The nineties were a much simpler time. Nestled snugly between the high energy of the eighties and the concerns over the calendar rolling over to the year 2000, the nineties were a mixed bag of grunge rock, hair band ballads, and neo-folk singers in the world of musical entertainment which was an appropriate soundtrack to the last decade of the twentieth century. While many in the nineties looked back to the horrific fads of spandex pants, excessive makeup, mood rings, and leisure suits, these days, people look back nostalgically at Jncos, Doc Martens, and flannel shirts.
But what are the real differences between the nineties and now? What things did we do normally back then that are frowned upon now? In two decades, it seems that we’ve created an all new world with our new obsessions with technology. And as people have become more politically correct in many aspects of life, it has changed the way we speak and interact with one another. Some people say they miss the nineties, and some say things are only getting better. Here are a few things that have changed.
16. The producer’s couch
The idea of the producer’s couch has long been a staple of the Hollywood industry. As sad as it may seem, the idea of a producer or other Hollywood big shot blackmailing up-and-coming actors for a part in a movie or threatening a career has often been looked upon as an inside joke. However, now that women, and men, are speaking out about the degrading situations they have been subjected to, it seems that the producer’s couch will soon be out on the curb. While sexual harassment has been viewed as a relatively harmless rite of passage in times past, the recent public shaming of producers, directors, actors, and other prominent figures is putting a stop to this deplorable behavior.
15. Enjoying the Cosby show
As more of the Hollywood elite are being outed as sexual predators, people are more reluctant when being entertained by their former productions. While The Cosby Show is still in syndication, for many, after the allegations of the women who were drugged and taken advantage of by the show’s creator and star, it’s a lot less fun to watch. While it was one of the most wholesome shows on at the time, the adventures of the Huxtable family are no longer seen in the same light. Similarly, some people also feel more uncomfortable as they settle in to watch a movie and see The Weinstein Company logo.
14. Calling something gay
There was a time when saying “that is so gay” was perfectly acceptable. Initially, the word “gay” meant happy and blissful, however, somewhere along the way, the word came to denote something negative or stupid at a time when homophobia was much more acceptable. Nevertheless, as part of a move toward political correctness and part as a move toward merely being more understanding of the homosexual lifestyle, these days, when someone calls something “gay,” it is more likely expected that they are actually talking about a homosexual male. Fortunately, the English language is filled with other words to fill the void.
While they do still seem to be popular in certain lesbian circles, the mullet hairdo is no longer something people find attractive. It’s not that the hairstyle is offensive (although it has been banned in Iran along with the ponytail and rooster), it has just fallen out of popularity. Some believe the haircut originated centuries ago in the Middle East as a way to keep hair out of one’s eyes and warm the back of the neck. Coming into popularity in Western culture in the seventies, the mullet seemed to have reached its climax in the eighties, resulting in the nineties’ version of Superman returning from the dead with a mullet, MacGyver with his duct tape, and Billy Ray Cyrus solidifying its status. And then there was Joe Dirt…
12. Smoking indoors
While smoking was quite popular in the sixties, with an estimated 45% of the population using cigarettes, by the nineties, that number had dropped to about 25%. As California has always been seemingly more health conscious than the other 49 states, it was no surprise when they enacted the first statewide ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces, including restaurants in 1995, and adding bars in 1998. These days, twenty-five other states have bans on indoor smoking, and many other states have partial bans on the activity for various venues. These days, an estimated 15% of Americans still smoke except for the homeless population, of which about 71% smoke.
11. Expecting a full-time job
At the tail end of the 20th century, many still held to the idea that they would find a full-time job that would provide them a stable career to last a lifetime. Just as their parents did, young people sought educations which would allow them the stability of a salary, health insurance, and the possibility of achieving the American Dream. These days, the gig economy is on the rise. Most millennials don’t expect to be employed for a lifetime, but juggle a variety of part-time or freelance jobs just to keep the money flowing. While few are still able to get that cushy job with a nice corporation, these days most working people are just getting by day to day.
10. Guzzling gas
Although the nineties saw the first attempt at releasing an electric car, the EV-1 developed by General Motors was no match for the Hummer, especially with a celebrity spokesperson like Arnold Schwarzenegger. First released in 1992, the Hummer was integral in boosting the trend of sport utility vehicles. It soon became quite common for the family car to get less than twenty miles to the gallon. Fortunately, the Hummer went out of production in 2006, and while SUV’s are still quite popular, many Americans, and people around the rest of the world, are seeing the advantages of having more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids and electric cars. Even Schwarzenegger now has an electric Mercedes.
9. Bringing your own beverage onto an airplane
There was a time when flying on a plane was much simpler. Security was more lax, we didn’t get patted down, and we didn’t even have to take our shoes off. Of course, the new scourge of terrorism has changed all of that. While you can buy your own alcohol within the secure parts of the airport to take on the plane with you, you can no longer bring any liquid of any kind in your carry-on. This has resulted in who-knows-how-many gallons of beverages, shampoos, colognes, and other liquids being discarded in order to make it through the security gate.
8. EATING GLUTEN
Remember the days of eating bread without guilt or worry? In the nineties, most people didn’t even know what gluten was, but with celiac disease on the rise, many people have cut out wheat, rye, and barley altogether. Celiac disease is an autoimmune deficiency that attacks the small intestines. An estimated 3 million Americans suffer from it, resulting in a number of gluten free products. People with a family member who has the disease have a 1 in 10 chance of getting it themselves. Since there is no cure for it, and no pharmaceuticals to help fight it, it looks like more gluten free foods are definitely on the horizon.
7. High Fructose Corn Syrup
While there are still plenty of products that use high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, most consumers are wising up to its negative effects. In the nineties, we started realizing that sugar was bad for us, and high fructose corn syrup was seen as a safer alternative. It comes from corn, we thought, so it must be healthy. Unfortunately, now several soda companies are offering up versions of their sweetened drinks with “all natural sugar” as the safer alternative. According to Consumer Reports, the consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1000% between 1970 and 1990, resulting in the Illinois Farm Bureau’s report that the average American consumed about 35.7 pounds of the stuff in 1990. These days, more people are going to farmers’ markets.
6. Going out in public without a cellphone
It may be hard to believe these days, but there was a time when not everyone always had a cellphone with them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1998, only 36% of U.S. households had a cellphone, a number that rose to 71% by 2005, and 92% by 2015. Of course, with more households now having more than one phone, that number may be higher now. In the nineties, though, we didn’t all have to have a phone with us at all times just in case someone needed to get a hold of us, or if there were an emergency. At the time, if you recall, we still had payphones.
5. Not being available 24/7
As more people have come to own cellphones, we became more required to always be available. In the nineties, it was sufficient to leave a voice message or keep calling back until you got an answer. These days, most people expect a response as soon as humanly possible. The advent of smartphones furthered the options for communication, meaning that we are all expected to respond to emails within the hour and texts, Facebook messages, and comments within minutes. While the nineties were seemingly the last decade where people could simply experience the world without constant contact, two decades later, everyone has a tether.
4. Having a beeper
Before cellphones, the gadget to have was the beeper, or as some call it, the pager. These little gizmos would clip right onto your belt, and when someone was trying to get a hold of you when you were out and about, the pager would inform you of their number. If you were fortunate enough to have a cellphone, you could call them right back. Otherwise, you had to go find a payphone. Pagers were used by a variety of business people, from lawyers to drug dealers, but as cell phones gained in popularity, the lawyers upgraded while drug dealers held on to their pagers a while longer. These days, mostly medical professionals from surgeons to EMTs still use pagers, but the percentage is getting smaller every year.
3. Dropping by for a visit
Due to our constant connection, since we are able to text so quickly, each arrival must come with an announcement. There was a time when we were allowed to be neighborly, and just drop by for a visit, perhaps to check in with people, or perhaps just to chat. These days, our check-ins are done digitally, and any visits must be scheduled. Since more time is needed to keep up with digital communications and doing whatever is necessary to keep the bills paid, dropping by is often seen as an unwelcome distraction, and for some, an intrusion into our privacy.
2. Letting your kids play on questionable playgrounds
Kids seemed to be a bit tougher in the nineties. They explored their neighborhoods with friends, without bicycle helmets or constant supervision, and playgrounds were far less sanitary than they are today. Where the nineties had swings and slides made of metal that often included rust, today’s playgrounds are made of plastic or treated wood, ensuring that kids won’t get scratches or splinters. If a child fell of the monkey bars in the nineties, he would fall to the ground, but today, their fall is broken by cushioned matting that surrounds the playground equipment. While the new safety features do cause fewer injuries, kids in the nineties learned of the dangers much more quickly.
1. Waiting for the millennium
After we partied like it was 1999, the next year seemed to be quite a nail-biter. Awaiting the dreaded Y2K, most of America lived in fear of our computers shutting down at the stroke of midnight, and some feared them all coming alive to end civilization. Fortunately, we made it through, and most of our computers continued to run until they became obsolete a few years later. While some are still fearful that humanity will not make it through the 21st century, most of us breathed a great sigh of relief at merely making it this far. Let’s hope we live long enough to see the next great catastrophe that doesn’t happen.
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