1990s cover

I’m a woman who ‘came of age’ in the 1990s. My formative years were spent under the cultural influence of Britpop, Girl Power, Heroin Chic, Grunge, Trainspotting, The Word, The Girly Show… I could go on and list all my favourite 90s things, but I won’t, you get the picture. It was all about hedonism and rebellion.

The 1990s for me represented a time when it was celebrated to be a party person. Hedonism was ingrained into so many cultural signifiers. Many songs I heard, books I read, and films I watched told me I could be a hard partying rebel, and being a girl wouldn’t stand in my way. In fact, being a hard partying girl seemed to be where it was at!

Is it any wonder I came out of the 1990s a hard drinking and smoking lass, who at times struggled to balance university, then a career in marketing with all this partying? Of course, I wasn’t unusual, all my friends were the same. And I never overstepped the line, as it were. Although at times my family worried about me, I know. Yet I never really questioned why I was like I was, because most people I knew were the same.

When I look at me and my friends who I grew up with, we all ‘like a drink’, and we all smoke, mainly only socially, but we do. We’ve not quite fully ‘grown up’ and part of me wonders if we ever will!? It’s hard wired in us to enjoy ourselves. We deserve it, seems to be our attitude. We work hard and we play hard.

My husband’s the same, as are his friends, so this isn’t just a female thing. And before you say it, I know not everybody grew up in this haze of hedonism, but many – MANY – did. And I think the cultural backdrop of the 90s had a lot to do with it.

Liam told us all we needed were cigarettes and alcohol; Kate depicted that you could party hard and still be beautiful, indeed she created a whole new aesthetic around the partying female; The Word and The Girly Show reflected the same drunken hilarity that we enjoyed with our mates; Bridget Jones was just like us, going into work every day with a hangover; only Trainspotting showed the gritty reality of substance abuse – but then the soundtrack was really cool, so I’m sorry, it might’ve put us off heroin but it kind of did glamorise the hard living spirit. Booze, soft drug use, fags, music, friends, humour – popular culture reflected a version of the life many of us were living.

What about the parents of the 90s kids? Obviously we are all products of our parents, but then our parents were the ones who grew up in the 60s. They were the original rebels. They were always going to be fairly libertarian parents, with kids who they were friends with rather than solely authority figures for. Did that make them bad parents? No. It made them parents of people who were free spirits, who veered off the path at times, but who always found their way back. This was because these parents had cultivated good relationships with their kids, even if it was over several bottles of wine!

The 60s heralded a time when women became individuals who expressed themselves freely, forging ahead with jobs and careers, wearing daring make up and short skirts, listening to psychedelic music, and experimenting with soft drugs. And men cheered them on, well the ones who were the same age did. Even if they were pretty tame (as my folks were – well, that’s what they tell me!) they soaked up the atmosphere by osmosis. It’s the same with the 90s. We all soaked up that champagne supernova vibe, even if, unlike Bridget Jones, you weren’t drowning yourself in Chardonnay most nights, you were still there whilst your personality formed, breathing in all the ideologies like a passive smoker. The 1990s generation will always be the most rock and roll as far as I’m concerned. We had to be, we were created by the children of the ’60s!

What became of the ladettes? For years I denied that they even existed. It was all the Daily Mail’s creation, I said. But now, I look back at Zoe, Sara and co – and see that they were my role models. Not in a totally simplified way, and not necessarily in a bad way either. These were had working career girls who knew what they wanted, and yeah they partied, but they showed up to work the next day too. But they grew up, had kids, and quit their partying ways (well, mostly). Interestingly Zoe Ball doesn’t drink now. And Sara Cox (who I know from a friend to have been a proper party animal) has chilled too. So too have we grown up, into Occasional Party People.

Once, when I was questioning my own partying as new mum who was still making that transition from 30 year old who still likes to go out into the responsible parent that I hope I am now, I visited the Soberistas website, which is a site for women who decide to quit booze. I was considering quitting drinking for a while (in fact I did for 9 weeks as I remember) as I couldn’t cope even with the odd social hangover and looking after my baby. At the website I read of women who grew up in the 1990s hard partying and then never managed to curb it; only the type of drinking changed from social get togethers (a weekly or twice weekly binge with mates) to large amounts of nightly wine consumption on their own. These women had developed problems. I realised that I was lucky to have come out the other side of the 1990s – and the noughties – into my 30s relatively unscarred. Yes I party sometimes, but I haven’t, thank God, developed a problem. It’s a sobering thought for all of us.

So what type of parents will we make, us former ladettes, now turned Occasional Party People? Like the 60s parents, our parents, I think we will be great friends with our kids. But, and this tallies with stats produced 10 years ago which show drinking is, actually, on the decrease, I think our kids will be more sensible than we were. Smoking isn’t cool any more, so they don’t do that. Binge drinking isn’t a good look – and images of drunkenness, or worse, are only a click away from sharing on Facebook – so I think they are more conscious of staying in control. Role models now like Ellie Goulding promote a sportier, healthier outlook that balances partying with exercise and a good diet.

Good for them, I say. I for one want my kids to develop a much more sensible outlook than I did when I was young, towards drinking anyway. Mind you, they say these things go in cycles, so watch out for the generation after them, as they may be wilder yet that anyone…

10 comments on “The ’60s had nothing on the ’90s”

  1. Hi! I really enjoyed this thought provoking post. I too fondly remember the 90s for the same reasons you do. I think any parents who came of age of during a cultural movement that centred on hedonism will probably worry about their children in an ‘oh god what if she/he gets up to the same things I did?!!’ way. There’s no easy answers- the statistics illustrating that alcohol use is decreasing are reassuring but the use of ‘smart drugs’ is increasing! Hopefully by the time my child is a teenager there’ll be a really strong youth movement that centres around sobriety and doing charity work 😉 keep the posts coming! X

  2. Great post, Rachel. Brought back loads of memories. My mates and I were so obsessed with Trainspotting that we tried to find ourselves Mark Renton lookalike, soundalike lovers by going on an impossibly ill-conceived romantic pilgrimage to Dundee University to try to seduce my brothers’s Scottish engineering student mates… Better than showing our fandom by getting addicted to heroin I guess. I don’t think I was as wild as you, Rachel, but I’m still not looking forward to the whole “Mummy have you ever tried…?” line of questionning.

  3. Oh my gosh I could have written this! So true for me and I have also battled with the “how much is too much” dilemma before finding having a little one encouraged me to sensible up quickly. I do wonder if Facebook makes it uncool for teens to drink as they see so many pics of their parents/aunts/whatever drunk at a party aged 30+ so it doesn’t quite seem so rebellious?!

    • This comment means a lot to me, thanks Lexi! It’s good to know there are other former party animals who are now mums out there. There is no better incentive to not get hammered as a little one though is there!!? Not that I don’t ever do it, but I drink a WHOLE lot less and go out a WHOLE less often! Thanks for the comment! X

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Especially: “We’ve not quite fully ‘grown up’ and part of me wonders if we ever will!?”
    I struggle with this idea that I need to grow up and be sensible every day. I have a responsible job and am a (hopefully) good mum to my two girls, but I crave that hedonistic party life still. I miss it. I was proud to call myself a ladette and had no issue with any negative connotations it implied. My parents may have been products of the 60s but held no clues to that in their attitudes so we fought hard against my liberal views and their conservative ones. And have found a happy medium nowadays. I am not ashamed of the fun I had and think, if anything, my experiences will better inform my parenting – after all, if I’ve been there, done that, I will be much better placed to offer my children sound advice. Life is for living!

    • Hi! I love your attitude, I wish I had that confidence! Yeah me and my parents clashed at the time, but now I see that they had their hands full with me. We get on very well now. Definitely see your point re being a parent who knows the score – been there done that, don’t try any tricks with me, cos I’ve done them all! Thanks for comment! X

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