10 Things You Coveted If You Were A Child Of The ’80s

My life changed the day I moved to California and stood outside my front door watching the older girls in my neighborhood roller skate around our cul de sac. They all had white skates with bright orange wheels, and I looked down at my stupid adjustable skates that fit over my shoes. My father said they were more practical because they’d “grow with my feet,” but when you’re the new kid, who wants “practical?”

I didn’t want to be practical or have anything grow with me. I wanted to be like the cool girls with the Farrah Fawcett hair cuts and roller skates with actual laces, dammit.

That was the first time I remember wanting to have something come hell or high water, and man, was I determined to make it happen. I may have only been seven years old, and it was the ’80s so the Internet wasn’t a thing, but the girls in my neighborhood (and movies like Footloose and shows like Square Pegs) were enough to make me start coveting all the things.

If you were a child of the ’80s, chances are things weren’t handed to you. You worked and saved your allowance for anything extra because a lot of us came from bigger families with one income. Expensive jeans weren’t just purchased on a regular Saturday afternoon for the hell of it. They were saved for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas, or we worked around the neighborhood walking dogs and shoveling poo until we could buy it our damn selves.

There was so much deliciousness we all wanted (but usually had to wait for, or never got). Things like:

1. Guess Jeans

 

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I wanted a pair of these for two years before I actually got a pair that were on sale. There was no way my parents were going to buy me $50 jeans in 1985 and I still remember the sound of their laughter their first time I asked for a pair.

2. Call Waiting

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Originally invented in the ’70s, most of us didn’t get this until a decade or two later. This was technology at its finest in the ’80s. No more busy signals or having to dial someone’s phone number on the rotary phone over and over until you got through. Also, how important did you feel the first time you got to say, “Hang on, I have to take another call?” Oh, I would have been so much cooler if I had perfected call waiting earlier — I always ending up hanging up on someone.

3. A Swatch Watch

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A Swatch was the only watch to have and I love how mine had two different colored bands. In the ’80s, you were cool if you had one of these bad boys, but if you had three going up your arm, even better!

4. A Benetton Rugby

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When you walked through the halls wearing anything with Benetton printed on it, you knew you’d made it. My rugby was white with turquoise letters and I felt reckless whenever I wore it.

5. Anything Esprit

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In junior high, all the girls had the cute little Esprit backpack that resembled the Nike backpacks all the kids have today. Esprit clothing was all the rage too, but it was hella expensive. I mean, if you were going to wear something with the label on it, it needed to be huge for all the world to see.

6. Jordache jeans

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Oh, these were fine acid wash jeans with a high waist. If I recall, the pockets were high as was the top of the pants which came complete with buttons, zippers, and the option to fold them down.

7. Store-bought sweets

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I don’t care if it was sugar cereal, Oreos, or Drake’s fruit pies, we all wanted the high-fructose corn syrup in our mouths. Many of us had parents who didn’t splurge on such nonsense at the grocery store and forced us to eat homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and the like. We all wanted to stuff you could buy in the stores that has a one hundred-year shelf life, and a lot of us still feel deprived.

8. A perm that actually looked good

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Raise your hand if you and your besties indulged in the home-perm movement because your parents gave you a big fat N-O when it came to getting your locked frizzled into place at the salon. We all had high hopes as we inhaled the spiral perm fumes, but many of us were left with Brillo pads instead of the luscious curls we saw in the commercials and magazines.

9. Michael Jackson’s first album

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It was my first cassette, and my sisters and I would listen to every song over and over on our boom box outside in our front yard. We’d even moonwalk for the cars as they drove by. I’m pretty sure if there were camera phones in those days, we would have gone viral.

10. A leather bomber jacket

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Speaking of Michael Jackson, he started the leather bomber jacket trend and we all wanted one to go with our Guess or Jordache jeans. Then, the movie Top Gun came out and instead of a want, it became a need. My first one was fake and it wasn’t long before the faux fabric wore out and revealed the blue nylon underneath. But it was fun and I felt like I was in charge while it lasted. 

I have to say, I think coveting these things while we were younger and having to earn them — or waiting until we were older to enjoy them — is one of the things that makes Gen-Xers so damn amazing and hardworking.  

Honestly, if I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing about all the goodies I wanted but had to wait to buy myself, borrow from a friend, or unwrap on a birthday. Because it made them all the more special.

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I Get Botox And I’m Not Ashamed To Admit It

I just turned 44. I really freaking like my age and never hide it. I feel better than I did in my 20s, I’m smarter than I was in my 30s, and I can still do cartwheels and roll my eyes like I did when I was a teenager.

I like my body. I like my face. I have parts that are different than they were just months ago. I have areas that are better than ever — maybe this has something to do with acceptance, I don’t know. What I do know is maybe a little bit of being too busy mixed with giving attention to the things that matter the most to me these days is good for the soul, so I’ll do my best to keep it up.

As an aging woman who has birthed three kids, I also have parts of me I don’t like. I have loose skin, there’s sagging, and I have so many “what the fuck” moments going on during that time of month, I’ve given up on keeping track.

I don’t sleep well, and I wake up in a wash of sweat every morning. This takes my resting bitch face (something I’ve always kind of liked) to another level.

If I have a glass of wine, my face shows it the next morning, especially in my eyes. If I don’t drink enough water, I look like I want to hurt people.

Long gone are the days when I could stay out late, eat whatever I wanted, and fall into bed without washing my face with zero consequences. These days, I love getting facials and taking the time to keep my skin care routine tight. It feels like I am taking care of me, which is important because I love all of me. I embrace this body which has served me well for 44 years, and I accept the things I can’t change.

However, there is something I can change, so I recently did: I got fillers and Botox. And I make zero apologies for it. Yes, my kids know, but I don’t think it’s going to make them grow up with a warped definition of beauty. I teach them how to love themselves and how to be kind to themselves. But I also teach them if there’s a situation they don’t like, and they can change it in a way that’s not harming others, they should.

After talking with a frown line-free friend from high school, I asked her what her secret was. Is it good genes or an amazing product?

“Oh, I get Botox twice a year. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

There you have it.

That was the push I needed to get a little injection help, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.

I didn’t do it because I feel pressure to look younger for anyone either; this was a gift from me to me. I did it because I wanted to and because I can. I did it because I knew it would make me feel better about myself, the same way getting my hair colored and having a good brow job does.

I’d been wanting to get Botox since I turned 40. I was tired of walking by a mirror and seeing “my 11s” and the lines that ran from my nose to my mouth. The reflection looking at me didn’t match how I felt inside. My reflection looked sad, mad, and frustrated. Not older than my age, just not like the happy, energetic person I feel I am (on most days anyway).

So, a few weeks ago I got comfortable in a white leather chair and had the creases between my eyes dissolved. I got the smile lines plumped and smoothed. I walked out of there after happily handing over my money and feeling like a better version of myself.

I sat in my car and looked in the rear view mirror, totally smitten with the happy person who was looking back at me. There you are, I thought.

I like not looking like I’m frowning when I’m not. I like not having two creases between my eyes that make me look like I’m squinting when I’m not. I like not looking like I’m pissed off at the world when I’m humming along happy as can be on the inside.

I don’t want to look like a different person. I like my face. I just want my outside to match my inside, and now it does.

People can say it’s vain and shallow to get injections in your face to improve your appearance. They’re entitled to their opinion, but it in no way affects me. I get to do what I want with my body and face. I have a healthy relationship with both.

Some say they don’t notice a difference at all, and that’s fine too. I notice a difference, and I’m the only person I’m trying to impress here.

I love my face without Botox and fillers, but I love it more after a little tune-up. The phrase “self-care” means different things to different people. To me, this was a big one — something I’ve been wanting to do for years — and I don’t know why I waited so long. I look better, which makes me feel better.

My looks aren’t the only thing that determines my mood, of course, but they do matter to me.

So, my fresher face makes me happier. And when I’m happier, it overflows to the people in my life. I like that part just as much as I like my smoother face, and I’ll happily share the truth about what I do to my face because there’s no shame in doing something that feels good to you.

The only opinion that matters here is mine. While other people are rolling their eyes at me, I’ll be proudly removing the lines from around mine.

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Social Anxiety Can Have A Huge Impact On Your Life

Actual, diagnosable, pathological social anxiety can be crippling. It doesn’t mean “oh, I’m scared to go out around people because I might mess up.” Pathological social anxiety, according to the Social Anxiety Association, affects about 7% of people at any given time, and 13% of people over the course of their lives. The group defines the disorder as “the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people.” Moreover, “it is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in most all areas of a person’s life.”

So you’re not just scared to meet some moms out for coffee. You’re freaked out when you have to drive through Starbucks, because you have to talk to the barista.

Usually, people with social anxiety feel a “constant, intense fear.” There are plenty of physical symptoms, like blushing, a racing heart, dry mouth, and trembling. These things get triggered by many things, most of which boil down to “feeling insecure and out of place in social situations.” It’s important to realize that this stuff is chronic, pathological, and a problem with your brain chemistry. You need to rewire it. The only way to do that is through cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the association. Medication worked fine for me, but I may be in the minority.

But What About The Rest of Us?

What about those of us who don’t fall into that category yet still feel some level of social anxiety? We don’t freak out all the time. We’re not afraid of the barista; we’re afraid we’ll screw up meeting new people, and we’re afraid of messing up in front of important people, and we’re afraid people won’t like us — but we don’t quite meet the standards for diagnosable social anxiety. I’m treated. My psychiatrist will tell you I’m treated. But I still freak out when it comes to new playgroups or hanging out with moms I don’t know well or seeing people I don’t deem good friends — people I don’t know well, people who might not tolerate my social fuck-ups.

And even this low-grade social anxiety can affect us in profound ways. I find myself reluctant, for example, to go to certain events or to hang out at them for very long. I might not know the other parents there, and I’m shy to get to know them — I’m terrified they won’t like me. This makes me look standoffish, so other parents disregard me, and it becomes a vicious cycle. I become convinced that people who probably do like me think I’m deeply weird and probably talk about me behind my back, so I avoid them (I actually switched homeschool associations because of thisa fairly drastic move). I think I might avoid social gatherings just because people I know don’t like me will be there, rather than showing up and ignoring them.

So What Can We Do About Social Anxiety?

HelpGuide has several really good solutions to help combat social anxiety. I use some of them, and they really do help. First, we have to recognize our irrational thoughtsMost of us, as the Social Anxiety Association points out, know our thoughts are irrational. But we have to actually take the time, in the middle of them, to pause. We have to realize we’re having irrational thoughts and label them.I like to actually say the words in my head: “The idea that my friend thinks I’m weird is an irrational thing to think.” We may need to say this more than once. It helps.

Next, we can, as HelpGuide suggests, “stop and analyze these thoughts.” Ask yourself questions. You can acknowledge your feelings — “I’m nervous that my friends think I’m weird” — without validating them. Then, after you acknowledge the way you feel about that irrational thought, you can try to analyze it. Does being nervous my friends think I’m weird actually mean my friends think I’m weird, or am I projecting? What actual evidence can I produce that my friends think I’m weird?

When I think about that evidence, I need to step outside myself and give myself the same grace I give other people. If someone came to me and told me the same things I’m telling myself, what would I say to them? Would I agree that yes, your friends think you’re weird? Or would I say no, you’re making this up, honey — you need to take some deep breaths? This is one of the most difficult parts, because you have to think as if you’re someone else. You have to look at your life as if it was someone else’s, and that can be really, really hard when you’re caught in the middle of it.

But it’s probably the most important step to overcoming your social anxiety. You have to take a step back. You have to say, is this a rational thing that I would let my friend persist in believing? If the answer is a big fat no, give yourself the same grace you’d give your friend. Realize you’re being anxious. And remember that you can experience the feeling without giving in to the truth of it. You can let yourself be anxious without believing in that same anxiety. Practice saying things like, “I am anxious, but there is no reason to feel this way.”

It helps to develop rituals, then, once you realize that there’s no reason for your anxiety, to calm yourself down. You can take a walk. I like to read a book or write, both of which take me out of my own head. You could play with your kids or your dog. I also like to sing along loudly to music on the radio. Squeeze a stress ball. Practice mental imagery. My husband has a calming app he uses on his phone.

If you don’t have diagnosable social anxiety, there’s plenty you can do on your own to help yourself get over those panicky moments that crop up to ruin your fun times. If you do have a social anxiety disorder, you need the help of a qualified therapist or psychiatrist — and you can still use these techniques to help you while you get better. But either way, social anxiety is treatable. It’s conquerable and curable. You can beat this. You can do this. You can get better.

You don’t have to live in fear. I promise.

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I Want To Be Invited, I Just Don’t Want To Go

I was coming off of a pretty damn good weekend, as far as life with young kids goes. We had stayed busy but not frantic, the kids had long stretches of actually playing together nicely, and I even managed some catch-up time with both my husband and a great book.

Then I did a quick scroll through Instagram before bed Sunday night and saw a series of photos of a group of close friends enjoying a joint family barbecue. And just like that, my little bubble of good vibes popped.

I bestowed the obligatory “like,” but my honest feelings were the opposite. We were in town! We enjoy barbecues! We’re fun(ish)! Why weren’t we invited?

I grumbled those sentiments out loud to my husband a little while later and he looked at me with his patient, you’re-bonkers-but-I-still-love-you expression. He gently reminded me that at the end of an enjoyable but tiring weekend, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to this gathering anyway.

100% true. And 100% not the point!

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I think of my reaction as the Mom Social Paradox. We want to be included in everything and, by extension, we want our kids to be included in everything. And then we want to say no to almost all of it – we are, after all, extremely overscheduled and extremely exhausted. In this scenario, it truly is the thought that counts.

Without a doubt, social media delivers moms our share of FOMO-inducing blows.

But even if we avoid refreshing our feeds, we’re still going to hear about the group gatherings where we (or our kids) didn’t make the cut. And it’s going to sting a bit every time.

This is where a bit of perspective and rationality is needed. In fact, those are important skills for us to teach and model for our kids. There are going to be instances when all of us are – or at least feel – left out. But if we know we’re spending our time with people we love, or doing things we enjoy, then who cares about missing the other stuff?

Yes, enjoying a glass of wine out with your girlfriends would have been great. But so was enjoying a glass of wine while watching that “Where Are They Now?” special on all the former Real Housewives. And you couldn’t have worn sweats to the first one.

What’s more, most of the time, being left out of something is completely unintentional. We’re all secretly convinced other people are thinking about us constantly, with good or bad intentions, and they almost never are; they are too busy thinking the same thing about the people around them.

Even recognizing all of that, feeling overlooked will always hurt. It’s human instinct to want to be included. (And every instinct humans have is magnified when it comes to our children.) But I’m going to keep focusing on the relationships and experiences that are truly most important to me, and trust that genuine friendships don’t depend on being asked to every barbecue.

All the same, however, please continue to send invites my way. I think I’m busy that day, but I appreciate you asking.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook page is here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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I Desperately Needed A Financial Checkup — And Maybe You Do Too

“Money isn’t everything.”

“Money can’t make you happy.”

Both of these jewels of advice are true, but what’s also true is that if you don’t have enough money, money really can feel like “everything.” And while money can’t make you happy, not having enough of it can definitely make you unhappy.

So, though money isn’t everything, it definitely matters. It’s something we have to think about.

I am in the final stages of divorce. I knew going in that my financial situation was going to change and I would need to take a good look at my finances. I used to be a financial planner, so I dove into the process relying on knowledge I used to apply every day to my clients.

As a licensed securities broker, I worked with people, mostly retirees, who needed help managing their savings so they could generate a reliable income stream from their investments. But that wasn’t my favorite part of financial planning. My favorite part was when we’d get a temporary client who just needed us to review their entire financial picture and make recommendations to help them manage their own financial life better. I love helping people who are living on a financial razor’s edge to find the buffer between income and expenses that can give them some peace.

Before I start bouncing up and down with excitement on my little financial soapbox, I want to acknowledge that the advice I’m about to give may not work for everyone. I realize that for many people, they already are working as hard as possible while living as frugally as possible and still can’t quite get ends to meet. I see you. My message today is for the folks who have a sense that there might be some room for improvement when it comes to their finances. But hopefully everyone can take at least a small nugget of useful information away from what I have to say.

Time for a checkup.

As I prepared to separate from my ex, I had to examine my own income and expenses. In doing so, I realized that I had let years slip by since I had looked at my finances at all. I found a fairly sizable pile of cash sitting in my old IRA from when I used to work as a financial planner — cash dividends from investments I hadn’t looked at since my 9-year-old was in diapers. That money was just sitting there like a big lump, not earning a dime. I also realized I had been spending about three times too much for my cell phone plan. And that I had been frivolous with dining out.

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In other words, I was long overdue for a financial checkup. And maybe you are too.

But I get it. It can be scary to stare your income and expenses right in the face. For many of us, we live paycheck to paycheck, trying to spend as little as we can each month, hoping there’s enough to cover our bills. We might be slowly accruing more and more credit card debt every month, never quite able to pay down the entire balance. We might not even really want to know the details of our financial situation. The idea of knowing just how bad it is can be downright terrifying.

Well, I’ll tell you this: It’s impossible to get a handle on your finances if you’re not willing to look at them.

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to money.

The first thing you need to know is exactly how much you spend every month. I can tell you from my years as a financial planner, the majority of people grossly under-calculate their expenses. Generally, they’ll sit with a budget they found online and go over last month’s bank and credit card statements, add up the expenses, and assume that’s what they spend every month. This produces an incorrect number every single time.

Most people spend a small fortune at Christmastime and also drop a few hundred dollars on a birthday party for each kid. Many people take some kind of vacation during the year, even if it’s something in driving distance with just a few nights of hotel. Most people’s car will break down at some point and suddenly need $800 worth of repairs. These few items added together easily top $2,400. Your monthly budget has to account for these large annual expenses. If your annual “extra expenses” number happens to be $2,400, then $200 per month needs to be set aside every month, as non-negotiable as a bill.

Because if you don’t have it in your head that this $200 is ear-marked for expenses that are definitely going to happen, you’ll convince yourself you have a surplus in your account at the end of the month. And you’ll spend it. And then when Christmas comes around or your car needs a repair, you’re forced to go into debt and play catch-up afterward. So make sure you get a prorated accounting of your monthly expenditures.

Once you’re confident you have a clear idea of your spending habits, you need to know how much you’re bringing in. If you’re on salary and get paid the same amount every pay period, this is a simple number to attain. Just look at your check or your direct deposit. If you regularly work overtime, you’ll want to get a monthly average of how much you bring in. If you’re a freelancer like me, you’ll want to average out and then underestimate your earnings per month, and you’ll want to have at minimum three months’ worth of expenses saved up in case work suddenly grinds to a halt (everyone should have at least three month’s worth of expenses saved up, but for freelancers this is a big-time must).

Get Analytical.

Now look at the difference between your income and expenses. When I first did my financial analysis, the gap between my projected expenses and my income at the time made me literally want to puke. Pre-divorce me could not possibly support post-divorce me. I had a huge gap I had to figure out how to close. I needed to work a lot more and find ways to spend less.

I messaged my successful freelancer friends and asked them to share connections. I teach violin too, so I put word out that I was looking for more students. It took a lot of hustling, but I was able to increase my income enough to put a sizeable dent in that gap. Still not enough to meet my need though. I could scrape by, but there would be nothing at all left for any kind of savings. As a financial planner, I’ve seen how important it is to save for retirement. I realize for some people this is impossible, but I wanted to see if I could cut expenses enough to squeeze out a bit to throw at my retirement.

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I found a couple of big things. The first was the cell phone bill I mentioned earlier. When I was on a plan with my ex, we were paying $140 per month for just the two of us. That is highway robbery. I did a Google search for cheap phone plans and discovered I could get a prepaid plan for as little as $15 a month. It seemed too good to be true, but the company I chose (Mint mobile), offered a short trial period. So, just changing my phone plan saved me $50 per month. I also realized that I was buying a lot of meat, which is expensive. (Holy crap, it is REALLY expensive!) But my kids and I aren’t big meat eaters, so, post-separation, I found I could save about $75 dollars per month just by buying less meat. We used to pay a pest control company to spray around our house. In my new house, I buy the chemicals and do it myself. That saved another $30.

If you have a deficit like I did, your changes won’t necessarily look like mine. The point is to put yourself face-to-face with the numbers and ask yourself where you can make small changes that add up to real savings. Without seeing the actual number amount of my deficit, there was no way to know exactly how much I needed to work or how much less I needed to spend. Putting the numbers right in front of me made things crystal clear.

And if you have a surplus?

Ideally, your goal is to get to where you have a surplus every month. You want to be able to pay off your credit card bill every single month, never carrying a balance so you never give over your hard-earned dollars to greedy credit card corporations in the form of interest payments. It should be your mission to never, ever give a single penny to a credit card company. Make your purchases and then pay the monthly balance off in full every single month. (Remember, those bastards will make you pay interest on the entire balance even if you pay off all but one penny of it.)

If you have the excellent fortune of having been able to amass three months’ worth of savings and maintain an ongoing monthly surplus, you’ll want to invest the surplus. The amount of surplus you decide to invest should be treated like a bill — a nonnegotiable monthly payment. Have it automatically deducted from your checking account to go right into an investment account (Ally, Schwab, and Fidelity all have low trade fees). So, if you can swing a surplus of $50 a month, you treat that like a bill and transfer it to the investment account every month. Set a reminder on your phone for every few months to use the cash in the account to purchase shares of an ETF (exchange-traded funds). Search for an ETF that tracks with a major index like S&P 500, Dow Jones, or Nasdaq.

If you already have significant funds saved up and aren’t sure how to invest them, or if the idea of investing just makes you nervous as hell, seek the assistance of a financial advisor. Many advisors charge 1% of assets under management annually. I personally would rather manage my investment account on my own than give up 1% to someone else, but many enjoy the peace of mind of having an expert handle their money. Some advisors are willing to look over your financial situation (my favorite thing to do as a financial planner) and, for a flat fee, give you a clear plan for how to manage your money which you will then implement yourself going forward.

It’s so easy for money matters to get pushed aside by the busyness of parenting and work and everything else, but it’s important to take this bull by the horns.

Not only so you can get to a place where you’re saving for your future, but also so that you can have financial peace of mind on a day to day basis. Because, when it comes to money, ignorance definitely is not bliss.

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My Past Does Not Define Me — And Neither Does Yours

Before I was 19 years old, I had successfully completed and dropped out of a total of four rehabs for substance abuse. Five, actually, if we are counting the behavioral center I was admitted to at 14 years old. And, at the risk of sounding like a complete and utter train wreck, I also struggled with an eating disorder, self-mutilation, and suicidal thoughts.

Of course, if you were to meet me today, you would have no idea. My inward, as well as outward, scars have healed, are hidden and now concealed with the title of a loving mother, wife, and daughter.

I’ve traded early morning withdrawals for my kids’ early morning wake-up calls. A weight scale only triggers me for my own personal reasons, and I don’t allow one to take up space in our home. The marks on my arms that were once red are now a translucent silver and white.

Without saying a word, it’s apparent to me and the ones who love me the most that I’ve changed for the better.

But then there are others who ostracize me for a past they will never understand. The ones who truly believe a person could never evolve into something greater than who they were at their lowest of lows.

We, as humans, have gone to the moon. We make life-like robots. We love and mourn each other unlike any other mammal. And yet, there are some who truly believe we are incapable of personal growth and change.

Well, I am not here for those uptight people; I am the proof that debunks their faulty theory.

To be frank, I say screw them. Because my story — which possibly causes my reputation to take a hit when it’s spoken — isn’t for those who are unreceptive to hearing my painful words. I speak on behalf of the underdog, the strung-out, the ones who the world has seemingly forgotten. I do so because I’ve been there.

I’ve felt like most everyone has given up on me. I’ve been so depressed that I just wanted to end it. I’ve been looked down on in the past for who I was, and then looked down on again in the present when others refused to see my noticeable transformation.

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But now, it’s difficult for me to even care what another random individual wants to believe. Because these people, the ones unwilling to accept that a person could ever evolve into something different from what we once were, are not the kind of folks I want in my circle.

I want the ones who get me. They don’t have to have a rocky road relatable to mine, and they don’t need a lifetime full of triumphant life stories. But they do need to be able to see me for who I am today while acknowledging the path that brought me here, judgment-free.

I’ve spent years feeling bad about myself. So now, I refuse to surround myself with those who would attempt to put me down due to my past. Because when you’ve finally realized your transformation’s worth, the one you alone completed, you don’t allow another who stomps all over your accomplishments to hang around.

You realize that you are not a product of your past — despite how ugly it may be.

You are not the same alcoholic.

You are not the same person who made a horrible, awful mistake that nobody  — including yourself — will ever forget.

You are not the same person who purged after every meal.

You are not the same bigot as the parents who raised you.

You are not the same insecure person.

You. Are. Not. The. Same.

You are worth more than what you’ve done, what you’ve been through, and what you have overcome.

Let go of the people so keen on keeping you frozen in your worst place in time — they are not worthy enough to share your new light.

This life can be so wholesome, do not waste it trying to prove to someone what’s already been proven to yourself… we aren’t given nearly enough moments to throw them away on trivial matters such as this.

Acknowledge the fact that you are allowed to grow, change, and be your best self. Own your mistakes. Admit your failures. Boast in your accomplishments. Encourage others. And please, block out anyone who tries to silence your story or reduce you because of it.

Because when we share what we’ve overcome, not only are we lifting a burden off ourselves, but we are lightening the load of another’s. We bring hope in a hopeless individual, and we are a testament to the change they one day hope to see in themselves.

Freedom doesn’t always come without a battle. A battle you’ve already won, I might add. And shame carries no place in victory.

The post My Past Does Not Define Me — And Neither Does Yours appeared first on Scary Mommy.

It’s Okay To Not Forgive Someone

I struggle with forgiveness. There are plenty of studies and anecdotal evidence regarding thebenefits of forgiving someone. The act of shifting negative feelings into positive ones seems like a healthy and ideal thing to do. Forgiving someone means releasing resentment in order to make room for compassion and understanding. I know too much anger and negativity spent on another person is toxic, but I don’t think I have to forgive that person in order to find peace. Nor do I think everyone is entitled to be forgiven.

I had a traumatic childhood, and while I am pretty resilient given my history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, I am not free from the anxiety and depression that accompanies post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My childhood would not have been abusive if it hadn’t been for the abusers who committed terrible and sick acts against me. These people have all asked for forgiveness, but I haven’t given it to them. For years I tried. I thought I had to find a way to reconcile what had happened to me by being the bigger person and accepting an apology. I thought part of my healing and growth would be in saying, “I forgive you.”

But hearing the words “I’m sorry” from the people who beat me, sexually assaulted me, and manipulated my emotions for their narcissistic advantage has always fallen flat on my ears. Forgiving someone is not condoning their behavior, but, in my experience, forgiving the really hurtful things that have been done to me has been accompanied by a lack of accountability from my offenders. And often with forgiveness comes forgetfulness. Every act of abuse done to me has impacted my life. All of my relationships are influenced by my childhood. Yes, I have worked hard to understand these correlations, and I rarely play the victim role, but if I can never forget what has happened to me, I sure as shit don’t want to give permission to my abusers to forget either.

Trần Toàn/Unsplash

Saying “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it sometimes, and knowing that has empowered me and provided self-worth.

I have given myself permission not to forgive, not just because people in my life haven’t accepted blame in the way I think they should, but because it took me a really long time to find the justified anger toward those who hurt me.

For years, I wanted nothing more than to feel something other than guilt or shame or sadness. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to resent and hate. Those feelings helped me push through to a layer of understanding that helped me know that what happened to me was not my fault. Holding onto that anger was not about holding onto grudges; it was about finding ways to forgive myself for feeling like I had done something wrong.

I was a victim. I am a survivor. I have every right to be angry.

I have every right to say “goodbye” instead of “I forgive you” to toxic people in my life. And I am under no obligation to justify my decision to do so.

I have nearly eliminated all toxic people from my life. I have surrounded myself with safe and loving friends, but I am careful in those close relationships to distinguish between everyday human mistakes and the small hurts that are part of life versus what I experienced as a child and young adult. It’s on me to learn to trust, not just others’ intentions, but their ability to truly feel remorse without needing me to do the emotional work to make them feel better. I am also learning to trust that most things are not about me. Sometimes I find myself hurt by another’s words or actions and quickly realize that my hurt has little to do with what they’ve said or done and everything to do with my own ongoing healing from old wounds.

Now, sometimes people are just assholes and hurting others comes easy; for those offenders, I am clear what their motivations are and am in no position to let them off the hook. I have been rejected over and over because of my sexuality and gender identity. I am queer and nonbinary, and part of my advocacy work—for myself and the LGBTQIA+ community—requires me to educate those who want to be accepting but need some help. Who I am also means constantly trying to rid myself of the weight of emotional labor, hateful comments, and threats to my safety.

Leah Kelley/Pexels

I have found more peace in being okay with not forgiving someone than with letting go of wanting the human decency I deserve in terms of living my authentic life. Sometimes forgiving someone feels like letting them off the hook, and I just can’t do that. Folks need to take an honest look at themselves and do better.

For the record, I am not perfect. I fuck up often. I say I am sorry. I do my best to learn from my mistakes. The hardest thing for me to do is to hold space for others to be hurt by me. I work on it, though, and I accept if someone isn’t ready to forgive me. I don’t need their forgiveness to do better.

I have struggled so long with allowing myself to feel emotions that would benefit my growth and well-being. I have spent unhealthy amounts of time trying to force myself to feel something I thought I should. Forgiveness is not something I am going to force. But I also don’t want to dwell in toxicity. I confront my emotions and those whose words and actions have impacted me.

Instead of forgiveness, I strive for healthy boundaries and growth.

I then make the best decisions for me in terms of a person’s value in my life. If you are someone I can grow with, teach, and learn from in really vulnerable ways, then sweet. If you are someone waiting for my forgiveness because that’s the only way you’re willing to move forward in our relationship, then it’s best to not hold your breath. I appreciate your ability to say you’re sorry, because that is hard and humbling at times, but know I may never fully accept your apology.

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6 Learned-The-Hard-Way Lessons I’ll Tell My Daughter About Body Hair

Many a moon ago, long before I or the collective conscience of Pinterest had embraced body acceptance, I had deep insecurities about my body hair. From my dear father, I inherited an abundance of wit and highly productive hair follicles. From its unwelcome initial emergence to the quantity and location, the dark tendrils confounded me throughout adolescence and young adult life. “I would have slayed in the Paleolithic Era,” I brooded — a simpler time when regulating body temperature was fashionable.

Since la prehistoria wasn’t in the cards, at the very least I could have realized early on that social constructs about appearance don’t always hold weight, right? Not so, Wednesday’s child of 1984. On my journey toward this realization, and fresh on the heels of my first big-girl job and credit card, I explored various methods of professional hair removal, including laser treatments and good ole waxing. Because of these experiences, I feel I have hard-won insight to offer my daughter, should she wish to pretend she’s not mammalian.

1. Resiliency is so hot right now.

Listen, kid, 1980s hands-off parenting is not en vogue anymore, and no one has ever accused me of being a laid-back parent. We need to level up your psychological resilience however we can. This means that hypothetically you will be minding your own business in sixth-grade band class when Zane Fletcher announces to the room that you have more arm hair than David Grimes. You’ll turn in slow motion, clarinet reed in mouth, eyes imploring Zane to leave you be.

Karly Gomez/Unsplash

Spoiler alert, my little bird, he’ll just guffaw with the brass section and make Chewbacca sounds in your general direction. Daughter o’ mine, this is an opportunity to make lemonade out of dying inside in front of your peers. Lean on your kindreds and cool-but-responsible adults for support, and find a glittery Chewbacca shirt that speaks to you. Over time and with practice, you might just realize the opinions of yourself and your besties in percussion are of greater value than those of the mean-spirited trombonists of the world.

2. ‘Tis the pubes that bind us.

Given your familial history, your twelfth year will likely feature the unholy fury of puberty hormones. If your story at all resembles mine, your otherwise amazing Silent Generation mother may at this time completely opt out of explaining the finer points of hedge trimming or any other coming-of-age related topics. An informative pamphlet will not mysteriously appear on your pillow.

The resulting bush visibility may leave an opening for gregarious Aunt Gayle to slide into your puberty DMs and gently approach you at the waterpark while you are cold, wet and vulnerable in an arguably too-small swimsuit. She will earnestly offer support and much-needed guidance about shaving your bikini line. Theoretically, daughter, this will be your life’s most ideal opportunity to perfect the art of recoiling one shoulder inward and away from a loved one’s heartfelt touch, avoiding eye contact, and mumbling “yeah-okay…dunno” over and over until the encounter sputters out with a defeated side hug. Don’t bypass the rare opportunity to meaningfully connect with your loved ones by Googling crucial but embarrassing information in peace and privacy.

3. You get what you pay for.

There could be a time, my dear, when you find yourself in an early-20’s conundrum. You have an unruly crotch curtain, but you also have an empty bank account. It may seem an ingenious idea to seek the services of an unlicensed esthetician at the local beauty college. “Turn back!” your cerebrum should — but does not — beg as you confidently glide into the inexpert coven. “One Brazilian please!” you enthusiastically chime to the bored teen with headphones working the front desk. Your naïveté overrides all the clues that this could end poorly.

I’ll cut to the chase, honeybear. This story concludes with a tearful, shaky, and apologetic student cutting ensnared wax strips out of your nether-crevices. The only way you will survive this encounter is pure psychological dissociation. You will emerge a hardened version of your former self who visits the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology licensing directory before every future wax appointment. The takeaway: skip a few lattes to pay for the real deal.

4. A plague on both your forearms.

You may, dear one, decide you would like a more permanent solution to hair maintenance by utilizing hyper-excited electrons to obliterate your hair follicles. Might I, however, offer a potential scenario for your consideration? You may feel confident and empowered about your decision and stroll into the medical spa ready for a professional stranger to work their laser magic on your private areas. Once in the treatment room, however, you may discover that your former sorority sister turned successful physician assistant is the individual who will systematically be killing the root of your vaginal hair.

Mind you, my boodle-bug, that this sister was not of your offbeat, Jeanine Garofalo-inspired pocket of confidants who helped you limp through the social expectations of Greek life. This person had impossibly perfect triple-barreled hair and was soundly in the faction who served on leadership committees and made top ten freshmen. You will be forced to exchange pleasantries and life updates, namely your messy mid-20s divorce and decision to do something about your unruly vagina hair.

Gabriela Guerrero/Reshot

I would love to tell you that the laser journey ends there, but theoretically, sweet daughter, you could have an allergic reaction to the treatments, rendering your forearms and vag-burbs swollen, poxed and gruesome. Maybe – and I’m just spit-balling here – the highly attractive Marine Corps corporal you’ve been e-dating is on leave the one weekend after you decide to acquire aforementioned rash. Your whirlwind romantic getaway to Dallas just turned into 48-hours of faking your period and sweating through unseasonably long sleeves without explanation. Not only did his biceps have that vein thing, dear one, but he also liked Prairie Home Companion. Don’t let society’s ideals about grooming steal your uniformed NPR enthusiast.

5. You’re the Michael Phelps of pain intolerance.

My sweet angel, your Olympic-level discomfort intolerance is comparable only to your grandmother’s, who rates her pain the frowniest face level for a stubbed toe. You literally passed out in front of all your guests and their horrified families at your third birthday party when you fell out of your chair. We paid ER money for the doctor to give us a handout about breath-holding. You pull a fainting goat with every Band-Aid removal, so I’m fairly certain laser-blasting your mons pubis is out of the question.

Should you decide that traditionally uncomfortable methods of hair removal are right for you, I will so be there for it, as will the eight doulas it will require to see you through it.

6. You’re beautiful.

Bush? Beautiful. Bare? Beautiful. Chewbacca? Works on so many levels. As a product of the 80-90’s, I am so on board with how far your generation is moving the needle toward radical body acceptance. You are a collective masterpiece of your flaws and scars and strengths and wild energy.

In the moments you don’t remember that, find evidence and confirmation from people who never forget it. Come to your father or me with anything, and we will teach and answer you as honestly as we can. Nothing is off limits, sweetheart, except for the word penis, which I will never be able to say with a straight face.

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To The Teenager Who Told Me My Car Sucks

A few weekends ago, I was driving next to a big box store when some teenage girl sitting on a bike screamed out, “Your car sucks!” After I realized she was talking to me, I had two thoughts: (1) At least I have a car. And (2) No shit.

Yeah, my car sucks. It’s a 2003 Mazda protégée, with a rusty hub-less back wheel and a kid-stained interior. It smells like dude, and the steering wheel is perpetually sticky. I haven’t washed it in who knows how long because honestly, what’s the point. Sometimes I honestly wonder if the dirt is what’s holding it together. But what makes it suck the most is that under the hood is this belt that no mechanic alive can keep from squealing. Trust me, I’ve seen multiple mechanics about the problem in three different states because I’ve had the car that long. It’s a super sonic pitch. A wavy, wah-wah, that shakes the car and the ground and the windows of my neighborhood.

Fifty thousand miles ago, it would stop squeaking once it warmed up. Now, at 200,000 miles, it just sounds like the car is asking to die. And nothing impresses my neighbors, the college students I work with, or the teenage girls hanging around town like the death rattle of my sucky car.

So why do I keep it?

Courtesy of Clint Edwards

Well, that’s a good question, because when I was a teenager, I’d see 30-something-year-olds driving crappy cars and wonder why they kept them. I mean, adults have money, right? They have jobs and insurance. When I was a teen, I thought about all the nice cars I’d have in my late-30s, and trust me, none of them sounded like one of those screaming plants in the Harry Potter movies that can actually kill a person if they don’t wear ear protection.

So here’s the reasoning.

I bought that car 13 years ago, when Mel was pregnant with our oldest child. It was our first major purchase, and it was a big deal and a nice car. I bought it with no money down because I was waiter in college with a kid on the way. We made every single payment. Every single one for five years. I took all three kids home from the hospital in that car. I drove it to Minnesota for graduate school, and then to Oregon for my first big kid after college job. It is soaked with the memories of a million family vacations, hot dates with my wife, and multiple state line crossings. It is the backdrop of one selfie after another. It was there for all the significant life changes I made in my 20s and 30s. It has never left our family on the side of the road, and it has never refused to start on a cold morning.

But most importantly, it’s paid for!

It runs, and I’m a broke 30-something, father of three, on a budget. I have to pay for soccer, gymnastics, school clothes, groceries, and a million other things.

This is the worst part of adult life. Every time we save up just enough money to buy that shiny new thing we want (car, carpet for the downstairs, a trip to some tropical island…), the washing machine goes out, or the dishwasher breaks, or we visit the orthodontist and find out our kids need braces. Every time.

Life now is all about making ends meet. It’s about keeping my head above financial water. And so, you know what? My priorities have changed. At this stage in life, the last thing I care about is impressing teenagers. I care about making ends meet, and getting to and from work.

Here’s the hard truth, Teenage Girl Yelling At My Car: this crappy car used to be pretty respectable. But now, it’s simply what I’ve got. It’s what I can afford. And soon enough, you will be behind the wheel of some P.O.S. filled with crumbs, kids screaming in the back, windows down because the A/C broke last summer. It will be making some horrible noise that makes you cringe every time you drive it. You’ll be wishing for something a little better, but there will be bills to pay so it’ll do for now. You will drive it right into the grave because the only thing worse than that crappy car is adding one more payment to your financial spreadsheet.

And suddenly, you’ll be driving to your kid’s soccer practice and some teen that has their future all figured out is going to scream, “Your car sucks.”

I hate to break it to you, but this is your future, Teenage Girl Yelling At My Car.

None of it is sexy.

But it is affordable.

Enjoy.

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This Is The Ultimate ’90s Nostalgia Playlist

In terms of pop culture, everyone loves the ’90s. Some of our favorite things are products of the ’90s, from shows like Friends, to movies like Clueless, to musicians like Shania Twain. And now, many of the things we love from the decade are making a comeback in a big way.

So, if you want to take a stroll down memory lane in your Steve Madden sandals, may I present to you, the ultimate ’90s playlist for all your nostalgia needs.

Somehow, the songs on this playlist are at least 20 years old. Others are pushing 30. You don’t think you’re old, and then you hear “Buddy Holly” on the classic rock radio station. All of my favorite playlists on Spotify have words like “throwback” in the title. But I refuse to believe that it was almost 25 years ago that I spent hours learning Left-Eye’s rap in “Waterfalls.”

Unlike previous decades, most of the biggest hits from the ’90s aren’t rife with problematic themes and lyrics. Some of them are filled with innuendo that we may not have realized (take a listen to the lyrics of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life” again.) Songs like “Rape Me” by Nirvana are considered insensitive. And Aaliyah’s song “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number” takes on a whole new meaning in light of the R. Kelly documentary. But you can listen to the songs on this playlist with minimal guilt — and maybe drive your kids bonkers in the process.

1. “I Want It That Way,” Backstreet Boys

Whether you like ’90s boy bands or not, you can’t make an ultimate ’90s playlist without including this song. “I Want It That Way” is the lead single from the Backstreet Boys’s second album Millenium. It totally changed the game for boy bands for the rest of the era. You couldn’t escape the song — even your grandma was probably singing “tell me why” just like Nick Carter. To this day, it’s one of the ’90s teen pop songs everyone knows. And if you want to feel really old, know that it was released 20 years ago.

1. “Believe,” Cher

Even though it’s totally mainstream now, Cher’s “Believe” was the first song to use auto-tune. But “Believe” is also a song about rebirth, which Cher knows a thing or two about. Twenty years later, the song is still as iconic as its singer, who is still going. By the time “Believe” came out, Cher’s career had been going for 30 years. But with this track, she became the oldest woman with a number one single on the Billboard charts. And we’re still dancing to it in the club like we were in 1999.

3. “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” from the soundtrack to the movie The Bodyguard, is her biggest hit. The song, which many of us will admit to warbling along to in a broken-hearted haze, is actually a Dolly Parton cover. Houston’s version was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks and is her best selling single. Actually, it’s the best selling single by a female artist of all time — as of January 2013, it’s sold over 20 million copies worldwide. After Houston’s death in February 2012, the song soared back to the top of the charts.

4. “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

You can’t have an ultimate ’90s playlist without including “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana is responsible for bringing the grunge style and alternative music to the mainstream. Kurt Cobain remains an icon and inspiration for the angst of Gen-Xers everywhere. There are few songs that can encapsulate an entire culture in five minutes, but “Smells Like Teen Spirit” does just that. And that is why it’s still popular, 28 years since its release.

5. “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Ricky Martin

Latin music has been popular in America for decades. But when Ricky Martin released “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” he opened the door for more Latin artists than ever before. Think about it: without Ricky Martin’s success, we wouldn’t have artists like Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony. Alongside the frenetic music video, the song is the thing that not only made Martin a household name, but also a sex symbol. To this day, the song is sure to get you up dancing and shaking your booty.

6. “Waterfalls,” TLC

When you’re making an ultimate ’90s playlist, picking just one song by TLC is really hard. It’s a toss-up between “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs,” but I’m a sucker for early ’90s TLC, so “Waterfalls” it is. While we always remember the chorus, “don’t go chasing waterfalls / please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to,” the song is quite profound. It discusses drugs and it was one of the first songs to explicitly acknowledge AIDS as an epidemic. “Waterfalls” is also one of the most iconic music videos of all time, with the members of the group warping into liquid versions of themselves.

7. “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt

“Don’t Speak” is, without a doubt, one of the best ’90s breakup songs. Gwen Stefani wrote it after the dissolution of her seven-year relationship with bandmate, Tony Kanal. While No Doubt had success prior to this song, this is the one we all associate with the band. “Don’t Speak” catapulted the band into superstardom, making Gwen Stefani a style and pop culture icon.

8. “Vogue,” Madonna

Madonna has always been an icon, but nothing she’s ever done is more iconic than “Vogue.” Inspired by the underground drag ball culture of New York City, the song pays homage to the popular dance style. Prominent members of ball culture feature heavily in the black and white video, directed by David Fincher. During the song, Madonna lists big-name actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. While Madonna has released many hits since, “Vogue” will always be her most popular.

9. “Wannabe,” Spice Girls

When “Wannabe” came out, the world was changed. For many of us ’90s girls, the Spice Girls represent something we had never seen before. Five loud, outspoken, unapologetically feminine women who also kicked ass. Just listen to the lyrics of “Wannabe” and see how few fucks they have to give: “if you really bug me, then I’ll say goodbye!” This song belongs on the ultimate ’90s playlist because it’s a girl power anthem, even to this day.

10. “…Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears

As soon as you hear that “dun dun dun,” you know what’s coming. But back in 1998, we did not know that Britney Spears was about to completely blow our teenage minds. Written by Swedish songwriter Max Martin, who is a pop music genius, “…Baby One More Time” was scandalous. The original title “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was changed because record people were worried about domestic violence accusations, but Martin meant “hit me” like “hit me up,” which was a popular phrase. Whatever the meaning, you cannot have an ultimate ’90s playlist without Britney Spears.

11. “Ironic,” Alanis Morissette

Yes, it’s true. Nothing in the song “Ironic” is actually ironic. But that didn’t stop us from screaming out the chorus to Alanis Morissette’s most famous song. Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill is the soundtrack to many an early ’90s girl’s angst. Every single from that album still bangs, but “Ironic” will always be our favorite karaoke tune.

12. “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-A-Lot

“Oh my God Becky look at her butt…” If you hear those words, you know exactly what song is coming next. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s anthem to a full posterior must be on any ultimate ’90s playlist. Many critics at the time found it to be demeaning and overly sexual, but Sir Mix-A-Lot and Amylia Dorsey’s point was to empower women of color, especially black women. Challenging standards of beauty makes this song even more iconic than Sir Mix-A-Lot rapping on a giant pair of butt cheeks.

13. “My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion

Titanic is one of the most iconic romantic histories of all time. But even more iconic than Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet having sex in the back of that car is Celine Dion’s love song. “My Heart Will Go On” is Dion’s signature song, no doubt about it. It is arguably the most popular song of 1998, and won a ton of awards, including the Academy Award and several Grammys. Even now, 20 years later, you can’t hear it without singing along to the sweeping climax, even if you’re no Celine Dion.

14. “No Diggity,” Blackstreet

“No Diggity” has to be on the ultimate ’90s playlist because you can’t hear it without wanting to snap your fingers. Plus, the phrase “no diggity” became part of the cultural landscape. Meaning, “yes, absolutely,” often paired with “no doubt.” The song, featuring Dr. Dre and ’90s super producer Teddy Riley, was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In an interview back in 2010, Teddy Riley admitted that none of the other members of the group wanted to record the song, which is why he sings the first verse. Once it became a hit, they all regretted their initial reaction.

15. “Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is one of the best selling female artists of the ’90s. And while she has plenty of hits, none stand out quite like “Always Be My Baby.” The sweet song about heartbreak has underscored many wistful singalongs. And if you need more proof of the song’s staying power, it was recently used over the end credits of Always Be My Maybe, a Netflix movie starring Ali Wong. The film’s title is also a play on the song.

16. “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy & Monica

A go-to karaoke duet for the ages, “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica is pretty much mid-’90s teen R&B in a nutshell. Whenever you sing it with your friends, everyone argues over who’s going to be Brandy and who’s going to be Monica. Both singers were at the top of their game, and the video, starring super hottie Mekhi Phifer is iconic. But the best part is when they kick him to the curb!

There you have it — the ultimate ’90s playlist. You’re welcome!

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