Maybe I shouldn’t be quite so forthright with the following information, but whatever: I watched a lot of television as a kid. My favorite shows fell into the ’90s sitcom category, usually with regard to kids just trying to survive the trials and tribulations of school and family. I loved “Saved by the Bell,” “Full House,” “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Family Matters,” “Boy Meets World” — you name it, and I probably watched it.
The shows were often filmed in front of a live studio audience, with “oohs” and “ahhs” whenever something interesting or romatic happened, laughter at the appropriate times, and a signature soundtrack to prepare you for the next moral lesson or impending doom. Sitcoms were easy, and they subscribed to some basic, static rules… all of which contributed to my general knowledge of what it’s like to grow up. Here are some of the things ‘90s shows taught me about what to expect from life as we get older.
Friend count and type: It’s required that you will have 1-5 best friends at all times. These friends will accompany you through the good and bad, they will be considered an extended member of your family, and they will likely each fulfill a “role” depending on how many of you there are. Two friends, for example, and one of will be smart, and the other dumb. More than two, and one may be eccentric, one may be clueless, and and one will be the “normal” one who keeps everything calm. These friends will stick with you for life. Or at least until your life is canceled.
If the first option doesn’t work, you will go through a handful of best friends who randomly disappear from one school year to the other, never to be seen or heard from again. (Think about Stephanie Tanner’s friend, Mickey. You may wonder: who? And to that I say: exactly.)
Gender: Large groups of friends will typically be divided among gender lines, convenient for when the group begins to get older and needs to “pair off.”
Bullies: In your younger years, you and this group of friends will be bothered off and on by one “bully” and/or his/her compatriots. This “bully” will be your nemesis, and there will be at least one point in your life where the two of you are forced to put your differences aside for the sake of something — a school project, a class trip, or otherwise.
Hijinx: There will be a lot of hijinx. This includes, but is not limited to, breaking something precious you will need to quickly replace; sneaking your friend(s) out of detention; weaseling your way out of doing something; and/or throwing a small get together that turns into a huge house party.
Treatment: You and your friends will likely get special treatment in school from your teachers. No one will object.
Teachers: There are only a handful of teachers in each school and they somehow teach every subject, regardless of what grade you area in – which is good, because you will spend more time congregating in the halls than actually learning anything. So you will need them on your side.
Classrooms: There are only a small number of classrooms, some of which will need to be re-used. Your history room, for example, might be changed into the science lab depending on the day. Thankfully, your locker is right outside this one classroom, so there is nothing to worry about.
Lockers: Your best friend’s locker is right next to yours. Also, you will always get to sit next to your best friend(s) in class, because you have the same schedule, and there is no such thing as “assigned seating.”
There are no time limits between classes. Feel free to meet up with your friends, chat, or get into typical hijinx (as mentioned above) between math and English. No one will notice. Or care.
High school is literally the best time of your life. Nothing before, or after, really matters.
Drugs: You may be asked once – and once only – to try some type of drug, and the severity of it will depend on how old you are. It’s cigarettes if you’re in elementary school, alcohol if you’re in middle school, weed if you’re in high school. It’s important to not only “just say no” but educate that person and “save” them from the path they are on. You will likely never see this person again.
Hanging out: You and your school mates will meet up in that one place that is the “local hangout spot.” Think The Max, Chubby’s, or even your own house!
College: Everyone from your high school will attend college, and it’s usually a local school that most (but not all) of your core best friends from high school will also attend. There, you will continue your habits of never going to class and/or studying because your favorite teacher/principal/mentor from school will follow you to make sure you do all right.
Destiny: Every person has that “one” person they are destined to be with. You likely met them when you were two years old or when you just moved to the town. They were your first boyfriend/girlfriend, and your first love, and no other person will compare even if, logistically, the romance should not work out.
Dates: Dates should only take place at “the local hangout.”
Dating a friend’s ex: It’s never okay to date within your group of friends — unless one of your friends is a nerd, in which case that’s fine because his feelings don’t matter, anyway. (See Zach, Screech, and Lisa.)
Pairing off: If your group of friends is big enough, and as you age, you and your friends will “pair off” within the group. See: Cory/Topanga and Shawn/Angela; Zach/Kelly and Jessie/Slater.
Family feelings: Being in a family is tough. It’s even tougher when you have a bunch of family members in your house and/or as your neighbors and/or you were shipped to Bel Air to live with your extended family and/or some weird guy named Joey who likes toys and kids lives with you but has no relation. Don’t worry — everything will be okay. Families are wholesome, and they make it through everything.
Youngest kids: As the youngest members of the family start to age, inevitably, newer, younger, cuter new family members will be introduced. Sorry.
Fighting: Every time there is a fight or argument in the house, it will be resolved in just a few days — sometimes as quickly as 20 minutes! You will not carry any residual feelings from this falling out with you. In fact, your memory will pretty much be erased! Unless there is a montage.
Absent members: It’s possible that one or more of your alleged family members will stop showing up. When they do finally resurface, they may look completely different. (Aunt Viv in “Fresh Prince”; Morgan in “Boy Meets World”; Becky in “Roseanne”) Do not mention this change, as it will just make the person feel self-conscious.
Bad behavior: If you do something you’re not supposed to do, you will get caught. However, even though you will have “learned your lesson,” you will not refrain from engaging in further “bad” behavior.
Crises: One of your closest friends OR someone you have never seen before (there is no in between) will either engage in something “bad” or have something “bad” happen to them. For example: DJ Tanner stops eating food in an effort to lose weight and passes out during a family outing to the gym; Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter steal some alcohol in order to cope with their sadness and “forget about it all,” only Shawn likes the alcohol too much and finds himself reliant on it after just a few days of imbibing; Jesse Spano is so obsessed with making time for everything that she begins to take caffeine pills until she finds herself addicted. As such, you must find a way to get through to the person in need. Once you do, this will never be a problem again. Ever.
These rules of ultimate ’90s sitcoms were completely steadfast, and absolutely true. Didn’t you all have a huge group of friends made up of exactly the same number of boys and girls who paired off during your later years? Didn’t sappy music play whenever you were learning a life lesson with a family member? Haven’t you ever been addicted to caffeine pills?! Check, check, and check for me! So I think the ’90s gave me a pretty accurate idea of what to expect in life. Don’t you? 😉