I was a 90’s kid once, not too long ago. The 90’s is just lying still in my memory bank near the start of it all. It’s not too far in the past, as they all seem to say, ‘I remember it as if it were yesterday’.
I remember dungarees before they were trendy and fashionable. I remember everyone going to Church on Sundays and how it smelt like an old people’s home. I remember picking out our Christmas presents from the Argos catalogue and I remember weekends with my grandparents at their caravan down Brean. I remember being a girl in a family of all boys. I strongly remember my innocence. I remember my first best friend from Primary School, Sophie. I remember meeting my best friend Ellie in Secondary School. We still lived on the block in Hengrove, and Ellie invited herself around my house after School to go on my trampoline. I jumped onto her by mistake and I was crippled with embarrassment. She just laughed. We became attached at the hip, she became my sister. I remember playing barbies until I was 12, and having to keep it a secret from everyone. I remember Mrs Goodred’s classroom, and she had red hair. I remember our game boys, playing Sims on our huge computer that was so heavy and bulky. I remember the robotic, terrible sound the phone made when you were connected to the internet. I remember the corner shop, Mum used to always send us over. I hated when she sent me.
Shops, Gangs, and One Penny Sweets
We lived next to a large family. The girl used to babysit us. The eldest boy hung out with a gang at the shops. The other boy played with Luke. The two youngest played with Liam.
I was a 90s kid, so we hardly touched the internet. We all played outside until it grew dark, and sometimes I played with the twins across the road. We weren’t allowed to leave the block unless it was to go to the shops for Mum.
‘Go to the shops and get a loaf of bread please, Charmaine’ Mum would say. As she said this, she would pass me a 20 pence coin to get 20 one penny sweets.
I would leave the house. In the proper 90’s sun in summertime, in my frilly dress, Mum put me in. I hated it, but I knew she loved it. I walked past our house with the money in my hand. A boy started walking up the road. He blocked my way.
‘You’re Luke Selwoods sister aren’t you?’ He said. I knew who he was. He wasn’t a nice boy. Not much older than me.
‘Yes,’ I replied.
Just like that, he raised his fist in the air. I cowered. I hid my face. He laughed. And he walked away.
Outside the shop, there was our next-door neighbour Leighton. I liked him. He always said hello to me in the street. He was much older. 19 or 20. He was with 9 other older boys. I was OK now, he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. As I tried to enter the shop, the boys blocked my way again.
‘I’ll let you in, if you give me a kiss’ One boy said.
Leighton just laughed. I went into the shop. I didn’t buy my sweets.
I went home and told Mum about the boy that tried to hit me. She saw him outside our living room window. She went outside and started screaming at him, in her harsh, angry Irish accent.
‘You! You little prick! You raise your hand to my daughter again, I will break your bleedin’ arms, you hear?!’ She roared.
Rebel, our 5-year-old Doberman watched from the window. His roar was louder than Mums. He stood right beside me.
‘Oh yeah! Well, I will bring me mam down here then!’ He said back sheepishly.
‘Oh, is it? Go on then, go get yer Mam, I will break her bleeding arms as well!’ Mum replied.
I felt the adrenaline pulsate through me. However, I didn’t tell Mum anything again after that.
Not The First Time, Not The Last
Shortly after this, I was walking to Ellie’s house. It was yet again another beautiful 90’s summer day, she didn’t live far from me. I was over halfway there when I spotted two boys. Luke knew them. They walked up to me. They chased me, and then one of them pinned my arms behind my back tightly. The other went to touch my child-like chest. Nothing was even there yet. But it didn’t matter, it was terrifying. I tried to kick off the boy in front. Petrified. I broke free, I ran away.
I had a boyfriend once. Jordan. I must have been 11 years old. Everyone laughed around me as they tried to set me up with him. I didn’t understand what was funny. I had never had a boyfriend before. Maybe, I could take him home one day and we would grow old together. My first boyfriend, Jordan, lasted less than 24 hours. Soon after I accepted to be his girlfriend, he asked me to walk down a lane with him. He leaned in for a kiss. I kissed him on the lips, even though I didn’t want to, it seemed too quick and inappropriate. But that’s what you do, right? He then took me further down the lane, out of sight of everyone, and tried to touch me. After I said no, he broke up with me. He walked back to his friends. I could hear the group break out into a roar of laughter. I walked home the long way. I cried for weeks wondering what I did wrong, and why no one would just wait for me to be ready.
Somewhere resting deep in my childhood innocence, is a name. Mickey. But, these translucent memories lay within an unknown realm. Even after one consistent year of therapy, opening locked doors, and climbing through sealed windows, Micky still sits heavy in my soul as a mystery. I don’t know what happened, but some voice inside me tells me that it was very bad. I will find out one day.
Sweet 90’s Innocence to Naive, Corrupted Naughties
As the 90’s started to fade away in the past, technology grew and grew, and all of a sudden we weren’t playing with Barbies anymore. We weren’t playing pokemon on our black and white Gameboys, we weren’t playing knockout ginger, we weren’t building tree houses, we weren’t playing kerbie outside, and we weren’t playing on our swing sets, the see-saw, the trampoline, or the pool. We weren’t going to church, we weren’t going to our Grandparents, and the gang violence escalated so bad that Liam almost got hit by a car right outside our house. Police were outside most nights, and then Irish nanny died. So, Mum fell apart. Mum and Dad left to go to Ireland, and we were left alone in the house, just us 3. When Mum came back, we left the block. We left Hengrove. We left our home. And we left the gang. The 90’s were over. And, so was my childhood innocence.
We were millennials now. The year 2000 loomed over us and times were really changing. The gigantic computer turned into laptops with a touchpad mouse. Our Ps2 was a thing of the past and everyone started playing Xbox. The Gameboys were replaced with mobiles, and no one was playing games of snake anymore on their Nokia’s. Parks were still being built, but fewer people were playing in them.
We moved house twice. The first time we moved, I pretended to go to School for 3 months. Dad would leave for work first, Mum would leave second taking Liam to Primary School, Luke would walk to School with his friends, and I would sit at home all day watching TV. I practised how to ollie on my skateboard, I cut my arms, and I tried to kill myself. When it didn’t work, I sat on my temporary bedroom floor filled with dust and cried.
The next time we moved house, we moved to Whitchurch. An old lady lived here before, so it was really ugly and old. I hated this house, but I kept skipping school because I couldn’t deal with being bullied by the girls, and I couldn’t deal with the boys touching me. My head of year, Mrs Roberts, she was a scary, feisty small woman with curly white hair. She called my name when walking past her in the hall at School. ‘Shit, I was in deep shit.’
‘So, I wanted to have a quiet word with you. We have noticed you have had a lot of absences at School recently. You can talk to me, OK? Are you pregnant?’ She asked me softly. The softest I had ever heard her speak.
‘No.’ I replied. I was nowhere near having sex. It was the last thing I wanted.
I couldn’t tell Mrs Roberts that Jay from Drama class used to wait until the lights went off to touch me. He’d sit next to me while we were about to watch someone perform. The lights would go off, and he would put my hand on his hard penis. I’d pull away but he would force my hand on him. I couldn’t tell her that even when the lights were on, that he would get me into a headlock and grab my slowly developing breasts really hard. I couldn’t tell her that I was being pressured to kiss, to have sex, to touch, to smoke, to drink, I couldn’t tell her any of this, where would I even begin? What could she do to help me? She couldn’t stop the girls bullying me, throwing books at me in Science, she couldn’t make Jay go away, she could stop the pressure all around me, she couldn’t capture my innocence and keep it safely in a jar. I was already corrupted. I was already so irreversible broken.
It Goes Back to the Childhood
I used to think the trauma began at 13 years old. But it happened much sooner than that. It happened as I was a 90’s child. It happened in the sweet 90s sun. It happened on the block, it happened on my doorstep, it happened in my neighbourhood. My sweet innocence turned into blood filled lines on my arms, choking myself, and then… and then I turned 13. This is when I thought everything changed. It didn’t change, it just grew worse. It turned into every girl’s nightmare.
The shouting and threats from the childhood years turned into fingers and fists. The gropes and headlocks turned into sex. The isolation grew colder and colder, and the dark heaviness weighed on me every waking moment. The scars on my body tripled, and I still couldn’t tell a soul. When was I ever told that what happened was wrong? That I could use my words and say no, that I could call the police, I could tell Mum and Dad, I could do something about it all before it grew into a disease that would plague my mind for good. I laughed off most of it, thinking it was just what happened. What a sad world I thought, I didn’t want to be a part of it.
I was a 90s kid once, and I miss those days of pokemon cards, roast dinners, and family get-togethers. I miss the games of Bulldog, playing hide and seek with my dog, and I miss my purple room where I painted and wrote all day every day, while Dad tried to force me to make friends. Now it is 2018, and things have changed. No one plays together anymore, Mum doesn’t dress me from the French catalogue and she is no longer a Nurse. She is no longer a Mum. Dad accepts her divorce and my safety net has holes in. Pokemon has come back in fashion but mostly because of the Pokemon Go game, and I was admitted to hospital in Australia last year after attempting suicide. I still stand on both my own feet, although they are shaky and I still haven’t spoken about all my 90’s trauma. I miss my innocence. Where did it go?
Life is Still Worth Living
All these men that tried to hit me, all these men that did hit me and push me around, all the men that cheated on me, manipulated or brainwashed me, all the men that harrased or sexual assualted me, all the men that sexual abused and raped me, they all still walk around, living their lives while I carry the weight of disgust, guilt, and sadness inside me. I feel it pull me through the floor, wishing I slipped into a fiery, hot pit of hell to make the pain stop but you know, I just can’t leave this world, I can’t leave this world yet. I need to stay alive to tell my stories, even if this one is unfinished. I need to stay alive so I can keep painting for myself, painting for others, capturing the essence of pain and isolation so beautifully that it consoles others. I need to stay alive to comfort my Dad with my existence, to kiss my partner and cuddle him when he is poorly, for my best friends to continue creating magical memories while tears stream down our face as we break out into laughter. I need to stay alive to talk, to speak about each and every one of my painful experiences, to show off my wounds and hold them dear like trophies of my survival, I need to stay alive for everyone reading this.
I was well and truly a 90’s kid once, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only young girl who was corrupted. I’m sure I‘m also not the only girl who misses those damn sweet, hot 90’s summers with no technology. I miss these times, and I miss my innocence. Yet, I am forever grateful for the experiences that have shaped me into who I am today. I am grateful for my strength, my courage, my mind, and my soul. I am grateful to be me, I am grateful to be alive.
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