Comedic Time Capsule: 35+ Gen X Memes That Are A Delightful Source Of Nostalgic Humor

By Jackie B January 19, 2024

This article was originally published on funniesnow

What’s with the age-old debate about generational differences? It’s like trying to compare apples to oranges, except these apples and oranges are characterized by different cultural upbringings, technological advancements, and societal norms. Gen X, sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, are the forgotten middle child trying to keep up with the times. But don’t worry, we’ll give them the spotlight they deserve.

Gen X have certainly made their mark in today’s world as memelords. From sharing their love for ’90s pop culture to poking fun at their middle-aged struggles, Gen X’s memes are relatable no matter what generation you come from. They’re the perfect mix of sarcasm, nostalgia, and a dry sense of humor. Gen X has got real talent, whether or not the Boomers or the Millenials care to admit it.

You Know You’re A Rich Kid When

The classic digital alarm clocks of the ’90s were a staple in many households, waking up groggy-eyed teens and bleary-eyed adults with their piercing beeps and flashing numbers. But what made these clocks truly special was the fact that you had to physically slam your hand on them to make them stop.

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There was something satisfying about giving that clock a good whack and feeling the satisfying thunk of your hand hitting plastic. Sure, it may not have been the most peaceful way to wake up, but it got the job done.

This Is How We Do It

Remember the ’90s rotary dial phone? These had a charm to them—you had to manually dial each number, and it took a little bit of skill to get it right. The sound of the dial spinning around was ASMR, and you had to be patient if you wanted to make a call.

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Plus, who can forget the feeling of getting your finger caught in the dial and having to start over again? It was a small inconvenience, but it added to the phone’s character. Nowadays, our phones are sleek and sophisticated, but there’s something nostalgic about the rotary dial.

Defining A Generation

For Gen X, the VCR tape was more than just a format for watching movies. It was a symbol of a bygone era, a time when entertainment was a little more tactile and family-friendly. And the only movie worth buying on VCR was Back to the Future.

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It had a lovable misfit protagonist, a time-traveling car, and a killer soundtrack. Who can forget the iconic scene where Doc is baffled by Marty’s camcorder? The film was a time capsule, with references to everything from Chuck Berry to Pepsi Free.

Saw That You Read There

In an era before the internet, libraries were the ultimate resource for information, and the library card was the key that unlocked this world of knowledge. Nothing tops the disdain we feel when we see that the library card to a favorite book has been taken.

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Who can forget the satisfaction of stamping the due date on a freshly borrowed book? It was a small pleasure. And another thing we loved was looking at the book’s history—who we personally knew had borrowed it and when. Makes for a rad discussion at the book club.

Mr. Wick

Before he became the action hero John Wick, Keanu Reeves played the lovable slacker Ted “Theodore” Logan in the 1989 classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The film tells the story of two high school friends who travel through time in a phone booth to gather historical figures for a school presentation.

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As Ted, Reeves was the embodiment of the laid-back surfer dude, complete with his trademark “whoa” catchphrase. But beyond the stoner persona, Reeves showed a range of emotion and comedic timing that would become a hallmark of his later work.

What Deck Did You Pick?

The Microsoft Solitaire card game was a staple of the Gen X computer experience. Included in every version of Windows since 1990, the game featured a virtual deck of cards that players could use to pass the time and lose their hand at.

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There was another factor that kids found especially appealing—the deck pattern. Some decks featured swirling paisley designs, while others had a more geometric, tile-like pattern. Sometimes, Gen X kids would quit the game just to choose a different design. Maybe this time around, they’ll win because of it.

Took Ten Minutes, At Least

In the ’90s, car theft was a common occurrence, with carjackings making the news on a regular basis. Car thieves would steal vehicles for a variety of reasons, including joyriding, stripping them for parts, or using them in more serious crimes.

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Getting out of your car was a full-blown production that could take up to 10 minutes or more. You had to crank up the windows and manually lock your steering wheel. Whereas people today take out their phone holders, ’90s drivers had to take out the radio entirely!

Def For Kids

When you think of the ’90s, you might imagine the bright and bold colors that defined the decade. And when it comes to technology, one of the most iconic design trends of the era was the use of transparent plastics in a variety of pop colors.

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From the iMac G3 to the Game Boy Color, products with translucent shells in shades like blue, green, and purple were everywhere. These gadgets stood out on store shelves and made a statement in the hands of their owners. So yeah, you can imagine why we considered these as collectibles.

The Sad Generation

Ellipses are a defining characteristic of Gen X-ers when it comes to written communication. This punctuation mark is often used to trail off thoughts, to suggest an unfinished or incomplete idea. And it’s a habit that can be traced back to the experience of growing up as a middle child.

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In their youth, Gen Xers were often dismissed by adults, having no significant say in politics or other life decisions. They were never seen as capable of sensible thought, and up until adulthood, their ideas weren’t taken seriously. Sounds sad, doesn’t it?

Lone Purpose

In the ’90s, mobile phones were a luxury item that few people could afford. And even if you were lucky enough to have one, the idea of taking a selfie was pretty much nonexistent. These things were there for only one purpose—to receive and make calls.

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Text messaging was just starting to gain popularity, but the idea of snapping a photo of yourself and sharing it with your friends was still a far-off dream. Pros: no duck selfies, moderate levels of narcissism, and actual downtime to converse with friends.

That’s What She Said

When it comes to iconic hairstyles, the ’60s and ’80s are two decades that immediately come to mind. In the ’60s, voluminous hair was all the rage. From the bouffants of Jackie Kennedy to the teased beehives of Dusty Springfield, big hair was the epitome of glamour.

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But by the time the ’80s rolled around, hairstyles had evolved into something even more outrageous. Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet defied gravity whilst punk fans’ mohawks deprived people behind them of visual access to the stage. Maybe there’ll be a comeback in the 2030s.

All The Band-Aids

This is probably why we grew up resilient and in search of adrenaline. From rickety wooden roller coasters to spinning teacups that didn’t have any seat belts, these rides were a staple of our childhoods—and our parents’, well, parenting styles.

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It’s a wonder that there were any ice packs and Band-Aids left in the stores every day. But then again, this was all too common in the ’80s and the ’90s. Let kids experience the thrill while they still can—before their backs hurt and knees lock up.

Dream Come True

For many Gen X kids, growing up meant constantly longing for things they couldn’t have. Whether it was the latest toy or a set of fairy lights for their bedroom, it seemed like there was always something just out of reach.

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But now that we’re adults and earning adult money, we have the luxury of spending these on things we would have bought our kid selves. It’s never too late to make dreams come true, especially ones you hoped for, for so long.

Our Expectations of Life

The busy world of Richard Scarry—a place where animals drive cars, work at jobs, and live in houses that look like shoes. For many of us, this colorful and whimsical world was a staple of our childhood, teaching us valuable lessons about responsibility, community, and the value of hard work.

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But as we grew older, we realized that adult life is far more mundane. Not everyone is smiling 24/7, we don’t have pets everywhere to give us fuzzy hugs when we’re feeling down, and city life is certainly less colorful.

Eons Away

Remember the good old days of going to Blockbuster and picking out a movie to rent on VHS? If you do, congratulations—you’re officially old! It’s okay for you to feel a little embarrassed by the fact that your age is given away by your fond memories of renting movies on VHS.

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It’s hard to admit that we’re getting older and that the things we used to take for granted are now relics of the past. It kind of makes you understand what Boomers must feel when they speak of “the good old days.

Plug It In

Back in the day, Gen X kids didn’t have fancy-schmancy HDMI cables, C-to-C cables, or wireless charging devices. No sirree, they had to make do with what they had, and that usually meant struggling with those darn tri-colored RCA cables!

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The white connector is for left audio, the red is for right audio, and the yellow is for video. Simple, right? Ha! Not when you’re fumbling around trying to plug them in behind your TV or entertainment center. You could spend an hour plugging these things in.

Getting There

The goth subculture has been around since the late 1970s and is characterized by its dark aesthetic. Goths often wear black clothing, heavy makeup, and dark accessories. But goths during Gen X years were different from the macabre goths of today’s time.

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There are many goth elders who continue to dress in black and attend goth events well into their golden years. They see it as a way to express themselves and stay true to who they are, regardless of their age.

Comforting Idea

Christopher Lloyd is a familiar face from his iconic role as Doc Brown in Back to the Future. So, it was a fun surprise for fans of the actor to see him pop up in two different sci-fi franchises in recent years.

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This is actually comforting. Maybe Gen X isn’t that old if they’re able to witness Christopher Lloyd in The Mandalorian and the Back to the Future films that are nearly 30 years apart. Oh, the nostalgia of yesterday’s fascination with sci-fi!

The Dumbest Stuff

Ah, the good old days of the ’80s and ’90s—when our TV shows were pure, wholesome, and didn’t involve any of that Kardashian drama. Instead, we had shows like Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which was about a man-child who lived in a magical playhouse with talking furniture and toys.

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Here we are, scoffing at the younger generation for watching reality TV shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which isn’t exactly high-brow entertainment. But, to be fair, neither is Pee Wee Herman wearing a six-pack ring on his face.

One Hit Wonder

Mind you, compact discs were expensive in the ’80s and ’90s, but there’s no price tag for good music. We just had to have a copy of Nirvana or TLC’s album, even if it meant shelling out $15—a month’s worth of allowance!

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And let’s not forget the frustration of having to fast forward or rewind through all the other tracks just to get to that one song we loved. It was a whole ordeal, but we did it anyway because we just couldn’t get enough of that one hit.

Aging Gracefully

It’s true—if you look at photos of 45-year-olds from the 1980s, they often look much older than the 45-year-olds of today. But why is that? Do we have fancy skincare regimens to credit for graceful aging? That’s one reason for it.

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Maybe it’s the awareness of the importance of sunscreen. Or, perhaps, it’s a combination of perspective and casting choices. Heck, it could’ve been all that hair dye from the punk era that turned our hair white prematurely. We’ll never know the real answer, will we?

His Livelihood

Cartoons have really changed throughout the years. Today, PG shows are conflict-free, violence-free, and often made with annoying CGI. But back in the day, it was delightful chaos with wacky sound effects and impossible physics… and we loved every second of it!

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We knew it wasn’t real, but there was always a part of us that hoped that if we drew a picture of a tunnel, it would become real, and we could walk through it. And good luck convincing us that Will E Coyote isn’t splattered under fallen boulders!

Chucky, the Doll

Chucky, the infamous red-haired doll from the horror movie franchise Child’s Play, has been terrorizing audiences since the late ’80s. Chucky quickly became an icon in the horror genre, with his devilish grin and cackle sending shivers down the viewers’ spines.

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But as with all things, even Chucky has aged. We’re not even sure if he can still wield a knife properly. He might not have the same aim as he did when he was younger or the creativity to cross off people on his list as he once did.

Times Have Changed

It’s funny how times have changed. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, if someone was described as a “bum,” it typically meant that they were living in their parents’ basement, with no job, no prospects, and no ambition. They would never amount to anything!

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Fast forward to today, and that’s just what people aim to do: nothing. Now, doing your work from the comforts of your home, and live streaming your guitar play is a legitimate way to rake in money. Parents are now proud to call their kids influencers.

Monumental

There was something satisfying about the whirring sound of the pencil sharpener as it did its job, grinding away at the pencil’s dull tip until it was sharp and ready to write. We could never figure out why, though, that wall-mounted sharpener was always front and center.

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The pencil sharpener wasn’t just a tool for sharpening pencils. Standing up to sharpen your pencil was the perfect way to show off your new kicks. Everyone would look up, grateful for a distraction, and that was your time to shine!

Joke’s on Him

Galileo Galilei is one of the most celebrated scientists in history, known for his groundbreaking work in physics, astronomy, and mathematics. But even he would be surprised to hear that some people still confuse him with a certain “Galileo” who was a poor boy from a poor family.

Image courtesy of Justus Sustermans/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

In fact, it’s common for people to mix up his name with that of the famous Queen song, Bohemian Rhapsody. This dad waits for his kid to break into a laugh. Joke’s on him. The only Queen his kid knows comes from the British monarchy.

Do You Know Of…

Kids of the ’80s find it hard to communicate with people who are less than 30 years old. Just what point of reference should they use? Most of the time, they ask whether these kids were born early enough to know what a payphone or dial-up internet were.

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The world has changed so much since the ’80s that it’s difficult to relate to the younger generations. Gen X grew up in a time when they actually had fun without the need for the internet, and they are mindful about being present.

Grow Up Big and Strong

Gen X grew up in a time when playground equipment was much simpler and often much riskier than it is today. Public swings and amusement park rides were often made of metal, had sharp edges, and no seat belts or restraints.

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But did we miss out on the fun? We sure did not! What mattered after playtime was that we could walk unrestrained. We could wing a scratch or two and then be back on the swing the day after. As with any endeavor, consistency is key!

Try to Keep Still

One of the defining characteristics of Gen X childhoods was the DIY mentality of our parents. With limited financial resources and a desire to make the most of what they had, many Gen X moms became experts in all sorts of household tasks, including hairstyling.

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While these homemade haircuts may not have always turned out perfectly, they were a way for families to save money and foster a sense of self-sufficiency. Kids would sit still (or try to!) while their moms trimmed away, often with the help of a few strategically placed hair clips.

The Dad of Our Generation

Mister Rogers was a beloved figure in the lives of many Gen X kids who grew up watching his show. With his gentle demeanor and kind heart, he provided a sense of comfort and stability in a world that often felt chaotic and confusing. He gave sound advice, too!

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Through his show, Mister Rogers taught kids about the importance of kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence. He didn’t shy away from difficult topics, like death and divorce, and instead approached them with honesty and compassion. And he taught Gen X to use art to cope with these emotions.

Treasure Hunting

No matter what decade you grew up in, a trip to the dentist was and always will be a dreadful, painful appointment. But in the ’80s, there was one silver lining to the whole ordeal—the treasure chest. So long as they stay still for a good thirty minutes, then they’re good.

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What’s the treasure chest? It’s that magical box of goodies that dentists kept in their office, filled with cheap trinkets and toys that are meant to distract Gen X kids from the fact that they would be back in that chair within the year.

Jailtime for Kids

Do you remember the McDonald’s of the ’80s and ’90s? It was a different era, a time when the Golden Arches had a bit of a scary vibe to them. The employees wore striped uniforms that looked like they were straight out of a prison movie.

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And their faces were hidden behind creepy, expressionless masks. Think, The Purge, except for kids and without any malicious intent. Looking back on it, we can’t help but wonder who did the costumes and what they were thinking. None of this seems kid-friendly.

Whole Transformation

In the classic ’80s movie The Breakfast Club, Allison, the quiet, withdrawn outsider who spends most of the movie sitting silently in the corner, hiding behind her hair, undergoes a transformation. She sheds her introverted persona and emerges as a confident young woman, complete with a whole new attitude.

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For many Gen Xers, Allison’s transformation resonates deeply. We were a generation of misfits and outsiders, struggling to find our place in a world that often didn’t understand us. And like Allison, many of us went through our own personal transformations—shedding our awkward teenage selves and emerging as confident, self-assured adults.

Different Times

The ’80s gave us many great movies, but few are as iconic as Grease. This classic musical tells the story of high school sweethearts Danny and Sandy. There’s just one blatant fact—most of the actors and actresses playing teenagers in the movie were clearly not teenagers themselves.

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Sure, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were both in their mid-20s when they filmed the movie, but at least they looked young enough to pass as high school students. The same can’t be said for some of their co-stars. They should call the trope “Dawson Casting” “Grease Casting” instead.

The Y2K

In the late 1990s, we feared that the transition to the year 2000, also known as Y2K, would cause widespread computer malfunctions and even system crashes. This fear arose because many computer programs had been designed with only two digits to represent the year, such as ’97’ for 1997.

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The fear was that the computers would interpret ’00’ as 1900 instead of 2000, leading to a range of problems such as incorrect dates on files, malfunctioning software, and even potential disruptions in essential systems. Hence the illogical advice of turning off the computer before midnight to avoid these issues.

Red Eyes

Aside from the limited number of pictures, there was another downside to the rollback cameras of the 1980s. If you look back at pictures developed in that time, you’ll frequently see people having red eyes. It’s a timestamp of days long gone.

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As it turns out, the red eyes appear because the light bounces back from this part of the eye called the choroid. It’s rich with blood, causing the famed reflection. There aren’t any harsh flashes going off in today’s phones, so it isn’t as common now.

Armed and Egg-y

How did Gen X pass the time without Pokemon Go and Instagram to scroll through? Why they dunked cars and houses with eggs, of course! Kids would go out, armed with trays of eggs and launch them at passing cars and houses.

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Just why did they do it? For the same reason you watch TikTok for hours on end—for no logical reason at all! It was the ultimate game of dodgeball, with innocent bystanders and slowpokes as the competition. And if they tried to catch it, they still lost!

Legend

Phil Collins is a legendary musician who has made a fortune for himself. He was so famous that his songs were always featured on a radio station, including metal rock! You were bound to hear “In the Air Tonight” or “Against All Odds” at some point any time you switched the station.

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This trend continued until the 2000s, and you would still hear his songs from karaoke bars and videoke stands. That’s why Phil Collins is a household name to this day. His music appeals to a diverse range of listeners, pop enthusiasts, and emo kids.

Gotta Have ‘Em

Every Gen X kid can see their mom’s shelf lined with any and all of these hair products: hairspray, styling gel, or mousse. These were the gravity-defying secrets to a clean, voluminous hairstyle, perfect for a girl’s night out or a night cooking for the children.

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Hairspray, in particular, was an essential tool in keeping this hairstyle together. It helped add volume and texture. And let’s not forget about the iconic smell—that distinct, chemical scent that lingered in the air long after the can had been put away.

Wired

In the days before remote controls became a household staple, children served as the de facto “remote control” for their parents’ television viewing. It was a simpler time, when changing the channel required nothing more than coaxing a kid to run towards the TV and to turn the knob.

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Parents would often sweetly ask their kids to turn the channel. “Can you find something good for us to watch?” all the while kicking back on the couch and sipping on a refreshing drink. Now, when you see Gen Xers worried about losing their remote, you know why.

At Least, Someone Was Happy

Barry Manilow is known for his catchy and romantic hits that dominated the music charts in the ’70s and ’80s. However, in the ’80s, he also ventured into a strange and unexpected direction: jingles. You can tell that he was high in spirits from the song titles.

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The crooner of “Mandy” and “Copacabana” wrote jingles for various companies in the ’80s, including McDonald’s, Pepsi, and even the insurance company, State Farm. They aren’t as famous as his other songs, and for good reason. These are better left forgotten.

Perfect Housewife

What is it about the wooden bowl that resonates so deeply with Gen X? Perhaps it’s the fact that it represents a rejection of the consumerism and excess that defined the ’80s and early ’90s. The wooden bowl was a kitchen staple where the dainty housewife would freshly prepare a Caesar salad.

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Fans of the classic movie The Big Lebowski will also recognize the wooden bowl as the vessel that the character of The Dude uses to mix his White Russians. This film, which has achieved cult status among Gen Xers, has helped cement the wooden bowl’s place in popular culture.

Business, Huh

If there’s one fashion trend that epitomized the 1980s, it’s got to be short shorts. And while women certainly rocked their fair share of high-cut denim and neon spandex, it was the men who really took this trend to heart (or rather, to thigh).

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Every guy was sporting a pair of short shorts at some point. Whether they were jogging in the park, playing basketball with their buddies, or just lounging around in their backyard, it was all about showing off as much hairy leg as possible. *Cringe*

A Little Compromise

Back to the Future showed us what life would be like in the year 2015, and we were convinced that by the time we reached that magical year, we’d all be living in flying cars, wearing self-lacing shoes, and self-drying jackets.

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The future didn’t quite turn out the way we thought it would. We may not have flying cars (yet), but we do have smartphones, hoverboards, and streaming services that let us watch all our favorite movie, Back from the Future, from the comfort of our own homes.

Eaten Alive

In the ’80s, playgrounds featured large plastic structures that were meant to resemble hamburgers, hot dogs, and other fast food items. These play structures were often brightly colored and had holes and tunnels that kids could crawl through or slide down.

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The hamburger play structure was made up of a large, circular platform that was surrounded by several smaller platforms that were meant to look like burger toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It seemed all fun and games from within. But from the outside, it seemed like a carnivorous being.