Deconstruction of a Saturday night, 1994:
The door bell rings, and my parents disappear into the night. Mom leaves the scent of her Anais Anais perfume lingering in the hall. My babysitter asks me what I want to do first, as she runs her metallic blue polished nails through her hair. I show her the collage I’ve made from the magazines she’s given me to gawk at. I pose, hand on hip, “I’m going to be 5’9″ when I grow up.” (Sadly, this never happened.) And I go on to discuss the ideal, high cheek bone structure – Shannen Doherty’s of course.
We pop in a Janet Jackson CD and choreograph a complete dance to the heaviest song on her album, “If.” If this is the exercise portion of the evening, it doesn’t last long. A low hum commands my attention as soon as the TV comes to life.
“….SNICK,” the voice whispers. First up is Clarissa Explains It All starring a young Melissa Joan Hart. Cue the metal ladder. “Hey, Sam!” Insert sound clip. After the credits roll – we know the next hour is wheeling out All That and Ren and Stimpy. Inevitably, we change the channel to MTV. This is the highlight of my night; I cling to the edge of the sofa in anticipation of all of the teenage glory I’m about to be faced with. MTV is loaded with back to back music videos. We watch the end of Real World: London, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of: Singled Out, Buzzkill, Unplugged, Beavis and Butthead, and most, most, most importantly: My So-Called Life.
Tonight, Jenny McCarthy is wearing lime green platforms and her co-host is wearing a bowling tee; I marvel in the golden drenched characters in the “Zombie” vid from The Cranberries, and Beavis laughs involuntarily through a Soundgarden song. We tune back in to SNICK to pick up images of a rusty swing, a paddle boat rocking against a shore, and a porcelain clown grinning in a rocking chair as a child playfully cackles. Are You Afraid of the Dark? is on.
After covering my eyes and suspiciously eyeing the shadows outside the window, I dart out into the garage to refresh my soda. I’m as quick as a bullet, barely gracing the surface of the cold ground as I keep one hand on the open door of the laundry room, my heart pumping, ready to face the demons that are lurking under my mom’s Previa.
Back inside, I hear the voice of a young girl narrating her show’s intro. “My sister, Annie, thinks I’m some kind of science project,” she mutters. The Secret World of Alex Mack is starting. In between commercials, we peak at VH1 to see if anything good is on. We end up watching most of Top 1o Countdown and Pop-Up Video. The “She Don’t Use Jelly” vid by The Flaming Lips is dismantled down to tangerine and magazine sales in the U.S. per year. I yawn, surrendering myself to the TV gods.
After the last sip of caffeine free Coke has been consumed, I’m tucked into to bed, visions of a monotone Kurt Loder, big orange couch and Angela Chase’s crimson red locks flowing through my head. The end of the night smells bittersweet; I figure it smells like teen spirit.