I was supposed to be training for a six-mile marathon the next day, but instead I was doing something I’ve inadvertently been preparing for my entire life: drinking nostalgia, literally and figuratively, at a 1990s-themed bar crawl.
One decision my parents made sometime in December 1986 — “Hey, let’s have sex” — doomed me to a life of affection for my childhood, even (especially) as an adult. It’s why I listen to a podcast about the ’90s, know the lyrics to a Spin Doctors song that isn’t “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” and, once, during a night of deep, dark depression, clicked on a “27 Things Only ’90s Kids Know” article. I’m not proud. But even I have my limits. Full House is bad, Fuller House is worse, and Spice World is the worst.
There, I said it.
But how does my irrational fondness — which, like all nostalgia, only remembers good stuff and channels out the bad; it’s selective, false memory — for that particular decade, the one that gave us Goosebumps, and Rocko’s Modern Life, and Tamagotchi, compare to other people’s? That’s what I set to find out at the ’90s Bar Crawl in Austin, Texas, which promised to take me “back to the glory days — to simpler times, when you used pogs to barter and when you drove karts instead of cars.” But first: a ’90s quiz.
A Google search for “what is 90s kid” landed me on Quibblo. “If you can answer the majority of the questions correctly,” the website alleges, “you can officially call yourself a 90’s kid.” Question, the first: “Complete this statement: Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnn West Philadelphia born and raised _______.” Sh*t, I was going to ace this, and officially become a ’90s kid.
My score was “better than 84% of people who took this quiz.” Yay? Could be worse, I suppose. Little did I know how true this was about to be. Here’s what I learned about the 1990s and so-called ’90s Kids at the bar crawl, as sorted by the song I heard the most from every year of that horrible, horrible decade.
1990 — “Step by Step” by New Kids on the Block
My favorite memory of the entire crawl came during bar number four or five — once you’ve seen one faded poster of Willie Nelson, you’ve seen ‘em all — when the DJ played the Metallica-inspired “I Want It That Way,” only to turn it off midway through. The majority of the crowd was furious; the minority was elated, because the next song was “Step by Step.” There’s a clear divide between ‘90s fandoms: Martin vs. Seinfeld, as American Crime Story taught us, but also New Kids On the Block vs. Backstreet Boys/NSYNC. If you’re, roughly, over 35 years old, you prefer New Kids; if you’re under, you’re all about BSB and NSYNC. (If you don’t like either, you’re a goddamn liar.)