Guelph 80s family ends year of living in the past

Blair McMillan, 27 his partner Morgan Patey, 28 and their two sons Trey, 5, and Denton, 3, have spent the last year playing an elaborate game of make-believe, pretending it is the year 1986 — the year Blair and Morgan were born.

For one year, a family of four from Guelph has been living the low-tech life – no phones, no computers – and embracing what is arguably the most universally unflattering haircut: the mullet.

Blair McMillan, 27, his partner Morgan Patey, 28, and their two sons Trey, five, and Denton, three, have spent the last year playing an elaborate game of make-believe, pretending it is the year 1986 — the year Blair and Morgan were born.

I don't think we'll parent our kids the same – and it will never really be the same because we'll be a lot more aware of what they're using.- Blair McMillan, 80s dad

They even dressed the part, with mullets for dad and the two boys, an 80s-inspired hairstyle for Morgan, and vintage clothing for all.

On Monday, their year of living in 1986 will come to an end and they will head gradually, with some reluctance, into 2014. The following is a condensed and edited conversation with Blair McMillan on his last day living as though he were in the 80s.

1. What will your first non-80s day look like?

It's weird because we've been living like this for so long...I think we'll just gradually go into everything. Get a cell phone again and...just kind of get back into 2014 again. Happy New Year!

2. What will you miss most about living in the 80s?

Obviously the hair. I'll just miss relaxing in the family room, while the kids play and there's no distractions and I'm not obviously caught up in my phone.

I get a lot of mixed reviews [on my mullet]. Some people love it and say never cut it, and then obviously a lot of women say to Morgan, 'How do you put up with that?'

But now, Morgan thinks the kids' hair is really cute so she's having a tough time deciding whether she wants to cut their hair off or's interesting because Denton's never actually had a haircut, he's coming up on three years old. His hair grows into a natural mullet.

3. What has this experience been like for your family?

It was a real positive experience. It's actually kind of bittersweet, knowing it's ending. We had a lot more fun than we expected. When the project first started there was a lot of anxiety and Morgan was really nervous about giving up her iPad and her smartphone and it was almost like we lived in a whole different world than anyone else. I think it would just be sad going back to everything because we had a lot of positive experiences. But obviously the way the world is in 2014, it's impossible to live your life like that because eventually you won't have any friends left because you're such a nuisance communicating with everybody else. 

The most challenging part would have been that we are out of the loop with everybody else. And we did live in our own little box in our house because we kind of cut ourselves off from the rest of the world because the only way we could talk to people was to call, and nobody does that as much anymore.

Obviously, we still talk to a lot people but I think people just kind of forgot about us because we're weren't...[into] texting, we're not in emails and things like that...we're not on Facebook so you can't invite us via Facebook. So we're kind of in our own little world so that was hard, obviously, and it'll be nice to get back into knowing what's going on and things like that."

4. How will you live your life differently after this experience?

I don't think we'll parent our kids the same – and it will never really be the same because we'll be a lot more aware of what they're using. Obviously the kids are at an age now where they're just using their technology for games and, you could argue, not productive things.

As Trey and Denton grow up I think we'll try and keep it as it is right now, having them play with toys, using their imagination, building. And then, as they get older and they need to use computers for productive things when it comes to school...we'll have them use them for that.

5. As you head into 2014, do you have any final thoughts on the 80s?

Just that it was a fun year in the 80s and now I know why everybody loved the eighties. [This] project forced us to be more social and use our time more wisely because we didn't have as many distractions. So we just had a fun year... introducing to our kids what we did as kids and that's just playing, just doing silly things, hand paintings, colouring, and playing with trains.


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