Partying Like It Was 1999

By Katiedid Langrock

April 24, 2021 5 min read

I didn't grow up with Prince. My first introduction to him came in the form of Julia Roberts' taking a bubble bath with headphones in "Pretty Woman." He didn't play a role in my youth again until the first semester of my senior year of high school, when all any radio station could play was "1999."

We were about to jump into the next millennium and in the midst of Y2K hysteria was the resurgence of this old song, which was simultaneously upbeat and depressing and shockingly prophetic. And it fed perfectly into the senioritis that consumed my 17-year-old consciousness.

The song perfectly morphs into representing whatever the listener is experiencing. They say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, outta time. For me, that meant graduation. The party ending represented pending adulthood. And so, for the last time with my high-school friends, I was going to party like it's 1999. Because rather than die or graduate or adult, I'd rather dance my life away.

New Year's Eve, 1999, my friends and I booked a hotel room and tickets to an outdoor festival. Amid the hordes of partyers in the frigid December evening, we never found entry into the fairgrounds. What we did find was person after person holding a boombox and playing "1999" as loudly as those little speakers and D batteries would allow.

My main high-school crew was a good group. We didn't drink. We didn't smoke. We stayed away from anything that keeps parents of teenagers awake at night. On those rare occasions when I sneaked out at night, I'd meet a friend at the 7-Eleven, buy a bodacious number of Paydays and a bottle of Coke, and then call it a night. And I was the rebel of the group. So when it came to knowing what to do on New Year's Eve, we were not prepared to party like it was 1999. We were barely prepared to party like it was 1992.

There was no alcohol in our hotel room, and we didn't know how to get it. There were house parties all around us. But we didn't know how to get in. There was pot handed out. But we didn't know how to smoke it.

But Prince kept that night from being a dud. Perhaps it was osmosis. The sweet sounds of carpe diem sifting through the night sky. Or perhaps it had more to do with repetition therapy, hearing an idea spoken over and over until it resonated with us on a whole new level. Either way, that night — that song — got to me. It got to all of us.

We had passed a boy I knew from high school who had graduated the year before. I tapped on his shoulder, reintroduced myself and got my group invited to the party at his elder brother's house. We were promised there would be kegs. I said there'd better be. But I wasn't perfectly clear on what exactly a keg was. I was promised there'd be beer pong. I said it wouldn't be a party without it. Then I wondered whether pong was a type of beer or that Nintendo game with the big gorilla. And I was promised there'd be fun. This, I was banking on.

When we arrived at the house, "1999" was blaring from a boombox on the front steps. And for the first time, that song felt as if it applied to my life.

Many moons later, I still marvel at that night. There were a lot of firsts for my friends. A first drink. A first kiss. A first cigarette. I had my first "flaming Dr Pepper" shot and learned two things: 1) You are supposed to blow out the fire before you drink it. And 2) I must have had a small mustache growing in, because it got singed.

We danced. We sang. We laughed. We hugged. And when we got tired, we walked back to our hotel room, lay down — three girls to a bed — and shared secrets until the sun came up on our first morning of the year 2000.

It was one of the idyllic nights of adolescence. One of those magical nights when everyone pushed herself to be a little naughty but stayed within her own comfort zone so if that purple morning came and it was judgment day, there would be no regrets. And there weren't.

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Photo credit: penner

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