“. . . the late 1970s suburbia . . . young kids full of angst and hormones – what are they to do? I’ll give you a hint – it WASN’T bowling. Roller skating yes, bowling NO. Bowling was for the old man, not the young kid.”
In September 2010, a woman born in either 1964 or 1965, started the anonymous blog Suburbia Kid. Until December 2011, she wrote short posts about growing up in the suburbs during the 1970s. Her brief memoirs highlight numerous touchstones of first-wave Gen-Xers including feathered hair, Chemin-de-fer and Ditto jeans, Love’s Baby Soft and Chef Boyardee pizza. Here is an excerpt from her introductory post:
This is a true-blue teenaged drama blog, complete with the diary entries and goofy stories from one young kid growing up in the quiet suburbs in the late 1970’s.
“Leisure time for young teens in the burbs during the late 70’s was a hotbed of stupid fun. So sit back and enjoy the buzz of one teens’ experience as it plays out through diary entries, photos and journal musings.
Growing Up In The Suburbs
Through quips and commentaries, Suburbia Kid walks us through the adolescent days of Baby Busters. That’s what they first called Generation X because of the decline in live births that followed a baby boom that began in 1946 and ended around 1960. In the following excerpt she explains what it was like to be a teenage girl growing up in the suburbs during the 1970s.
In a word, sheltered. Although my friends and myself liked to think of ourselves as rebels, we were really just bored teens looking for a bit of fun in a largely unexciting environment. While urban areas were bustling with disco, punk rock and gender bending explorations, suburbia was asleep with banal shopping malls, three channels for your TV viewing pleasure and shag carpets.
“At times a bit of the real world did edge its way into our quiet neighborhood. I remember hints to the Watergate scandal (my dads’ ever-increasing bad mood and outbursts of profanity while watching the evening news), the gas crisis (we bought a compact, gas saving foreign car, much to my dads’ dismay) and the ominous shadow of nuclear power plants melting down, thanks to the accident at Three Mile Island. But all of this was so far removed from my teen-aged concerns. Boys, Bubblicious, Loves Baby Soft and 8-track tapes were foremost on my mind.”
I’m always amazed at how a simple photo can reveal so much about a particular era. How many 1970s things can you count in this picture? Here’s my list. Let me know if I missed anything!
- Crushed velvet ottoman
- Gold shag carpet
- Curly telephone cord
- String art
- Owl macrame
- Embroidery crewel wall art
- Mushroom art
Complicated Digital World
Here is an excerpt from a post that talks about how complicated our lives have been made by too many choices, too many channels and possibly, too much information.
…History through TV seems so precious; it’s a time capsule of what was once simple. Mork and Mindy, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat – simple. Raise your hand if you miss SIMPLE.
“This current information overload seriously has me waxing nostalgic for the days when we only had three main TV networks, “instant” Polaroid cameras, and Pong was the only game that interfaced with your TV. What was once simple has become overly complicated. I hate complicated.”
Writing Notes in Class
Texting 80s style involved writing actual notes to your friends. Sometimes, we exquisitely folded those notes. You can read about that here in a post I wrote, Texting 80s Style + How To Fold A Note. Suburbia Kid shared old notes, lists, scribbles and diary entries with her readers. This was so typical and reminds me of the notes a missing Oklahoma girl, Monique Daniels, wrote to her friends.
Ever wonder what young, bored in suburbia girls REALLY did in class?” the blogger wrote. “They might have looked like they were dutifully taking notes on the days topics, but what they were earnestly concentrating on was writing the name of their one and only true love, over & over & over & over . . .you get the idea.
“And in this case of MY one and only true love, it was Chuck, as you can see by my binder ramblings. I actually have at least three pages of the same thing, “I Love Chuck” written so many times I HAD to have run out of ink at some point.”
One of the best posts she wrote captures the economic angst of the 1970s. Here is an excerpt:
Economic times were BAD here in the U S of A, and TV gave us a glimpse into the America that exposed bigorty, lying politicians, class wars and an unrealistic ideal of life that never really existed. Were we dupped?! My family was. “Buy American!”. So we did. “Support your local union!” And we did. But to what end? Well, by the end of the 1970’s we had unprecedented levels of unemployment, jobs lost due to cheaper goods produced outside the US of A. Are we better now?”
This post was preceded by a post about shoplifting Bonnie Bell lipsmackers, Kissing Potion and eyeliner. She was quite a hoodlum back in her bored, suburban days.
Oh, the things young teenage girls bought (or in my case, shoplifted) in the late 1970’s. My ‘looking good’ obsession started with Bonne Bell Lip Smackers…And then there was the highly addictive Maybelline Kissing Potion. What a gooey liquid mess these were!
“Besides the ever-popular Loves Baby Soft, I also wore a fragrance called Blue Jeans. I can still smell the light, musky scent. And yes, I most definitely wore the cologne while skating at our local roller rink in an attempt to drive the boys wild…
“Last, but not least, one of the easiest items to um, lift. Eyeliner pencils…We were bored and we wanted to look good…”
Preservation of the Recent Past
Many blogs that were created by Gen-Xers prior to the Internet of Things (among other “things”) often serve as a treasure trove of memories and images. I grab up what I can in an effort to bring you these stories and to do my part to preserve the recent past. (It doesn’t feel so recent anymore.) We have no idea the true identity of Suburbia Kid or what has become of her in the years since she stopped blogging about growing up in the suburbs. It’s been over six years since she wrote a post.
The web is a transient place with bloggers fading from the landscape faster than a digital start-up. Through unintentional clues provided in her blog, I figured out her name and that she grew up in California — probably in a rural suburb of San Jose. I hope wherever she is she is doing OK. I hope life is treating her well. I’m grateful for the brief memoir she has left behind — a testimony of a bored and rebellious generation surviving teenage wasteland in the suburbs.
Seriously, what else were bored kids in suburbia to do during the summer?,” she wrote. “There was only one mall, and it was a small one at that. We had ‘free swim’ at the local high school during the day, the rope swing in the creek, and boring, hot summer nights to get into trouble. And boy did we try our best to get into trouble…Being a rebel felt liberating. Doing ‘bad things’ felt good. And the fun that ensued was only the tip of the rebel life I was sliding into.”