I remember the day I received my first college acceptance like it was yesterday. As I approached my house, I silently chanted, Please let the envelope be thick, please let the envelope be thick, because everyone back then knew that a thin envelope meant a rejection. I peered into the mailbox and screeched: There was a big, fat envelope bearing my first-choice college’s emblem.
And so it began. I spent the summer writing letters back and forth with my new roommate and coordinating our dorm purchases: I was in charge of the microwave, she was bringing the princess phone and box fan. We coordinated our dusty rose and teal Laura Ashley comforters, and agreed we’d purchase a carpet remnant when we arrived on campus.
On Move-In Day, we lugged our rented refrigerator up five flights of stairs and marveled at our newly decorated room. Milk crates housed our sweaters under our beds, our walls were adorned with Disney movie posters, and the sounds of Hootie & the Blowfish wafted from the boom box on my desk. Sure, we had linoleum floors, cinder block walls, furniture made of wood from 1972 and community bathrooms with questionable grout stains, but it was all ours and it felt like home.
Thus began the best years of my life.
College in the 1990s was the absolute best — and not just because Zima was readily available. During my college years I met the women who eventually became the bridesmaids in my wedding, surrogate aunts to my kids, and my backbone when I was grieving the death of my father 20 years after we graduated.
We wore baby doll dresses with construction boots (why was this ever a thing?) and ushered in the grunge phase with flannel and Kurt Cobain. And I loved every minute.
Finish this sentence: College in the ’90s with your girlfriends was awesome because …
We drank Clearly Canadian sparkling water from the gas station mini-mart, and drove around with the windows down with friends and no sense of time or urgency.
We agonized over the Ross and Rachel break up. #TeamRachelForever
We watched Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210 with 10 other friends, huddled around a TV in someone’s dorm room. If you didn’t chant “Donna Martin graduates!” did you even really go to college in the ’90s?
We traded Clinique makeup and had roommates who owned perfume from Elizabeth Arden that smelled nothing like Sunflowers.
We listened to CDs purchased from BMG Music Service because 10 CDs for a $1 was the best deal ever. And now those 245 CDs are collecting dust in a box in our basements.
Our dorm bathrooms smelled like the perfect combination of Juniper Breeze lotion from Bath and Body Works and Liz Claiborne perfume. And we dated boys drenched in Drakkar Noir cologne.
We scheduled classes around Days of Our Lives and never missed an episode for four straight years. #TeamMarlenaForever
We’d never heard the words “tweet” or “Google” or “selfie,” and we certainly didn’t use them as verbs. The only Facebook we had was our yearbooks filled with pictures of our actual faces.
And we wrote things like “LYLAS!” and “Stay sweet, don’t ever change!” across our friends’ faces.
We wrote silly messages on dry erase boards affixed to our dorm-room doors, and expressed our love to our new crush with “143” messages via our pagers.
Twice a year we got up early to register for classes with our princess phones. And the sounds of agony after hearing the automated computer voice say “This class is now full” reverberated up and down the dorm hallways.
These words: one-hour photo.
We wore faux jewels from the Claire’s boutique to college formals, and drank Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine straight from the bottle as we got dressed in semiformal dresses made of black velvet and white taffeta.
Keds with slouch socks paired with our sorority-letter sweatshirts on lazy Saturday afternoons in the Student Center.
We met to drink coffee and to show off our new “Rachel” haircuts.
Through it all our girlfriends were by our sides — bad haircuts, grungy flannel and all. There was nothing like coming back to your dorm room after a long night at the computer lab, dropping your JanSport backpack on the floor, and flopping on your roommate’s bed to dish about your day. Those really were the days.
And, sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can still hear the sounds of the holy trinity of Dave Matthews Band, Nirvana and Pearl Jam echoing through the best years of my life. I don’t miss the baby doll dresses, though.
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