CVIII – You Can’t Do That Anymore!

The 1980s is what I base a lot of my memories on, since I was 7 on 01/01/80, and I graduated high school in June 1990, turning 18 a couple of months after that. I have many fond (and some not-so-fond) memories of that decade. It was a time of economic prosperity, really good music (which has come back in vogue and is being enjoyed by a whole new generation) and corny television.

Fast-forward to today, a lot has changed over the last 30-40 years. Some are for the better, and some definitely for the worst. Nonetheless, things have changed. Many things that were totally acceptable in, say 1984, wouldn’t fly today. They’re either frowned upon, ridiculed or can get you into serious trouble. Here are some of those things that you saw back in the ’80s that you most likely won’t ever see again.


Your parents would buy a box of those valentines cards and you’d pass them around to your classmates. For one reason or another, someone would occasionally get skipped, and sometimes they’d get totally butt-hurt about it. First of all, many schools are trying to eliminate all holiday celebrations in class. Also, so no one’s feelings get hurt (oh, perish the thought!), you have to give one to everyone, or no one at all. So, maybe it’s best this one went away.

Clapping erasers

Sometimes the teacher would have someone go outside and pound erasers together. Some kids loved it, for others it was a punishment. Either way, it would cause a huge cloud of chalk dust. Because of allergies, almost all schools have replaced their blackboards with dry-erase boards, or these “smart boards” which connect to a computer.


It used to be that kids would make a cool ashtray for their parents in art class, or you could find them at McDonalds. After all, smoking was totally acceptable back then. I can even remember when smoking was legal on campus (I think it was outlawed on campus when I entered 10th grade). Today, smoking is shunned or frowned upon, and is illegal on school grounds and most restaurants, so it’s just as well you can’t make them in class. I’d rather receive a butcher block or baseball bat, anyway.


Gender-specific classes

Obviously, you need separate PE locker rooms, but the “home economics” and shop classes were not coed at one time. Girls took home ec, boys took shop, because those were the stereotypes. Now, you have both genders in both classes. Girls should know how to build stuff and use tools, boys need to know how to cook and all that stuff. Now, if only they’d teach kids how to fill out a job application, do taxes and rectify their bank accounts (formerly called balancing the checkbook).

“Violent” Games

Back in the 1980s, kids at recess would play tetherball, or run around doing the “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians”, or there’d be some kickball, red rover or any number of other activities. Unfortunately, those games are now considered violent, exclusionary or insensitive. Even finger guns are cause for a kid to be expelled. I thought that getting one of those big red balls to the face, or breaking a bone was part of growing up. You’d be the cool one and have everyone signing your cast.

Speaking of games, kids used to pick teams for PE. Invariably, the teams would wind up lopsided, and god forbid you were the weak or non-athletically-inclined, because you’d end up being picked last or left out (🙋‍♂️hey, I resemble that remark!).

Finger Gun

Getting signed out by non-family

Back then, practically anyone could sign you out of school. You could have your buddy’s mom take you to their place and play for a while after school. Many schools won’t let kids get picked up unless they’re on a whitelist. Or, they make sure kids are taking a certain path home.

Walking to and from school

I used to do that all the time—walking (or biking) to and from school, unsupervised. In many places, if kids do that, their parents can be charged or even arrested for child neglect or endangerment. It’s pathetic that Utah had to pass a law allowing what’s called “free-range parenting”, and that it’s okay for kids to walk and play outside unsupervised. One mother in Texas was arrested because her 6- and 9-year olds were playing in the front yard, with their mom watching through the window. So, now everyone has to play helicopter parent? Kids can’t just play and explore now? They have to be supervised 24/7?

Don't Walk

I heard this ridiculous thing on the radio a few days ago, about people having a “quarter-life crisis”. I’ve heard of mid-life, but this? This is a case where  some Millennials and early Gen-Z, growing up always hearing they’re special and perfect, and that no one gets disappointed or their feelings hurt; then when they get into the workforce and “real life”, they hear “you’re a loser” and experience disappointments, they get this insecurity, and want to move back into their “safe places” with mommy and daddy. I’m not generalizing about the entire generation, just those select few who seem like they never grew up.

Home-baked goods and sack lunches

People have gotten so afraid of everything that if you take a treat to school, like for a birthday, it has to be commercially-packaged. I guess there’s the whole food allergies deal, which is why many kids can’t take a good-old PB&J to school. Then there’s the vending machines. With the whole shebang of obesity, fitness and whatnot, soda and junk food machines are hard to find now.

Take a Swiss Army knife or ibuprofen to school

Schools everywhere have implemented a “zero tolerance” policy toward weapons and drugs. It’s good in some ways, that something that can be used as a weapon is prohibited in school. Unfortunately, it goes a little overboard in that kids have gotten in trouble for “finger guns” or biting a Pop-Tart into what is assumed to be a weapon shape🤨. Then there’s drug side. Yeah, illicit drugs should be banned, but ibuprofen and Midol? A teenage girl got suspended over a fucking Midol. Girls have their periods. The associated cramps can be extremely painful, especially as 12, 13, 14 years old. Kids get headaches. They can’t just have a couple of Motrin or Tylenol in their backpacks. They have to go to the office and call the parents to take some. If the kid has a prescription, god help them. It varies, but either the parent has to take it to them, or they leave it in the office, where and adult must administer it. I see absolutely no problem with carrying two Advil or a single Tylenol, or a goddamned Midol, in case of pain.

Pain pills


Leave school for lunch

There are many others, but this is the last one I’ll cover right now. I remember going off-campus and hitting the local Burger King for lunch. After all, school lunches were crap in the 80s, and they sure as hell ain’t gotten much better. Mystery meat🤢? Cardboard pizza🤮? Pass. Many schools now are closed campuses, so kids are unable to go get the good stuff at the McDonalds or Taco Bell (or 7-11, if that’s your choice). I guess it eliminates kids’ shenanigans outside of school, and some schools hire Pizza Hut or someplace to bring food in once a week; but I know I enjoyed the freedom of an open campus, so long as you were back from lunch on time.

American life in 2020 is drastically different than it was four decades ago. Are we in a better place? That I will leave up to each of you to decide. Whatever your opinion, things have changed, and that is beyond our control. I suppose we can simply accept that everything is different, and that life goes on. Time indeed marches on, and I hope you’ll join me next week. Until that day, till all are one. Okay, lame Transformers reference. Seriously, though, be safe and be well.

All Are One

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