I've mentioned before that girls born in the first half of the 1990s are the wild child type. Their first impression of the world at birth, and their secondary social birth around age 15, were both shaped by the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. The zeitgeist is freewheeling, anything-goes, come out of your shells, question everything, hold nothing taboo. It's not surprising that it produces the wild child.
Eagerness, instigating others to join you in mischief, enabling their daredevil behavior -- all traits that are adapted to prodding people out of their shells from the earlier vulnerable phase, which is the primary task of the restless phase. They've been slumbering for so long that they need to be noisily and playfully shaken awake and even pulled out of bed, to join everyone else in the day's adventures.
I've been going over the late 2000s culture a lot, and something else struck me about the girls who turned 15 then -- something that has stayed with them ever since, in a true generational fashion (not just a phase they went through). Their attachment style is much more on the anxious or insecure side than the late '80s and late '90s cohorts, on either side of them.
They are easily infatuated, fall in love quickly and hardly, and have trouble getting over someone. They're hyperactive, attention-seeking, love-bombing, and at the extreme, needy and clingy. They're very touchy-feely, naturally. They're liable to go over the top in femininity, girliness, and cutesiness, both to initially attract someone's attention, and to keep them from leaving once they've become close. When the social mood tends toward isolation, they will feel that as a stinging rejection of their craving for connection, rather than a welcome reprieve into coziness. They find little value in "me time".
It's not about fear of abandonment -- that puts too much on parent-child relationships, which don't have much formative effect. It's about social dynamics among your peer group, especially when you're being born as a clique-joining creature during adolescence.
When this process is taking place during an anything-goes atmosphere, it may make teenagers worry about their relationships not lasting through the topsy-turvy turbulence. Or perhaps it's the sense of urgency that marks the zeitgeist, once the vulnerable phase is over, when everyone is supposed to come out of their refractory state and get back to connecting with each other again. Those are the formative forces when you're turning 15 during the restless phase of the excitement cycle.
Before looking into the broader and enduring consequences of such a formative experience, let's look at some typical examples from pop culture. There are two examples each from the three phases of the excitement cycle -- the restless phase of the late 2000s, when they came into their own as late teenagers, the manic phase of the early 2010s when they were in their early 20s, and the vulnerable phase of the late 2010s when they were in their late 20s.
These enduring traits show that they are a true generational stamp, not just some phase they went through. They also show that this cohort is more connection-seeking than the ones on either side of it, since they're the most likely to still be crushing on others and looking for contact and validation even during the vulnerable phase. Most other people then are in a refractory state and would only feel social contact as painful over-stimulation.
Boxxy (2008-'09; born '92). A half-ironic persona of Catie Wayne that went viral on YouTube and various forums.
Miley Cyrus, "7 Things" (2008; born '92). The most anxiously-attached wild-child of that whole early '90s Disney cohort (Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, et al.).
Overly Attached Girlfriend (2012; born '91). An ironic persona of Laina Walker that went viral on YouTube and became a widespread meme format.
Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball" (2013). I include a second example of hers to show it wasn't just a fleeting phase she was going through. But I could've included something by Charli XCX (born '92), like "Lock You Up" from the same year.
Ava Max, "Sweet but Psycho" (2018; born '94). Such a welcome burst of clingy stalker feminine chaos, at a time when the overall zeitgeist was so avoidant, isolating, and numbing.
Tessa Violet, "Crush" (2018; born '90). Although half-disguised by ironic self-awareness, the pure sincerity of the longing-and-pining vibes cannot be concealed.
Aside from the obvious caricature of the Overly Attached Girlfriend, none of these feels creepy or off-putting. They're endearing and charming -- just like the girls intended. That includes the Ava Max persona -- that irresistible, heady, intoxicating spell of psycho-pussy. So much attention and energy being directed all-out onto you. Maybe it's the ego boost of knowing that a girl is driving herself crazy at the thought of not having you. Or maybe you need to be an anxiously attached person yourself, to enjoy a girl who's equally touchy-feely as you are. (The worst mismatch is a contact-seeking guy and an avoidant girl.)
I've had a weak spot for the early '90s girls ever since the late 2000s, when they were teenagers relentlessly flirting with, and often trying to scandalize, their hot 25 year-old tutor. Or as college girls circling around him at '80s night in the early 2010s. Everyone separated from everyone else during the late 2010s, but it's reassuring to see in hindsight that the early '90s girls were still trying to keep the social flame burning.
And I'll bet they're the most eager to break out of the quarantine, when they had been expecting the Roaring Twenties to finally re-establish social bonds that had frayed during the vulnerable phase.
Moving outside of my own perspective as an early '80s manic-phase birth, I can see how this type would not be so endearing -- indeed, would absolutely turn off -- a guy who was born in, and then turned 15, during a vulnerable phase, whose formative influences were a social refractory period. That would be guys born in the late '80s, early 2000s, early '70s, and late '50s. I expect them to have more avoidant attachment styles, and an anxiously attached girl would strike them as a homing missile to take evasive maneuvers against.
Future posts may look at other cohorts born during a restless phase -- late '70s, early '60s, late '40s -- to see how similar they are to the early '90s cohort. And of course, in just a couple years there will be another crop of Boxxys and Mileys, born in the late 2000s and turning 15 during the current restless phase. Me Too, Stay at Home, Billie Eilish, sad boy hip-hop, etc. will seem like ancient history, before their time, and not formative influences.
I seriously doubt they'll be able to top the early '90s cohort, because the late 2000s were so anything-goes, and the early 2020s don't appear to be quite so freewheeling of a restless phase. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Related post: Manic Pixie Dream Girls are born during the manic phase. They have a different personality and role from the wild-child type. They're more like nurses or guardian angels during the restless phase, when men need to be coaxed out of their shells, and then pursue their own needs during the manic phase once that nursing job is done. They're free spirits, more socially independent. Wild-child girls tend toward co-dependence, looking for a partner in crime rather than someone to nurse back to health.