An 80's Kevin Arnold

Dial up the year you turned 12, and revisit the last official year of your "childhood."

1988 was a year of transition. While I continued to hold on to many of the things I'd come to love as a kid, adolescence was knocking loudly at my door. My brother was in high school and started dating. He'd hole up in his bedroom and listen to Def Leppard -- less interested than ever in the likes of a sixth grader.

Me, on the other hand? I took no offense. He could have his hair bands and talk on the phone with girls all night long. I was perfectly happy lip syncing in the mirror to my Parents Just Don't Understand record and continuing my dominance of Nerf basketball.

You have to remember, these were the glory days of the NBA dunk contest. As far as we were concerned, my friends and I were no less talented than Jordan and Dominique -- except, of course, we were dunking on the Nerf hoop in my bedroom.

So at a time when I was content to wear my California Raisins shirt, read Garfield books, and hang on to being a kid for just a little bit longer, it happened.

I got a girlfriend.

And I'm not talking about any of that baby stuff from 5th grade. This was an honest-to-god, make-my-heart-beat-fast, hold-hands-at-the-movie-theater type girlfriend! She moved in to our school from far away -- a transfer having something to do with her dad's job. It took a couple of months, but by November of my 6th grade year, we were "going together." She was officially my girlfriend.

We would talk on the phone for as long as our parents would allow it. I'd often find myself closed inside the coat closet for privacy, stretching the phone cord to its max. I always liked calling my girlfriend's house because they had this cool new thing known as "call waiting" and I was always guaranteed to get through.

We'd meet at the movies or listen to records. To this day, I still think of those times when I hear certain songs -- anything off the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and (believe it or not) Honestly by Stryper. This was the soundtrack to my first love. One time she even had a small party at her house where we all paired up into our sixth-grade couples and watched Dirty Dancing. (Truth? It wasn't until several years later that I realized why Baby had to get her father to help Penny. I thought she was just sick.)

My girlfriend taught me to make grilled peanut butter sandwiches -- essentially grilled cheese with peanut butter instead of a Kraft single. I just had one last week.

Christmas time rolled around and I got her a present. I don't remember what it was but I'm sure it was something that my sixth grade mind considered to be ultra-romantic.

She bought me a shirt.


A gray polo shirt.


A few months later, our romance fizzled and my first girlfriend was no more. Sure it was just five months or so, but in kid time that's an eternity. I don't remember who broke up with who, but I was prepared.

You see, just as I started to notice girls, so did Kevin Arnold.

Since January of that year, I had been watching similar situations play out on a new show called the Wonder Years and I could relate.

Kevin was twelve. I was (almost) twelve.

Kevin was confused by all of the things that confuse 12-year-olds. So was I.

Kevin was a kid on the cusp of becoming a...well...older kid. Me, too.

I turned twelve that summer. Other girlfriends came and went but thanks to Kevin Arnold, I knew I wasn't alone.

Ah. 1988.

I think I'll go make a grilled peanut butter sandwich and listen to She's Like the Wind.

Take some time to check out some posts shared by other contributors to the League of Extraordinary Bloggers:

Go back to 1982 on Lefty Limbo and AEIOU and Sometimes Why...1985 on Memories of Tomorrow...and 1989 on Branded in the 80s.


leftylimbo said...

Dood, totally awesome and sentimental post. You really brought back some nifty details with the California Raisins shirt, Garfield books, and of all things Call Waiting, which indeed was a total luxury for us at the time!

I remember in 6th–7th Grade…the 5 words that all of us boys had to muster up all the courage within us to tell a girl we liked to her face: "Will you go with me?" Such great times. I wonder if 12-yr.-old kids these days are as tempered with naiveté and innocence.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the link!

TL said...

Thanks, man. It's crazy what kind of details I've chosen to remember over the past 35+ years. I may not be able to tell you much that I learned in high school Biology class, but I can tell you all about grilled peanut butter sandwiches.

the sandwich life said...

love this post Tim.....