Convincing our parents to let us wear heels, practising our signature, daydreaming of marriage, lining our eyes with kohl pencil and daily checking blossoming boobs and pubes: at primary school we were absolutely obsessed with growing up. Therefore, one of the trends that hit us in the early nineties was paradoxically surprising: pacifiers.
What started with a wool thread and a single, plain plastic pacifier grew into an overwhelming desire to show off our plastic richness and ended with pounds of bright-coloured pendants hanging from our necks.
Mind, these were the days before the Internet, the years before sabbatical travelling, and generally, also the age before sufficient pocket money. This was shopping as shopping was meant to be. Saving up for weeks, eyeing up the desired colour, size and shape, and finally, when the last pennies were in, run to the shop overcome by excitement. I vividly remember crying when the blue glittery pacifier I’d dreamt of for weeks – or, to be honest, I mostly imagined the jealous looks of my classmates – was sold out. The dramatic sulking must have been heart-breaking and completely incomprehensible for anyone not involved in the craze.
As we all bought from the same shops in the same town, and therefore, the same stock, it became increasingly important to stand out from the crowd. Larger sizes, different colours, and inevitably, different shapes would earn you massive kudos and playground cred. Family in other parts of the country would return with exotic treasures and I was lucky enough to visit my grandparents in Germany: not only did the stock exceed my expectations, they were happy to fund my obsession in return for a smile, and perhaps the suggestion that I was still at an appropriate age for actual pacifiers – making them feel like time hadn’t fled as much.
By the time shops and factories had properly picked up on the emerging trend, we were becoming jaded. We added baby bottles to the pacifiers, rattles soon followed, and before we knew it, shops were flooded with dolphins, trolls, fruits, and miniature toys – all made out of that hard, bright see-through plastic with the mesmerising air bubbles, proof of their hasty Japanese production process. In its heyday, my necklace, which I counted several times a day as if it were a rosary, had 37 plastic creations on it and created red lines in my neck from its incredible weight.
And, of course, as with all fun trends, the pacifiers were soon surrounded by controversy when headlines warned us that they were toxic and that numerous children had choked on them – even though actually using them for their sucking purpose was a terrible faux pas in my class. Yet, just like those straight-and-slap wristbands apparently slashed main arteries and silly putty supposedly caused cancer, our parents threw our collected pride and joy in the bin. Fighting childish tears, we finally grew up.
By Janneke De Jong
Ed says: I remember around the same time these necklaces were popular so were those giant red dummy-shaped sweets. You usually got them at seasides such as Margate and Blackpool or at theme parks including Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventure. Funnily enough no one felt stupid sucking on a gigantic dummy bakcn then, including myself. Although I can’t even have been out of primary shcool at the time, I was certainly old enough to know better, but back then everyone else was doing it, and it tasted nicer than any real dummy. Well…. that’s that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
My mum also embraced the trend, even going as far as buying me a tiny gold dummy to add to the crucifix on the gold chain I already wore. I have no idea what prompted her to do that, but I didn’t complain. Thanks mummy!