10 Obsessions of a pre-teen girl circa the late ’90s

Blink 182 recently released a new album and you know what came with it? A flood of nostalgia.

Since hearing the first strains of California a few weeks ago, I’ve caught myself reminiscing ever so often – about my childhood, which has left me feeling intensely grateful for how uncomplicated it was (thank you mom and dad) and also about my teen years, which has left me feeling intensely embarrassed about how angsty I was most of the time. Dang, if only I knew how good life was back then!

I guess retrospect is a good teacher. It has certainly reminded me that living lightly and being happy is so much more rewarding than getting stuck in a rut of negative moods and emotions.

It has also brought to mind some of the quaint hobbies, activities and fashion obsessions that occupied my mind in that vulnerable slice of time between being a child and becoming a fully-fledged teenager. That awkward year or two of discovering just how very wide the world was and how strange it could be to find your place in it.

Here’s a little snapshot of things that tickled my fancy back then… maybe you can relate:

  • J17, Smash Hits and Sugar magazines from Paper Weight

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A favourite pastime among my friends and I was to buy stacks of overseas teen magazines for super cheap (it had to be, we weren’t rolling in pocket money, you know) at Paper Weight and pore over the many-months-old celeb gossip found inside. To be quite honest, though… beyond Leo, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Robbie Williams and Boyzone, I really had no idea who most of the people were and obviously couldn’t turn to Google to find out. Ant & Dec… what? Peter Andre… who?

Also, there were SO MANY things I just didn’t understand – for instance, all those articles about acing your new year back-to-school look. Firstly – why did the girls overseas get to pick their school outfits when we had to wear uniforms? Plus – why did their new school year begin in August or something, not January like normal people?

Be that as it may, the real attraction of these mags was, of course, really the posters that accompanied them… and even more so, the stickers. My friend, Erica, managed to collect so many that she covered an entire school file with these tiny squares of glam.

  • Making collages

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Back then, I was a huge fan of making collages (I secretly still am).

Fashioning posters, book covers, pencil case decorations, birthday cards, diary pages and scrapbook collections out of pictures torn from abovementioned teen magazines, as well as the back pages of Huis Genoot (where you found all the celeb gossip), was something I considered a special talent.

When my brother started surfing, a whole new world opened up and soon Billabong, Rip Curl, Stussy, Quicksilver and Bad Girl logos featured prominently in my cut-and-paste creations, alongside the twinkling smiles and brooding looks of rich and famous faces.

  • Mad Dogs clothing

I have no idea what the attraction was, but in my circle of friends your wardrobe was only considered complete once you had an oversized Mad Dogs t-shirt or baggy tracksuit pants. I begged and begged and begged my mom until one day she bought me a faded pink pair of the latter. I kind of miss them now.

  • Spice Girls

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I loved the Spice Girls. Once again, I’m not exactly certain why. But I did. And I had every possible piece of Spice Girls paraphernalia out there – a mug, a ruler, a file, the limited edition Impulse spray (it smelled really good, they should bring it back!), cassette tapes, CDs.

But, no, sadly never THE shoes.

  • Surf brands

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Then, of course, there was the newfound obsession with surf brands. Back in the late ‘90s these products were not even nearly as widespread as they are today.

In fact, before moving from Pretoria to Betty’s Bay in 1995, I had absolutely no idea what surfing was and even less knowledge of the clothing associated with it. Come 1996, I was settled into a new school and noticed that on the first civvies day all the really cool kids were wearing a uniform: Billabong (pronounced Bea-la-borng in my mind) t-shirts – oversized, small logo on the front left-hand side of the chest, big logo on the back – and jeans. I wanted one of those t-shirts so badly – a purple one with a blue logo.

Whenever I managed to pluck up enough courage to enter a surf shop (because you know that was the ultimate den of cool), I searched high and low for one just like I imagined, but never found it. I eventually settled for a sort of off-yellow garment with a turquoise logo. It had a super high neckline, which always made me feel like I was choking… but hey. At least I could have the illusion of being cool while wearing it.

  • Collecting candles

This was another strange hobby I shared with quite a few of my friends, which of course made birthday gifting easy as pie.

I had candles in all shapes and sizes, displayed on a floating wooden shelf in my room, which I asked my dad to put up especially for this purpose. They were purely decorative and to light any of them would have been sacrilege.

  • Laser quest and movie birthday parties

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Since we grew up in small towns dotting the Overberg coastline, there was nothing more exciting than heading to ‘the other side of the mountain’ for birthday celebrations. Popular activities included playing laser quest at some dodgy warehouse type setup in Strand (the birthday girl’s parents obviously close by, keeping an eye) and the other was hitting Ster-Kinekor at Somerset Mall for a movie.

  • American Fudge Factory & The Daisy Box

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Speaking of which… I absolutely loved Saturday outings to ‘the mall’ with my parents. Which is rather strange, as I tend to avoid shopping centres at all costs these days. I suppose the hustle and bustle was a welcome break from the deserted beaches and gravel roads of week-time Betty’s Bay. Which is equally strange, as deserted beaches and gravel roads are the very things I seek these days.

Anyway, my favourite thing to do at the mall was browse through the trinkets on display at the Daisy Box, a tiny stall shaped like an old horse cart, parked mid-aisle. It was a treasure trove of bangles and candles and hair mascara and those chokers that are back in fashion now and all sorts of delights. I’d literally spend HOURS there.

Perhaps this also had something to do with the fact that American Fudge Factory with its delicious aroma and large slabs of heavenly sweetness was located just across the way. Buying a block or two and getting it all wrapped up in a white, blue and red box was a special kind of treat.

  • Music videos and mix tapes

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These were the days of having an empty cassette in the tape deck of your hand-me-down radio, set and ready to record when the 5FM DJ played your favourite songs. Something that happened remarkably often back then.

Similarly, we never had DSTV, so I didn’t have the luxury of spending hours lapping up MTV. I did, however, know that the SABC stations had certain slots that they liked to fill with the odd music video. When it seemed like an opportune moment, I’d go stand by the VHS and hover my finger over the record button to capture the song. Amazingly, I managed to build up quite the music video collection in this way.

  • Crime mystery novels

Everyone was reading Goosebumps, but oh how I loved a good crime mystery! My favourite was a series similar to Nancy Drew, of which I simply cannot remember the name, featuring a group of girl sleuths who always got to the bottom of the most mind boggling mysteries. I’d take notes in a little book as I went, pretending I was part of the investigative team. (I did the same while watching Murder She Wrote)

What were your pre-teen obsessions?

6 thoughts on “10 Obsessions of a pre-teen girl circa the late ’90s

    • Oh my gosh! I actually did that too… In fact, a cooldrink brand (I think it was Jive) brought out limited edition neon-coloured bottles at one point – I collected them all and hung them from the ceiling of my bedroom, along with a big popcorn tub… hahaha!

  1. imarkrige says:

    I had forgotten about American Fudge Factory… That stuff was waaay too sweet. But those retro surf brand t-shirts need to make a comeback!

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