Wednesday, October 7, 2009
If you have noticed, we over here at Children of the 90s have been pretty caught up in the back-to-school spirit. There's something about fall that brings all of us 90s nostalgianiks right back to our frantic scrambling office-supply store shopping trips. We would all try to use our intuition and summer-accumulated wisdom to buy the most coveted back-to-school items, but there was little way of knowing whether your choice was going to sink or swim in the classroom implement hierarchy. It's a cruel world, and we might as well have learned it at a young age. There's nothing quite like ridicule and public shaming over what we were toting in our pencil cases. It's probably what's turned us into the humble adults we are today.
The problem with school supply trends was that we could hardly look to fashion magazines for our social cues on what to buy. Instead, we had to simply hold our collective breath and hope that whatever we'd haplessly shoved into our OfficeMax carts was the wise choice. Would Yikes Pencils be in or out? Would Clueless's Cher's feather pen still be the highly coveted item of the back-to-school season, or were Troll pencil toppers the way to go? It was enough to etch premature wrinkles into our juvenile brows.
There are, however, some school supplies that spoke for themselves. When we saw them in the store, we simply knew we had to have them. They had a value all their own, not only because they were popular, but because they had real appeal. Not to mention we knew deep down, even from a young age, that if one of these babies would set our parents back $2 a pop versus the fifty cents or so they'd shell out for a regular pen they just had to be great. After all, the pricers wouldn't lie to us. They know real value, and we had to be prepared to pay for it.
Gel pens quickly became a veritable writing implement phenomenon, flooding into middle school desks everywhere with a barrage of metallic colors. These things were legitimately impressive, for school supplies. We had never seen this type of performance before in a pen, nor had we particularly cared when it came in the drab shades of blue and black favored by rival pen producers. Gelly Rolls, though, these things were impressive. Not only did they come in a vast spectrum of visually appealing shiny colors, but they could write on all sorts of surfaces! What more could you ask for?
Sure, our parents were probably less than pleased when we came home with homeroom-drawn gelly roll tattoos graffiti-ing our bodies, but at least it was still a step above opting for permanent ink. My mother unleashed upon me a slew of old-wives' tales of how the ink would permeate my skin and lead to all sorts of terrifying blood poisoning, but I saw right through it. Well, I did at first. My vision started to blur after the fourth or fifth day, now that I think about it. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.
Gel pens had pretty incredible powers, really. For one, they could write on black paper. I know, I know. Maybe I should give a minute to let that sink in. Black paper. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I know I hadn't, until I bought a colored multi-pack that came complete with a pad of black paper. I sat there staring at my new acquisition, thinking, Why, it just can't be. How can a pen write on a piece of black paper? I couldn't quite wrap my head around it, but suffice it to say I was sold. Yearbook signing would never be the same.
There were a few prototypes in particular that particularly astonished, amazed, and amused us. I wrote many an origami-folded note to my friends, imploring them "W/B/S" (write back soon) and declaring my feelings via LYLAS (love ya like a sister). Among the most popular on the market were:
These were truly the original impressive gel pen. They were so shiny. Really, just so so shiny. My mind is riddled with mental ADD at the mere thought of them, so just imagine the effect they had on real live kids attempting to take notes with their sparkly, sparkly ink. Ooh, sparkly. I'm sorry, what were we talking about here?
Though now the name sort of makes me want to vomit, in middle school we were completely enamored with these pastel-hued pens. These things drew on everything, leaving no drawable surface on my body, clothing, and schoolwork untouched by the magic of their soft hues.
Described by their manufacturers as "a milkshake of colors", these pens were a teacher's worst nightmare. To receive a handwritten essay that gradually shifted from one end of the color spectrum to the next and back again was nothing short of a grading nightmare. Kids were certainly entertained by them, though, so it would take more than simple chastisements to stop us. We had pen rights, dammit, and we were prepared to exercise them, color-induced nausea aside.
Sure, there were a few kinks in the process. Namely, when the inkwell in the pen's core began to go dry, these things were nearly impossible to write with. You'd scratch through your paper just trying to get some color out of it. And don't even get me started on the moments of gel overload. Believe me, these splotches were not pretty. Okay, they were kind of pretty, but that's not the point. It's hard to take an algebra answer seriously when half of the equation is obscured by a giant shimmering pink blob you're forced to turn into a flower to make it less conspicuous.
Regardless of their minor flaws, these babies were golden. And silver. And bronze, and well, you get the idea. My technicolor-dreampen-case was brimming with shimmery, shiny colors and for a brief moment in time, it was enough to hold my attention and entertain me in class. If only I could get as worked up about office supplies now. It's hard to picture me hugging my stapler or spooning with the fax machine, but I'm willing to give it a try. What can I say? I'm a dreamer.