It’s not difficult to look back on Gen X with rose-colored glasses embracing nostalgia. However, the truth is there is an underbelly to the generation that nobody seems to talk about — until now. Recently, an online Gen X forum discussion examined the underbelly. Here is what they determined.
1. Spiky Plastic Carpet Runners
Oh God, new core memory unlocked. I think everyone from Gen X has experienced the pain of stepping on the spiky bottoms of clear plastic carpet runners. What were those even about? They were clear, and if you missed seeing it flipped over, it hurt! I vaguely remember car mats being this way for a period.
2. Acid Rain
Do you remember when acid rain was a significant problem during the ’70s and ’80s? Acid rain strips nutrients from soil and foliage that plants need to grow. It also caused health issues and exacerbated existing conditions. WebMD explains: “Inhaling acid rain can lead to respiratory illnesses like asthma or chronic bronchitis or worsen these conditions for people who already have them. These particles can also reduce heart function, leading to heart attacks and even death.”
“We were the last generation to be required to wear pantyhose for anything fancy: church, choir concerts, job interviews, weddings, etc.,” a woman recalls. “Even when I was young and fit, I remember the pinching and rolling waistbands, the smell of taking them out of the egg, trying to untwist them… it was suffocating!”
I’m grateful we’ve evolved from that nightmare! I still remember scrambling around for clear nail polish when they got a run in them.
4. Smoking Everywhere
Do you remember people smoking everywhere? Long gone are the days when you board an airplane, visit the hospital or school, and are met with nasty cigarette smoke. When I became a server, I remember asking people, “Smoking or non-smoking?” — before seating them right next to each other. Additionally, I remember a thick yellow layer of tar on the walls and windows. YUCK!
There was a time when my father sold waterbeds, so he had one for many years. I still remember the unexpected cold you were met with when the heater wasn’t operating, the bounce when sitting down, and my father repeatedly telling my sister and me to stop jumping on it!
Waterbeds can get leaks and are extremely heavy, so most apartment complexes prohibit them due to the damage they can cause. I haven’t seen one since the ’80s. Have you?
6. Carpeted Bathrooms
Nothing says disgusting like carpeted bathroom floors, toilets, and even toilet seats! Think about how often you step out of the shower and get the floor a little wet. Or worse, dressing and undressing your toilets when you’ve seen what happens under the seat and around the basin, especially with boys!
7. Emotionally Neglected Children
Emotionally neglected children were a Gen X commonality. I remember the motto, “Children are to be seen, not heard.” A forum member suggests: “We tend to romanticize the fact that our parents didn’t want us anywhere around or really care where we were. A lot of our generation holds it up as a badge of honor that ‘we didn’t need adults around.’
But it’s a very fine line between being autonomous and being neglected. It took me until my mid-40s to get into therapy and unpack what all of the neglect in my childhood did to me. I see the same in so many people my age. There are a lot of attachment issues in Gen X, and the “whatever, never mind” mentality is a beacon screaming exactly that.”
8. Normalized Sexual Harassment
An unfortunate number of women in the thread admit to being sexually harassed in the workplace and school. Even more disturbing is how many elaborate on how it didn’t matter how old they were. Yuck. I was around 12 when grown men started saying creepy things to me, so I remember this and hope it’s not as rampant today.
9. White Dog Poop Everywhere
Today, it’s more commonplace for pet owners to pick up and dispose of their dogs’ feces. However, the ’70s and ’80s had a phenomenon of white dog poop piles everywhere. Stepping into it was an unfortunate experience made possible because of it.
Litterbugs were much more rampant than they are today, considering the laws and fines in place because of it. Several forum members explain that people would throw litter from their cars. Others admit to seeing people dump trash and empty ashtrays in parking lots.
11. Long Distance Calling Charges
Do you remember paying long-distance charges to talk to people outside your area code? Rates were cheaper on nights, weekends, and holidays, but many of us grew up hearing: “Keep it short!”
12. School Bullies
As a victim of childhood bullying, it was the worst and caused terrible, long-lasting effects on my mental health and how I process and handle things. A user elaborates: “Deep racism, homophobia, and misogyny. Mocking kids who didn’t fit into the cool kid mold, especially the nerds and artsy kids.
Using violence to intimidate each other. This was documented in the high school-themed movies and TV shows of our day. My brother is a teacher today, and he says that kids don’t tolerate such discrimination and violence against each other.” Several others admit to being bullied by teachers back then.
13. Playground Equipment
Raise your hand if Gen X’s playground equipment has injured you. Mine is up. From the tall metal slides that were scalding hot in the sun to the merry-go-rounds, one affectionately calls “Cast iron death catapults.” Another reminds us there was “None of that ground-up tire rubber mat stuff. Playgrounds we’re covered in asphalt.”
14. Serial Killers
There’s no contesting there were far more serial killers back in our day. I’m from the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer were in my backyard. I knew a woman who was approached by Ted Bundy at Lake Sammamish State Park the day he abducted two women from there.
He wanted her to help him load something on her car, but she insisted he wait for her boyfriend to come out of the bathroom. He did, and Bundy wandered off. It’s super scary stuff.
15. Kissing Booths
I totally forgot about kissing booths being a thing. Imagine being the poor girl in the booth having to kiss nasty, old, perverted men for money or charity. Many of those setups were to raise funds for a charity. Communicable diseases have all but made them a thing of the past, and I’m okay with that — yuck!
16. Rainbow Oil Slicks
As a kid, rainbow oil slicks on pavement everywhere were a super pretty attraction. However, stepping in, walking through, or running over one was another story. Those slippery little suckers are responsible for broken bones, I’m sure.
17. New Jeans Dye
Do you remember running around in a new pair of jeans and then discovering your legs were blue once you removed them? You’re not alone. Countless individuals recall instances where they were victims of the “Smurfing” new jeans dye caused.
18. Aqua-Net Crust
Haha. One person shares their disdain for Aqua-Net: “The bathrooms of every girl I dated in high school. Every surface, every item was coated with a thin film of Aqua-Net hairspray crust.” I still remember the smell.
19. Shag Carpet Stank
The stink and filth of shag carpet were unpleasant. “No carpet cleaner in the world was strong enough to fight the bacteria colonies on a shag rug. You spend any time playing on the floor, and your knees and hands would smell terrible!”
20. Drunk Driving
Do you remember when drunk driving was an accepted part of society? According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS): “Before the 1980s, drunk driving was considered unfortunate but socially acceptable. Victims were thought to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, unable to avoid what were considered “accidents.”
With the advent of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other grassroots victim groups, crash victims are no longer simply an amorphous mass of statistics. They have names and faces, and their tragedies are now rightfully considered crimes.
With a combination of victim assistance, prevention programs, and aggressive public policy initiatives, drunk driving deaths are down 40 percent since 1980, but much more remains to be done.”
20 Nostalgic TV Shows Gen X Tried To Watch That Just Don’t Cut It Today
An online Gen X forum member recently asked, “What TV shows have you tried to watch out of nostalgia, and it just doesn’t work anymore.” Here are their top-voted responses. Do you agree?
12 Things Younger People Love That Gen X and Boomers Do Not Understand
Is there anything that Zoomers love that you do not understand? You’ve got company. After someone polled an online community for examples of said things, here are THEIR top confessions.
15 Things Boomers Love To Do That Young People Don’t Understand
A recent online discussion about things boomers love to do that younger generations don’t understand had many interesting points. Here are some of the key takeaways. Do you agree?
20 Little Things Young People Aren’t Ready to Hear According to Boomers
Do you have anything that you don’t think the younger people of today are ready to hear but need to? You’re not alone. Numerous folks from the older generations gathered in an online forum to share these life truths.
20 Little Things That Are the Most Gen X Things Ever
Times have changed since I was a latchkey kid fending for myself and spending the majority of my life outdoors. Kids today have no idea about anything from my childhood today. After someone asked a Gen X forum, “What are the most Gen X things ever?” They responded with a nice trip down memory lane.
Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.