Sunday, July 4, 2021

Watching 90210 as a Parent

I graduated with the gang from the Peach Pit. Brenda, Brandon, Kelly, Donna, Steve, Dylan, and me - all part of the Class of '93. The series was mandatory viewing for most of my high school friends. In fact, we taped the prom episode and graduation episode and promised not to watch until we all gathered together to experience these important moments together. Here is a photo of me with a few of my friends from that night of 90210 viewing (Julie wins for coolest outfit because she's wearing a Violent Femmes shirt, but I want some credit for my shortalls and my Class of 1993 button):

I've recently been re-watching the first season of 90210 on Hulu. So far, the episodes have addressed drinking and safe sex in the midst of the AIDS crisis and both the good and bad influence of friends and racial tensions and being embarrassed by your mom and wanting to look different and staying out past curfew and the pressure to do well in school. When I watched these episodes for the first time at age fifteen, every single one of these topics resonated with my friend group. We talked on the phone and in school about what the characters were experiencing, because they were feelings and fears that all of us teenagers were confronting, not not fictional rich kids in Beverly Hills. I think 90210 was one of the first shows to tackle teenage issues so directly and thoughtfully, and they did it well. 

My viewing of this show thirty years later also has led to a revelation. The show premiered the summer before my sophomore year in high school - the same age that my daughter is right now. So, it makes sense that this time around I'm nodding my head in agreement with Jim and Cindy! I am now the parent in these 90210 scenarios. But it's also helping me to remember that my daughter is a young woman who is tackling these same issues.

This summer is proving to be a difficult one of transition for me. Many of my daughter's friends are now driving. There are boys. There are opportunities to for her to make choices that were not on her radar just a couple of years ago. She wants to be out and be social all the time. And I'm struggling as a parent, particularly as a single parent, to decide how many boundaries to set and how much freedom to allow. (As she likes to say to me, "When you were my age, your parents didn't know where you were all the time. They couldn't call you or track you." And then I like to retort, "Hey, if you want to live 1990 style, we can do that. Hand over your phone." And then the conversation ends.)

But it's helped me to think back on my own high school days via this nostalgic trip down 90210 lane. The emotions and the confusion and the growing that I was doing during those years were very real and intense and serious to me. It did not seem like little kid stuff. I need to remember that my daughter is now in a period of her life where these same moments are very real and consequential to her. Just like I was three decades ago, she certainly is discussing the same topics with her friends that I did after watching them play out with the Walsh family on my TV screen. I did not feel too young to engage in those conversations, and neither is my daughter. 

I am so proud of my girl and so in love with her. She is confident and smart and independent. She stands up for herself. She likes herself, more than I did when I was her age. But it also can be scary and exhausting and confusing to parent through these years. That's when it's important for me to stop and acknowledge that these years are all scary and exhausting and confusing for her, too. I know it might sound silly, but I promise it's not - 90210 has helped me to plug back into those emotions of my own fifteen-year-old self. It's helping me to pause and see things through my daughter's lens. I just wish Cindy Walsh was around for us to talk through it all over a glass of wine, and probably a delicious, homecooked meal that she made from scratch.