As an Indian kid in the 1990s growing up on a monster diet of American pop culture, my sense of secondhand nostalgia is eclectic, and immense. Our high schools didn’t provide personal lockers, but thanks to Hollywood teen movies, I’d often imagine having one of my own, pinned with posters of the idols of my adolescence (hello,Liam Gallagher!). For the most part, I had easy access to the cultural zeitgeist that continues to spawn “Only ’90s Kids Will Remember” memes —although TV shows and music from the era often took till the mid-2000s to reach my part of the world!
My after-school hours too were dominated by the “predictions” ofcootie catchers, or the goofy delight of lacing my tongue with crackling Pop Rocks. And sartorially, I’ve tried both XL flannel shirts and ribbon chokers to discover if I’d rather be a Tai or a Cher from Clueless (definitely a Tai!). So on days when #adulting is a spectacular fail, I put on my ’90s playlist and take a trip down memory lane. Here are some quintessential ’90s recommendations!
Before there was Fringe or The Mentalist,The X-Files(1993)reigned supreme. For the lovers of half-humorous heebie-jeebies and some seriously savvy lead actors, nothing compares to the dynamism of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigating extraterrestrial mysteries through nine seasons and two revivals. I’m no Scully (read: skeptic), but between conspiracies involving aliens and the deep state, the show did demand some suspension of disbelief. Those same elements, however, gained a massive cult following. Early-internet paranoia, sci-fi nerdiness, glib dialogue and a sizzling cerebral romance between investigating partners — this ’90s television touchstone is high on rewatchability. Perfect for a quirky weekend.
2. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Speaking of super-fly ’90s supernatural shows (not you, Sabrina), we have to mentionBuffy the Vampire Slayer. High school dramas tend toward the angst of young love. But you can count on a little something extra — like vampires, werewolves, demonic hyenas and a giant praying mantis — when you head back to Sunnydale. Seemingly disparate teen fantasies come together in this 1997 winner that has aged curiously well. Revisit the fictional Californian town and watch new-girl Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) literally slay. It’s also fun to observe a young Seth Rogen and Alyson Hannigan after watching them grow up and diversify. Not to mention there’s a whole wad of ’90s fashion and vocabulary to be retrieved along the way. Bitten hard by the Buffy bug? There’s a world of tie-in projects to be enjoyed: comics, books, movies and even video games.
3. ‘Sex and the City’
You can quote Carrie, but I’ll keep my soft spot for Miranda. Back in the day, few groups of female friends could resist debating who was who in the groundbreaking 1998 series about four 30-something women and their adventures in New York City. I couldn’t help but wonder what all the scandal was about, and watched the risqué show secretly rather than risking my parents’ wrath. Quotable quips, revolutionary fashion, lessons in love, friendship and feminism made the show a favorite and gave the SATCmovies their dependable success. Soon out is the Samantha-less controversialreboot, And Just Like That… . In the meantime,treat yourself to some weekend TLC with a series marathon. Want to go Big? Sip on a Cosmo while you’re at it.
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For kids eyeing an unscheduled bite, these quick-turnaround frozen snacks were a pocketful of sunshine. When I say sunshine, I really mean the cheddary warmth of something that “cooks” in just two minutes and comes in a mad array of flavors. Share the ’90s staple with a close set of (vaccinated) friends at your pandemic-friendly hang sesh, where “hand sanitizer” and “hot pocket” are the only passwords. While it’s tempting to go the ready-made route – it is, after all, a weekend – check out these easy-peasyhomemade recipesand avoid the misadventure of dubious store-bought flavors like beef taco. For dessert, there’s no dearth of decade-appropriate inspiration, from innocentDunkaroos to boozy adult Capri Suns. But for a total throwback to sumptuous ’90s summers, turn to the simple joy of anorange creamsicle.
2. Be Your Own Fashion Police
Who says you can’t ditch tight, plaid miniskirts and crop tops and still doff your bucket hat to’90s fashion? Unless you want to jazz it up at home, in which case, go right ahead. Put on some comfy dungarees and a pair of hardy Doc Martens instead. Are you one to wear your hair up? Your stash of forgotten scrunchies and claw clips would love to do that for you, just like they did all those years ago. Bust out a baggy tie-dye tee, perhaps with a heart pattern to amp up the emo, and slip into capri pants and slides to be utterly binge-ready. If you’re feeling fancy, there is always the instant cool of flared jeans and oversized hoop earrings.
3. Party Like It’s 1999
What else can you do to really amp up that retro flavor at a relatively no-fuss gathering? Dutch braid your friend’s hair while not missing a word to“No Scrubs,” the TLC anthem. After all, the ’90s were goofy times. Or if you like, take your noughties selfies — but in a DIY photo booth. Then gather round to trade spooky stories à la Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990) and Goosebumps (1995).The former is churning out decidedly darker revivals these days. Finally, tickle yourself silly with the sweetest sleepover scene in the history of sleepover scenes, from the 1994 kid comedyThe Little Rascals or, alternatively, enjoy the young Will Smith’s antics on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I wouldn’t push it as far as a friendship bracelet, but with all these fun throwbacks, you probably won’t need one.
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“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gaveMatilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” It’s funny how years into adulthood, we often seek the sameassurances we did as children. Or that authors like Roald Dahl, and a sweet character like Miss Honey, can still mean so much and remind us that we are, indeed, not alone. Published in 1988, it was one of the last books Dahl wrote before his death in 1990, and has remained a favorite ever since, while Quentin Blake’s accompanying illustrations are still a treat for any age. 1996 also saw itsscreen adaptation, with Mara Wilson (who, by the way, grew up to be awriter) playing the precocious, bright-eyed lead. On those dreary weekday mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed but need a coffee, adults too could use a little telekinesis.
2. Smells Like … Play-Doh and Lip Smackers
To be sure, I am not suggesting you sit around sniffing putty from the ’90s. Although if you were so inclined, Hasbro has come up with a range ofadult Play-Doh, in scents like Mom Jeans (clean denim), Lord of the Lawn (freshly mown grass), and get this — Overpriced Latte (coffee that you might now rethink). If you ever doubted the therapeutic powers of kneading, rolling and fiddling with colored clay, maybe this Play-Dohsummer beach will change your mind. Smells canunlock the deepest recesses of our brains, so those ubiquitous piña colada or pink lemonade-flavored Lip Smackers lip balms might just jog some blush-worthy high school memories.
It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve spent a substantial part of my adult life searching for people who find Richard Ashcroft as attractive as I do. Brooding, British, with sunken cheeks and a voice of stoic resignation – does the world not see what I do? Of course, it’s possible that I wholly associate The Verve’s vocalist with the chart-dominating music video of a man strolling down the sidewalk in a hypnotic daze as the world passes him by. “Bittersweet Symphony,” for many, is the song that sums up multiple cinematic moments in the decade (rememberCruel Intentions?), possibly stirring up their own existentialism. If there’s anything more compelling than the trippy video, it’s the song itself.
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You ain’t dressed for a ’90s revival unless you have some manner of denim on you. Or tie-dye, for that matter. I’m talking those oversize jackets that immediately up your street cred … or the bold and unapologetic rainbow tees of yore. But what if you could have them both? Channel your inner cool cat in this gorgeous denim jacket, dip-dyed in a celestial burst of blue and purple, guaranteed to look dope on just about anyone.
2. Gimme More
Finish what you started with this tie-dye scrunchie (with a long tail scarf) that looks like it was plucked from the ocean. I know, I know: Carrie Bradshaw banished scrunchies from every self-respecting New Yorker’s wardrobe. But the once less-than-cool hair accessory has made a comeback in recent years, sneaking its way into celebrity do’s — from Gigi Hadid to Jason Momoa. If it’s good enough for the blindingly beautiful Jason Loane of Baywatch, it’s good enough for you.
3. Loud, Louder, Loudest
With so many old-new recommendations for ’90s music and shows, you’ll definitely want a speaker that won’t give up mid-marathon. Blast all the Alanis Morrisette or Snoop Dogg you want or watch back-to-back episodes ofFriends with this JBL Pulse 4, waterproof portable speaker, all the jazzier for its light show and sound feature.
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