With Friends Like These, Who Needs Lobotomies?

If it were possible to go back in time and kill people to prevent horrible things from happening, Menudo would be pretty fucking high on that hit list.

If it weren’t for my kids, the 80’s wouldn’t seem as if they were so far away. They’re not that far away, really. Not to me at least. Any time I want, I can close my eyes and conjure up visions of… AAAUUUGGGHHH!!! Who the fuck thought dressing head to toe in neon colors was a good idea? And what was with everyone’s fucking hair?!? Jesus, what a vapid decade: Menudo, Chia-Pets, parachute pants, and Where’s the Beef? No wonder I started drinking as a teenager. Anyway, the 80’s, for me, are instantly accessible in the recesses of my mind, but for my kids, they may as well be a hundred years ago. And so when I have to explain that when daddy grew up, phones were attached to walls and they look at me as if I just told them that I rode a dinosaur to school, I think to myself, well of course, the 80’s started over 32 years ago… And then it seems really far away, and distant, and I feel old. So I ground my kids to their rooms for a couple of weeks and drink in front of the TV watching reruns of Cheers until I feel young again or the police tell me that they have the house surrounded, whichever comes first.

The thing that’s really weird about it is that the difference between 2012 and 1980 is much, much bigger than the difference between, say, 1982 and 1950. In 1982, you still used the phone much the same way you did in 1950, and you might watch your TV in color, but it was largely the same, and cars were a different shape, but they hadn’t changed much either. Now, though, the things you can do are completely alien to what you were used to in 1980. I mean, if you own a phone now, chances are you can use it to watch porn at a funeral. The last 32 year divide is much, much greater than any 32 year divide preceding it.

And it works both ways, too. Some of the stuff that we thought was a good idea in the 1980’s makes us wonder now how we got anything done back then when clearly, we’d been huffing gasoline around the clock. Take, for instance, these people:

The 80's: brought to you by cocaine, hairspray, and poor family planning.

The 80’s: brought to you by cocaine, hairspray, and poor family planning.

One of my favorite odd trends during the 80’s was the rise of video dating. Video dating, for those of you too young to remember it, is what Star Trek nerds and 40 year olds living with their parents did to try to get laid before roofies and the internet rendered it obsolete. They would sit in front of a video camera and lie awkwardly about how they liked long walks on the beach and sipping wine by a roaring fire, when really, their idea of a perfect evening was more along the lines of furtively masturbating to a particularly saucy photo of Betty Crocker in Reader’s Digest.

I like to watch these tapes and wonder what percentage of these people have been laid since that tape was shot. -20%? -50%? It’s an exercise in imaginary numbers. But, believe it or not, these people weren’t the most desperate people around. They were on the ball enough to put on clothes and make it all the way down to the video dating service (which I’m guessing was located on the Northwest corner of Dateless and Wonder). There were other people so awkward, so socially stunted, that they were, in effect, complete social pariahs.

And the wonderful thing about the Let’s Get Rich and Fuck Everyone Else 80’s was that there was some scumbag who sat there, hunched over a coke spoon, and thought, “Hey! I know how to pry some money out of those sorry fucks!” Introducing Rent-A-Friend. The concept behind Rent-A-Friend was simple: You sent your money to some reprehensible excuse for a human being, sobbed for the six to eight weeks it took for shipping, then popped in the tape and pretended that the person on the screen was an actual friend:

Wow. Even more sad than the fact that people bought this tape (yes, young’uns, it was a VHS tape) was the fact that this person was the best “friend” they could come up with. Yeah, all my friends lounge around in tan sweaters, grooving to jazz, pouring over their high school yearbooks, and peering at my living room through a large box. But I guess when your product is marketed towards shut-ins and the criminally insane, you can put pretty much anything on the screen. I’m surprised they didn’t just film a toaster while playing the audio track to this thing, it would’ve worked just as well.

But it is only natural and right that technology gets used to bring people together, even if, all things considered, that would probably have been better accomplished with psychotropic drugs and a padded room. Giving these people some social skills, even if those skills consist solely of drunkenly groping a TV set and then shamefully avoiding it for a few months, is the difference between them one day shooting a bunch of people from a tall tower and beating off in the bushes outside the YWCA. Bodily fluids are going to hit the ground either way, but still, it’s a marginal improvement.

And, if I’m being really honest, Rent-A-Friend does have a couple of advantages over real friends. If Rent-A-Friend gets drunk and starts rambling on and on about 9/11 conspiracies, you can always turn his ass off. If you try that in real life, they throw you in fucking jail. And the odds that you’ll turn on Rent-A-Friend and see your half-naked girlfriend quickly run out the back door are comfortingly low.

But, really, what the fucking fuck? I know that their target demographic is going to be a bit off, and that they need to be able to relate to their new “friend”, but could this guy be any fucking creepier? He asks you your name, cases your joint for future burglaries, and then talks about stalking a chick. Now that I think about it, this probably didn’t keep people off of tall towers at all, did it? I’m surprised we didn’t see a lot of these type of headlines in the late 80’s:

Shots and smooth jazz rang out today, as another tan sweater-clad man gunned down women named Nancy from a tall tower.

Shots and smooth jazz rang out today, as another tan sweater-clad man gunned down women named Nancy from a tall tower.

Perhaps even more sobering is the fact that 32 years from now, people will probably look back at the… (what the fuck do you call the decade from 2010 – 2019? The 10’s? The Teens?) 2010 decade and laugh every bit as hard at some of the shit that we do. You look around and see a few things that, yeah, might seem a little strange in 32 years, but nothing too ridiculous. And then you see…

This is not a Photoshop. This is a real fad that originated in Mexico, home of other popular fads such as Ricky Martin and shooting everyone in the face.

This is not a Photoshop. This is a real fad that originated in Mexico, home of other popular fads such as Ricky Martin and shooting everyone in the face.

Call me old fashioned, Nancy, but I prefer tan sweaters.