Ripped off in the 80s

The longer I live, the more convinced I become that my generation got savagely ripped off as teenagers growing up in the '80s*.

Compared with the '60s and '70s with their almost compulsory drug use and free love, or the late '90s and '00s where girls dressed like porn stars and oral sex was "the new pashing" - the '80s was a friggin' disaster.

"Girls wore baggy sweaters to cover their rear ends, drugs were evil and everyone was terrified of AIDS," US sports columnist Bill Simmons writes.

I dunno about the "drugs were evil" part - they bought me closer to God on quite a few nights out - but we certainly didn't have ecstasy or (much) cocaine, let alone all that fancy shmancy designer stuff like Special K or GHB. At best it was bikie speed, Buddha sticks and the odd jar of amyl passed around the back of the school bus.

A girl's idea of sexy was a Billy Idol haircut, cage-fighter fingerless gloves, a pair of those poop-catcher harem pants, grandpa's fisherman jumper and Doc Martens that took longer to unlace than some relationships lasted.

Blokes got around with the famous "Flock of Seagulls" haircut, eyeliner, winklepickers and cheese-cloth singlets. Androgyny reigned - and ain't that a recipe for good times, eh - when you can't tell the boys and girls apart?

Was it any wonder? Half our rock stars were gay men, singing about gay sex, but we didn't know it. 

When George Michael enthused about making it big and Depeche Mode sang Just Can't Get Enough, well, we should have known better. We did with Boy George, but it didn't help our confusion.

I asked a female veteran of the '80s what was going on with the shoulder pads and Rupert Bear tartan jodhpurs so favoured by her peers and she described them as "man repellers".

"If guys were cool enough to get it, then they were in," she said.

Not that "in" counted for much in the first paranoid years of the AIDS "epidemic".

Siimon Reynolds and his Grim Reaper ad might have woken us up to the spread of the disease but it pretty much ruined the rutting years of millions of Aussie teens.

Seriously, this was a time when Michael Jackson was a sex symbol, so you can imagine how much chance a bloke had for intimacy prancing around in white socks and kung fu shoes.

Gen Y should get on their knees and thank the vagaries of culture that they've come of age in an era in which women consider see-through leggings as pants and sex is often a precursor to an introduction.

Still, there were a few saving graces being a teen in the '80s.

There was no photo ID - you could get into a bar at 15 with a photocopy of your best friend's cousin's mate's birth certificate.

Responsible service of alcohol meant that when a 16-year-old schoolboy collapsed on the dance floor after nine tequila laybacks, the bartenders would high five each other.

Midnight Oil cranked out albums such as Bird Noises, Place Without a Postcard and 10 to 1, one-day cricket was chock full of Aussies you actually liked and Greg Evans's rise to prominence gave short men hope all over the country.

Still, I'll always be filthy about those baggy jumpers.

* Yeah, I know this is a lightweight topic and barely even tangentially concerned with "men's issues" but you know what? I had a crap week and felt like writing about something that made me smile.

What did you love and hate about the 80s?

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.