How to Party Like It’s 1985

The year was 1981.

Ronald Reagan was President.

MTV had just been born, and so had Justin Timberlake.

The cool kids were playing Frogger at the arcade while their parents critiqued the 25-foot train on Princess Diana’s wedding gown.

Raiders of the Lost Arc was a box office hit, and Harrison Ford was a heartthrob.

Sunscreen and seatbelts were still underrated.

And these two cuties were in kindergarten.

Mary Kindergarten     Ryan Kindergarten

Now fast forward your VCR to 2016.  (Let me give you a minute.  Your VCR was slower than you probably remember.)  A few things have changed since 1981.  No one is pegging denim anymore, maybe because the jeans are too “skinny” these days.  Dark wash is cooler than acid wash now, and we aren’t all choking on AquaNet fumes anymore.

And those two kindergarteners?  Well, we’re turning 40, which is basically impossible, unless we fell into a time warp somewhere between our high school graduation in 1994 and today.  Otherwise, I just can’t explain how this happened.

This is a big year for my husband and me; we both turn 40, which is some kind of milestone in American culture, I guess, and we will celebrate our 100th wedding anniversary in June.  I say 100th anniversary because I like to measure marital bliss in “Hollywood years,” which means that every year of marriage is worth seven or eight, and also because on a bad day it sometimes feels like it’s actually been that long.  (I can say this because we have mostly good days – and because I know there are days when he would agree!)  In calendar years, though, we will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer.  But, again, with that time warp we hit somewhere in the 90’s, I’m not sure how long it has actually been.  Maybe only four.

A few years ago, in a dreamy state disconnected from reality, I had hoped that we could do something really exciting to celebrate these occasions, like go on our first cruise or vacation in Mexico.  But my husband is so kind that he encourages me, the brainiac who was supposed to be highly successful in something that pays well, to follow my passions, like devoting hours to writing a blog that pays in only personal growth and satisfaction.  And since resorts in Mexico will not accept this as payment, I needed to find a less expensive way to celebrate his birthday.  (Note to self: Maybe stop blogging about the 80s and start writing travel reviews instead . . .  Cha ching!)

Seriously, though, I did want to make his 40th memorable while keeping affordable, too.  I started tossing around ideas, plans for a big party with all of our hometown friends and family and all of our friends nearby, and, frankly, it started to feel a bit overwhelming and not so low cost anymore.  I also realized that I was planning the party that I thought he should have, but not necessarily the party that my husband would actually want, so I decided to nix the element of surprise and just ask him.  The answer was not shocking since we have been married for 100 years.  He said, “Keep it small.  Really small.”

And I said, “THANK GOD!” under my breath as I exited the room.  Thank.  You.  Jesus.  Because small is much, much, much, much easier to do.

But let’s be clear; small doesn’t have to mean boring, and 40 doesn’t have to mean decorations that say “Rest In Peace.”  (Seriously?  Who is comfortable with that?)  And that takes us back to the 80s, because even though we were both born in 1976, that decade is a blur of diapers and formula for us.  But the 80s, well, EVERYONE born in 1976 remembers “Livin’ on a Prayer,” right?  Ferris Beuller’s Day Off?  Knight Rider?  Of course, they do!

I love 80s

Thus, our 80s party was born.  The ideas that we used were super simple, and we suggest that you modify them to fit your needs and throw an 80s party yourself, just for fun!

First, we needed an 80s atmosphere with fun decorations and bright colors.  As always, we were extremely busy, so I opted to buy some 80s décor from Party City rather than figure everything out on my own.  The prices were reasonable, and a little went a long way.  We also scoured the house and some boxes in the basement to find anything with an 80s vibe.  Movies, music, toys, cassette and VHS tapes, vintage t-shirts, old pictures – anything from the time period will add to the fun!

80s Window  Decorations

If you are throwing a birthday party, don’t forget some pics of the guest of honor!  The 80s clothes and hairstyles captured in those moments will provide plenty of entertainment for your guests, too.

Ryan Pic

You can also use some of the party supplies or favors to create focal points that become decorations themselves, like these glasses from Party City that we gave to the kids.

Future So Bright

Or these white gloves from Walmart, purchased for less than 25 cents a pair at the end of the season.  Michael Jackson was my FAVORITE back in the day, as proven by the creepy Michael Jackson doll my mom just found in the back of a closet.  (If you are even thinking about having an 80s party, go buy these NOW on clearance!  There is no legit 80s party without M.J.)

MJ Gloves

And then there was this bit of fun for the kids, and the kids at heart.  Now, if you are a purist, these candies weren’t introduced in the 80s, but, really, who cares?  I remember Pop Rocks as a special treat during my childhood, so these worked for us, and the kids loved the novelty of them.  Also, Pop Rocks were discontinued at one point in the 80s, possibly as a result of crazy rumors that they would cause a kid’s stomach to explode.  That is cool 80s trivia.  Read more about it here!

Pop Rocks

What to do for a cake?  My husband didn’t want a cake at all, but he asked for a big iced cookie instead.  Perfect – the shape of Pac-Man!  This dessert was made by my friend Laura at Sweet Treats by Laura, and it was so, SO good!

PacMan Cookie

Now that the decorations and treats were prepared, entertaining everyone was the priority.  Not a problem.  First, we asked everyone to dress in 80s fashion, and that alone provided plenty of entertainment.  I mean, when a friend comes dressed in the vintage New Kids in the Block memorabilia that she dug out of storage, you know you are going to have plenty to talk about!

New Kids

The kids dressed up, too, which was especially entertaining.  My son and one of his friends spent all afternoon making jerseys to look like Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues from the Charlotte Hornets.  They just needed fake mustaches and some shorty shorts to complete the 80s NBA look.  Their costumes were, like, totally radical, ya know?

image1 (1)

Our friends are generally happy to just sit around and chat, but an easy, fun alternative to entertain a small crowd is to play the game Catch Phrase Decades.  This provided a lot of laughs as we tried to get our teammates to correctly guess names, titles, and products from the 80s.  It was hilarious to see how much we did and didn’t remember from the past, and the game brought back many long-lost memories.   (What did Mr. Mister sing again?  Oh, yeah, THAT song!  Right!)

Catch Phrase 80s

Meanwhile, the kids were busy downstairs reliving our childhoods.  They played Pac-Man, and they didn’t even find it boring thanks to Adam Sandler’s Pixels.

PacMan Closeup

Great Scott!  They watched Back to the Future. 

Back to the Future

And, my favorite, they had a ball with an 80s photo booth.  This started with an inexpensive backdrop from Party City.  Then, we stocked a basket with 80s fashions – crazy bright hats, fake mustaches, white gloves, net gloves, a net shirt, gold and neon bling, sunglasses, a microphone, and inflatable instruments, all from Party City and Walmart.  The kids dressed up and took pictures all evening, and the photos are great keepsakes, too.

Photo Booth

Photo Booth Stuff

MJ Wannabe

Our small party was a big success, and it is something that we will remember for a long time.  After the party, we finished celebrating my husband’s birthday by giving him more than 40 cards from friends and family members who helped with this fantastic surprise.  It included notes from kids he has coached, a card from one of his own basketball coaches from the 80s, and messages from so many people who have been so important to us during different phases of our lives.  I am grateful to everyone who helped, and I still feel the need to apologize for sending group Facebook messages.  Those are just terrible.  Thanks for not unfriending me!

If there is one thing I know about 40, it is that our experiences now are less about the experiences themselves and more about appreciating the people who experience them with us.  Our 80s party and the many birthday messages for my husband allowed us to reflect on all of those important relationships, past and present, for one totally tubular celebration.  What will I do to celebrate my 40th?  That’s still uncertain, but it doesn’t look like I will make it to Mexico.  If I am with the people I love, though, that won’t matter much at all.

40th Cards

To My Friend Behind the Caution Tape

I want to know your

I know something is wrong, my friend.  I feel it in your too-quick response when I ask if you’re okay.  I hear it in your veiled excuses and unnecessary apologies, your cancelled appointments and rejected invitations.  Your smile looks like work now, and your eyes are flat like mirrors instead of windows.

I know that you are hurting, but I don’t know why.

I know you, but I don’t know you, because you’ve built a fence right through our friendship, and it does not have a gate.

We’ve been friends for a while now.  We’ve spent endless hours at the park and at the school and on play dates here and there.  We’ve talked about news and kids and weather, about all the things that are light and full of air and float up to the surface.  But we have never filled our lungs and held our breath and risked our comfort to dive down deep, to plunge below the surface.  We have never ventured where the pressure builds and the risks increase – and the discussions really matter.

Our conversations have an edge, my friend, and I have noticed it, and I can see that you are so afraid of falling over.  There is caution tape all around the words we string together, and I have learned to tiptoe carefully without touching your guardrails and setting off alarms.

And this is okay with me, if this is all you expect from our friendship.  I won’t cross the boundaries you have made.  I would never push you past the caution tape and shove you off the cliff.

But I am not sure how to help you.  I don’t know how to dismiss that there is so much more that I can’t know.  You see, my closest friends and I, well, we have thrown caution to the wind.  For this friendship to grow, I need you to jump the guardrail, too, and here is why:

I want to see your REAL.  

With me, you do not need to show your PERFECT or your POLISHED.  Please don’t unpack your unruffled or rehearsed or preapproved for me.  Friend, I don’t need your censored or your flawless.

I just need your REAL.

Because here’s the truth that you’re not seeing: I am a mess

I am imperfect and unpolished, sometimes angry and upset and unprepared.  Some days I feel like a failure.  Sometimes I need advice.  Once in a while, I need to be completely open, painfully honest, unrestrained.  I need to vent to someone safe, a friend who understands.

Sometimes, I need to be REAL, too.

Always, I am flawed.  Because I am human.  And so are you.

But we aren’t really sharing that, are we?  We are just peeking over the fence.

Maybe this friendship is exactly what it is supposed to be, but I care about you, and I hope that you have other friendships without guardrails.  I hope those friends are seeing what I see and encouraging you through whatever challenges you face.  I hope that you laugh together and cry together when you need to.  I hope that you have plunged beneath the surface, that you have faced the risks and felt vulnerable, that you have experienced the beauty and the peace that lie below, in the depths of those friendships where you set your REAL free.

If your REAL is stirring and you are feeling brave, you are welcome to dangle your feet over my cliff and glance below.  You will see me there with a few close friends.  We will probably be in our gym clothes, looking a mess, though we honestly never made it to work out.  We will be taking a break even if our homes are a mess and our schedules are overbooked and our to-do lists are out of control.  We will be eating snacks and sharing drinks that we won’t tell our kids about.  There will be no make-up there, nothing hiding the wrinkles or the sun damage, no magic tricks or expensive illusions to conceal what really is.  We may be sharing our horribly embarrassing moments.  We may be crying about our parenting missteps.  We may be analyzing our fears and regrets.

That sounds like scary stuff, I know.

But it is REAL.  And when we smile and laugh and celebrate, that will be REAL, too, not part of a calculated game of emotions that we pretend to feel.

Friend, I am worried about you, and maybe I am not your match, but when you find the friends to make that jump with you, I know you won’t regret the plunge.

You won’t even miss the guardrails.

In fact, you might feel safer without them.