CPW is finally upon us. I had trouble admitting it at first, but as a senior, I can barely muster the energy to care. I did the whole CPW/Orientation thing with full gusto when I was younger, but I just can't keep up with the '09s and '10s. My roommate applied for us both to host pre-frosh, but as my former pre-frosh can attest, I'm an awful host, and am probably single-handedly responsible for mine and my roommate's rejections. Maybe I just have trouble relating to someone who was four when Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" first came out.
Recently I realized: there are a number of things these kids probably don't remember. I typically call a lot of people "kids," just like I often refer to people by their first and last names, and usually don't mean much by it. But these people really are kids: most of the class of 2011 was born in 1988-1989. They don't remember the 80's! And the silent minority that skipped a grade — they weren't even alive in the 80's.
Alright, so I was born in 1985, and I'm sure my parents and every grad student are slapping their foreheads reading this. But this is the first year of my life when I've been stopped mid-sentence by a freshmen and reminded, "um, Ruth, I wasn't old enough to remember that." This is bizarre enough an experience for anyone to remember.
So as a guide for all the non-pre-frosh (since everything else this weekend is dedicated to someone else), I thought I'd compile a short history of things that our guests won't be able to recall. If any of this turns out to be factually inaccurate, blame Wikipedia and VH1.
1988 — Remember the Cold War? Probably not. Reagan and Bush, Sr. were President and VP, and you can rent Donnie Darko to see clips of the 1988 presidential debate. A U.S. colonel was kidnapped and killed in Lebanon, and the Supreme Court sided with Hustler on charges of defamation against Jerry Falwell. That thing about Saddam gassing his own people? That happened in 1988. Czechoslovakia was still a country, and Richard Gephardt was already running for President. The Soviet war in Afghanistan ended, and "Faith" by George Michael won the Grammy for Album of the Year.
1989 —Milli Vanilli won the Grammy for Best New Artist, though it was later revoked. Hulk Hogan defeated Randy Savage in Wrestlemania V, and Dilbert was syndicated for the first time. Nintendo began selling the Game Boy in Japan, and both Seinfeld and the Simpsons premiered. The stock market experienced the "Friday the 13th mini-crash," the Berlin Wall fell, and the Little Mermaid opened in theaters.
To be fair, few seniors remember many of these events. The real defining differences emerged in the early and mid-90's, while the '07's were having slumber parties and the '11's were still cooped up at home. The comedic brilliance of MTV and Nickelodeon was still being forged — back when one played music and the other wasn't concerned with instilling values. Though most people these days reference "Beavis and Butthead" and "Ren and Stimpy" will always hold a special place in my heart. Their elegant blend of gross-out comedy with classical music complemented the other early Nick Toons — "Doug," "Rugrats," and later "Rocko's Modern Life" and "Ahhh! Real Monsters."
While I was personally forbidden to watch MTV, I remember catching a glimpse of shiny parachute pants at my cousin's house, and I did manage to learn all the words to "Baby Got Back" with my best friend in the first grade. Did I get the quarter note thing down in music class? Probably not. That just shows how schools should re-package material to fit students' interests.
I, like probably many MIT students, had parents with the foresight to realize that many 90's trends were stupid and temporary, and was told to value individual self-worth over shallow fads. Naturally, this left me with few friends until high school, and cheap knock-offs of the actual item about three months after the trend broke. Highlights include a "Brick Boy" instead of "Game Boy," some Tamagotchi facsimile, and the warning that "light up sneakers will explode."
Things I also remember: the slumber party when I found out that Ginger Spice left the Spice Girls. It seemed like that damn Titanic song was never going to freaking die. I definitely wasn't aware of Lorena Bobbitt, but seemed to know about Tanya Harding, and was cognizant of the irony that neither of them won in the Olympics.
Trips down memory lane aside, it's understandable that seniors generally distance themselves from the pre-frosh. It's not that we're all bitter and hateful, just that the freshmen and sophomores are that much more excited. And yes, I know it takes more than a shared love of Nicktoons to bond over an undergraduate experience, but think of the other experiences the class of 2007 has gained while everyone else was catching up on 80's and 90's pop culture. College is easily the most horizon-broadening four(ish) years of one's life. Don't coddle the pre-frosh too hard, or they'll never figure it out on their own.