! It seems to me that most certainly, things changed and cultural norms swayed back and forth between being risque and ultra conservative over the centuries. Roman orgies! Puritans burning witches! But the change were far more gradual and not always as far-reaching. Trends weren’t there for the world to see instantaneously on TV or the computer or a smart phone. Technology isn’t going to recede. If anything, your friend’s daughter’s daughter will one day see the current version of Miley Cyrus performing in a live, streamed concert and be able to order a version of the Miley outfit and have it delivered to her home by drone – just in time to wear the latest butt-baring hoochie shorts to school the next day. I’m no Luddite, but I think the combination of what our sports and entertainment “stars” do and the ability to share it with people of every age in every country is a recipe for plenty of parental angst, at the very least. Anyway – please excuse the rant! Just got on a roll there, Carol! I’m just glad I grew up when I did, and raised my child when I did, and now I guess I’ll be an old fuddy-duddy, albeit one who LOVES her computer and smart phone and Netflix and . . . !

  3. This makes me miss “the good old days!” I know I sound like my mother but there was something comforting about those Donna Reed days.

  4. I have to agree with the alcohol statement. I think it is a much more dangerous that marijuana. Actually, I have to agree with all of it. I had that same phone in a creme color in my room. I felt so privileged when I received it for Christmas. It even had my own number 689-Rena! It was the last gift I ever got from my father. He passed away 5 months later. Times have changed that’s for sure. For the better maybe some of it, but I would much rather live in the slower world.

  5. Lee Gaitan says:

    I showed some tweens my prom photo–flowing Gunnie Sax dress, big wide-brimmed hat and a basket of daisies–all I needed was a shepherd’s crook and I could have been Bo Peep. Seriously, there may have been a sheep or two just out of camera range. They died laughing. When I saw the “dresses” they were wearing to the 8th grade dance, I died, but not laughing. Too much skin and spangles way too soon. 🙁

  6. Ha! Spot on in so many ways. Makes me fear for how things will be when my grandsons are in their teens — which is, scary to say, not that long from now!

    A candle app? Too funny. I had no idea. I recall the crowd of lit lighters at concerts, too. I thought the lights nowadays were the phones on record. But candle apps? Again, too funny.

  7. A.J. Sefton says:

    My daughter is 17 and I wish I had her life when I was her age. Internet and mobile phones…sigh. In other ways though, the pressures are much greater. All I had to do was pass GCSEs, she has to pass them with flying colours and then some.

    Our communication is better than mine was with my parents, and theirs with theirs. However, I stopped believing in Santa when I was about 8. My daughter was 12. Innocence lives 🙂

  8. A.J. Sefton says:

    On another note…

    Congratulations! I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! See more here

  9. michelle says:

    I love this. I had to read it twice…going through some major nostalgia pangs right now.

  10. Carolann says:

    It’s astounding how things have changed since I was a teen. Yes, there was an innocence that seems to be lost in the youth of today. That song…if you want to call it that…OMG how can anyone even listen to that? I’m not a prude either…far from it but gosh, that thing was horrendous! Your post really got me thinking. I love that about your writing.

  11. Another thought-provoking post, Carol. We had some friends here for dinner a while back and the conversation turned to how, given all that’s happening in the world today, we were all glad that we likely wouldn’t be around in another 30 years. A sad commentary on the direction life on this planet (and this country) seems to be headed. It’s another reason I’m glad I didn’t have kids. And why I’m glad there’s wine.

  12. Yes, it is frightening how times change. It is our only constant, and we have to change along with them.

  13. tara pittman says:

    Times have change a lot. The babies in church had no clue when I gave them a dial phone to play with.

  14. Erica K says:

    I can totally remember some of these items when I was growing up. Too funny

  15. lisa says:

    I miss my younger days. Things are so different for my kids. They miss out on all the fun times we had!

  16. Amy Jones says:

    Time really flies and we don’t even notice it, things are going to be totally different in a span of 20 years and our kids will be shocked

  17. Brandi H says:

    Boy times can change so fast. Seems like the world is looking their innocence.

  18. Elizabeth O. says:

    I have high hopes with the kids today because although what we see in general are kids taking drug x and y and doing all kinds of stuff we wouldn’t even have done when we were their age, there are also those who are well invested in making the world a better place. Yes, in social media you’ll see the kids who will make you question your future but at the background, the ones who are too busy to even go on social media, they are definitely making a difference.

  19. cris says:

    What’s even more scary is imagine how far technology will take us in another 100 years.

  20. hahaha! I love this post and the comparisons. Lmao! that concert pics, lighter apps/pics on the phone haha killed for days. Yes so true, the behaviour at concerts has really changed. I remember a time where we would rock out and revel in the music. No everyone has their phones out to record. What’s the point of that? They’re missing the whole point! Great post, time really does fly.

  21. Lovely post and i thought of same few days back. Things have changed over the years and technology is no where bringing people together.

  22. Amanda Love says:

    Time have changed indeed! But it’s completely different now because there’s so much to do, especially for kids. This is our way of enjoying the perks of what we have now and I think it’s going to be okay, after all, it’s something we all grow out of anyway. The kids make do of what they are offered, just like all the other generations in the past.

  23. The times have definitely changed. It’s sad to think that the rowdy from way back when compared to the rowdy kids now are completely 2 different things. I will say that I still see innocence but we just have to look a bit deeper to find it. Great post, love all the memories.

  24. Lots of changes happened. This is such a really thought provoking post. Made me think really.

  25. Rosey says:

    I see a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. Some are good differences, others are alarming. I’ll tell you though, being a parent to a teen isn’t as easy in real life as I thought it would be when I was a teen. 😉

  26. Azlin Bloor says:

    Things have certainly changed. I’m a child of the 80s and I most certainly seen lots of changes in that time. But I do believe we have to just go with the flow and keep up with the times. But I do totally agree with what you say too, not all the change is necessarily comfortable. I now sound my age when I say that I sometimes wish Beyonce and Rihanna would put some clothes on!

  27. wendy says:

    I think technology has ran away with itself. I am a 80’s kid and remember when you were aloud to ride your bike all over the neighborhood without a worry. Now a days, kids can not do that.

  28. I too young to remember those “good old days” But even for me, those old days were simpler and awesome. To much technology but a barrier between people.

  29. Nicole Escat says:

    I remember the old photos from my grandma’s house. The technology has changed a lot of things from the past.

  30. Courtney Gillard says:

    Times have really changed and I miss the old days. I remember how I begged my parents to have a phone in my room.

  31. Nikki Jenner says:

    This post made me miss the good old days. Kids nowadays rarely go out. They are usually in their rooms tinkering with their phones or playing with their game consoles.

  32. Mhaan A says:

    I still remember my childhood playing Monopoly with my cousin then get a nap after. I agree that things have really changed, some are for the better and some well, for the worst. Nevertheless, life must go on and we have to make the most out of it.

  33. melodi says:

    what a neat post! I am only in my 30 but yes times are way different even from when i was a teenager. Makes me a little sad. But it is what it is!

  34. Kathy says:

    I can’t believe how much time has changed. I remember always wanting to go outdoors and do so much with my friends. No cell phones, and talking on the phone for hours. Those were the days! It’s to bad with all the new technology so much has changed.

  35. anna nuttall says:

    My dad is very old fashion and he often can’t comprehend the technology we have now. He doesn’t understand the internet and still do banking one to one, he also can’t get his head round blogging and my job – social media manager.

  36. I think everything totally changes when you have kids, and you get to parent them as you wish. With that being said, things are TOTALLY different!

  37. Colette S says:

    I understand your observations.
    I do believe there will always be a balance in life, and something usually happens to pull people to back to a decision point of life or death.

    We do have to continue to be open to change though, as life will continue to teach.

  38. Liz Mays says:

    I wish kids today knew what a technology-free world was because of all the imagination and creativity we used to have fun. I really tried to give my kids my childhood experiences as much as I could. I think they JUST beat the technology immersion of today’s youth.

  39. A lot of time I feel that we’ve already reached that point of no return. I miss the old days! lol

  40. I’m not much older than teenagers these days, but my childhood/teen years sound similar to yours. I think the general ideas haven’t changed, just how they are carried out.

  41. I am raising my son the old school way, respect for elders and manners. I just can’t allow him to be what the teens of today are like. It’s not acceptable for me. I hope that he grows up with values still intact.

  42. Berlin says:

    I love innovation. It makes life easier and fun at times or most of the times. I wonder how those who have meetings confirm if they dont have cellphones back then. Or perhaps, trust was the name of the game.

  43. Eileen Kelly says:

    I love your post! It is so true. My 3 yr old niece uses an ipad and prefers that to half the adults Agree starbucks, phones, its so much and so expensive. I kiss the simple fun days

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