If you were a girl who grew up in the 90s you might look back fondly at this decade as a wild and rollicking good time. But you may also have been left with mental health problems. In fact, research suggests being a young, British, female millennial gives you nearly a 1 in 2 chance of developing them.
I look back at the 90s as a bright and filterless world of Vivienne Westwood and jumbo parkas, of starlets swigging Jack Daniels and swaggering out of clubs, all of which made us feel like the coolest nation on Earth. But why was it not just acceptable to get wasted but also super fashionable? Why was it almost encouraged? My first year at university (a bit later – early Noughties) was a lesson in how to get smashed. Nobody really cared about studying.
The 90s also saw a rebirth of that age-old fascination with female vulnerability, the peak of this being ‘heroin chic’. The edgiest of edgy, this style was defined by bright red eyeliner and starvation. It was just so fashionable to have mental health problems. Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix even made it cool to die from them.
Now, it is no longer cool to be a mess. Actually, it’s kind of stigmatised and embarrassing. So much so we have to launch nationwide campaigns to encourage us to talk about how fucked up we are because we’re all too ashamed to admit it.
The most heart-wrenching reminders of this 90s party attitude are those in the press who have died from being too cool – Tara Palmer Tomkinson, George Michael, Any Winehouse… the list goes on, all of them icons of intoxication. These stars were deemed extra glamorous because of their devil-may-care attitude towards drugs.
And yet, I still associated being a complete and utter mess with being cool. One of the coolest people I have spoken to, because my mindset is still stuck in my adolescent vision of cool, is the waifish, Williamsberg-dwelling model Shea Preuger, who would often be found writhing on her bed in a heroin-induced haze.
“I was a little bit wild, I guess,” she says. But now she is 2016 cool for very different reasons. The coolest in fact. Hooked on heroin for five years and with no other options left but imminent death, she took the psychedelic plant medicine ibogaine and realised being wasted actually wasn’t very cool at all.
“I got way more out of ibogaine than I did from four years of therapy,” says Shea. “I’d always viewed the world as strictly black and white, but coming out of ibogaine gave me this new perspective that this wasn’t necessarily the case. There was something missing in my life.”
Thankfully it seems that times are a’ changing, and perhaps it’s no surprise that getting wasted has fallen out of favour just as social media has increased in popularity. Being cool means to distinguish yourself from the older generation.
Today it’s way cool to have unlimited data and not so cool to be pictured with a syringe hanging out your arm. Today’s cool has gone digital and failing that, there’s clean eating, Instagramming yourself partaking in the clean eating, and if you’re going to do any drugs they are strictly psychedelic, or at least, natural. This of course is all in an attempt to increase your popularity by sharing it on Facebook because, “like, everyone needs to know the world is so fucked up right now.”
There’s nothing wrong with a wild night out but I look back at 90s British youth culture in slight despair. Are there any other 90s children who feel the same?
By Gemma Rowbotham