A long time ago (the 1990s), when I was a freshman in high school, I decided to carry a McDonald’s Happy Meal plastic pumpkin pail as a purse/pencil box. I have no idea what possessed me to do this, but I thought it was adorable and funny (baby irony, I suppose). When it was no longer the Halloween season, I spotted a tin Sailor Moon lunchbox at a store I loved. I carried some form of lunchbox for the remainder of high school.
Even as I write this, I cringe. I associate the lunchbox purse with a time in my life when I was awkward and a little oblivious. Objectively, I know there are worse teenage choices; in fact, I wasn’t following a trend (that I knew of) so I suppose I must have been somewhat secure with myself. And darn it, the lunchbox was really convenient and I liked it. Still, I cringe.
The other day, while wandering around a sci-fi/comic store, I encountered a huge wall of tin lunchboxes. The market has really expanded in the last fifteen years! Included were at least two different types of Doctor Who lunchboxes. There was a part of my brain that zeroed in immediately, and for several seconds I contemplated buying one.
Ultimately, I decided against it – that part of my life is just too far behind me. But there’s still a part that looks, just like there’s still a part that’s curious about what Barbies look like nowadays. So I started to wonder: where do I draw the line? Particularly when you’re a geek with lifelong passions? And why?
Fun for all ages
The line seemed pretty arbitrary to me at first, but the more I pondered, the more I began to notice certain trends. For example, these are somewhat nerdy interests that persist to this day:
Holiday decorations, particularly Halloween and Christmas. I love pulling out those holiday boxes of decorations. I try to make self-imposed rules about when they actually go up, but I’m never one who moans and groans when stores start stocking the shelves months in advance – or at least, if I complain I don’t mean it.
Board games. Yes, obscure, cerebral board games from independent or European brands are fun. So are Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit and Uno.
Disney, particularly the theme parks. I grew up in Florida, but familiarity did not breed contempt. Quite the contrary – for me, there’s something timeless about the opening of The Lion King or the music from The Haunted Mansion. And Disney, knowing their audience well, makes products for all ages.
Harry Potter. I was in college when I started reading the Harry Potter books, so Harry does not represent childhood for me. Still, it’s been over ten years now, and not only do I still love the children’s series, I’ll buy a bit of merch every now and then.
A time and a place
On the other hand, there are definitely things that still catch my eye, but manage to induce eye-rolling at the same time:
Goth clothing. I was a goth for a good three or four years. I enjoyed myself at the time, and to be honest black is still a featured color in my wardrobe. However, even if they’re coming back in fashion, there are still various cuts and fabrics that I try to avoid so I don’t feel like I’m trying to remain a teen. Crushed velvet and platform sneakers, for example.
Barbie. I had a ton of Barbies growing up, thanks to hand-me-downs from sisters. Even as late as high school, I’d buy the collector dolls, like Princess Leia and Audrey Hepburn. I know adults who still collect, but I just can’t do it myself anymore.
Little Green Men. I’ve always had a thing for the paranormal, dating back to fourth grade and a terrible TV show called Sightings. In the late 90s, neon-green aliens became a Thing, and I took advantage – my room was covered in lime, black, glitter and plush space visitors. I look back fondly on that era, but I don’t think any of the aliens actually survived through the years (to be fair, some of them were inflatable).
Ultimately, I think the division is this: if it was a passion that was intense for a relatively short period of time, it becomes “dated” in my mind. Barbie, even though she persisted in boxes into my teen years, is still mostly associated with elementary-aged toys.
My “timeless passions that started early” have endured over the years. I kept up decorating for the holidays on my own, right through college and beyond. I visited Disney every few years; it’s not associated with one trip or era. And it’s not because they’re better or worse than anything else; I chose what to keep up and what to leave behind. Nancy Drew was in my life just as early as Barbie, but ultimately I liked Nancy more, so my Kindle lives in a case modified from one of her books.
They’re also more generalized. My holiday decorating has evolved over the years; the only constant is that I do try to decorate. The Harry Potter stuff I go for today probably isn’t the same as what I’d have bought in college. Board games are a huge topic in and of themselves.
So now I understand a little better why some “childish” areas of interest remain acceptable to me today, and why others feel like an attempt to reclaim my youth. But what about you? What passions have endured from childhood ’til today? Which ones have lost their appeal? Do you have criteria that’s different from mine? Share your thoughts below!