1. You have a photo of yourself being knighted at Medieval Times.
Or crowned princess on your birthday, in my case. Nothing like slipping back in time and investigating ancient torture methods before cheering on the black and white checkered knight as he conquered the evil green knight in an epic jousting match. Let’s not forget the whole eating with your hands element, either.
2. The last Metra train determined when you had to close out your tab.
And missing that last train meant a very expensive cab ride home from the city. You also knew that open containers were totally cool aboard the train, and necessary since Chicago cocktails were triple the price of your local Main Street bar. Let the train pre-game begin!
3. All your major life events were celebrated at Colonial.
Or whatever your local diner happened to be. Dance recitals, school musicals, graduations, etc. all ended with a Kitchen Sink at Colonial. Not only did you get to celebrate your accomplishments with a 6-scoop ice cream sundae served in a miniature kitchen sink, you also got to walk away with a bumper sticker to prove you’re a fat ass.
4. You have at least one photo of yourself crying at Six Flags Great America.
All right, maybe not every Chicago suburbanite hates walking around amusement parks in drenched denim as much as I do, but they definitely have made the trek to Gurnee at some point in their lives. One ride on the Viper’s 25-year-old wooden track (forward or backward) and you’ll be doubting your sanity for years to come.
5. Malls were definitely not just for shopping.
If you grew up in the ‘burbs, you know that malls are for much more than just picking up your latest pair of Chucks. Your local rundown mall was a sacred space for hanging out after school without the parents. Who knew browsing Hot Topic for hours could be constituted as fun?!
6. You knew someone with a lake house.
Not a cottage or a cabin or a summer home, it was definitely a lake house. It was probably in Wisconsin, and you probably got caught under-aged drinking there at least once by your friend’s parents, or worse.
7. You thought Chicago was home to museums and sports venues only.
You were certain that the only reason to visit Chicago was to attend the Museum of Science & Industry, Field Museum, Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field, Wrigley, Comiskey, or the United Center. It blew your mind when you turned 21 and learned there was so much more to Chicago than just Michigan Avenue and the lakeshore.
8. You knew the best Family Pantry or 7-11 slushy flavors.
And, you weren’t afraid to rock your bright blue lips for hours after your daily slushy intake. You also knew that blueberry and Coke really didn’t belong in the same 64oz. cup. Truly sacrilegious.
9. When traveling, you always say you’re from Chicago.
Of course, when the person asks what part, you have to quickly clarify that you’re actually not from Chicago-Chicago, but rather an hour west of the city. But let’s be honest, who the heck knows where Geneva is on the map?
10. Fast food parking lots were your Friday nights.
Whether it was McDonald’s or Wendy’s you knew where to find your friends on a Friday night. You sat there lined up in the parking lot like a Fast & Furious reenactment, sound systems screaming and neon lights aglow.
11. You attended way too many High School sporting events.
From a young age, you had a closet full of the local high school’s colors ready and waiting to be worn at the first football game. Your first awkward middle school kiss took place under the bleachers, and so did your best friend’s…because she was right next to you.
12. You now actually live IN Chicago.
You might have ventured to Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, or Michigan for college, but now you live back in Chicago, real Chicago. And, even though you love riding the “L” to work every day, you still do love spending a weekend catching up with the folks over some Chili’s queso dip.