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How ‘Late 90s Single Mom’ Became the Latest Y2K Aesthetic

A woman of Burt's Bees, Newports, and self-determination, it's no wonder TikTok is waxing nostalgic for your hot single mom and her '99 Camry.
MF
New York, US
August 17, 2021, 9:40pm
Collage of items from the 1990s and 2000s like a Sublime album, Apple laptop and grunge style
Composite by VICE Staff

She may never have picked you up on time—but damn, when she did, her hair smelled like nag champa and Bath & Body Works, and the CD rotation in her ‘99 Toyota Camry, from Macy Gray to Juliana Hatfield, slapped the hardest. She was a Goodwill queen. She burned through packs of Newport 100s, and knew all the lyrics to “Santeria.” She was your young, single mom in the 90s and early 2000s—and she just started trending on TikTok:

I’ve been served so many of these videos on my TikTok FYP over the past week, and in the words of creators like @acrylicbjtch111, they also have me “crying n throwing up rn” with joy—probably because most of the videos are anchored by a new sound effect, which pulls from an absolute banger by the UK band Bôa, Duvet (1998):

There’s a lot of 90s and 00s nostalgia right now. Paris Hilton is undergoing a proto-influencer renaissance, and Gen Z is upcycling your 2004 bedsheets into sellable Depop shirts. The nostalgia for your single mom in the 2000s is adjacent, but it doesn’t aspire to climb Privileged 2000s It-Girl Mountain. Instead, it pulls back the purple velvet curtain, which mom made from discounted fabric at Michaels, and raises a glass of AriZona iced tea to her hustle. She worked hard for every last thing you had to find in her purse on the way to Panda Express:

Sobe

Citrus Energy Drink (12 Bottles)

Random House Trade Paperbacks

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Pattern Play

Pastel Paradise Pipe

Burt's Bees

Moisturizing Lip Balm

And the vibe in mom’s bedroom? Forget it—so hot! The coziest place on earth, and it could’ve been pulled from a scene in Practical Magic or Sabrina the Teenage Witch. You just know she used an old Korn t-shirt as a nightie, and had some Design Toscano fairy statues next to some crusty essential oils.  

Hit Clips

Smash Mouth (3 Discs)

aura2000

Sun, Moon & Stars Comforters

Apple

iBook G3 Clamshell

So what makes momma TikTok-hot now? Well, enough decades have simply passed that we can finally look in the rearview mirror of her station wagon, and think, Damn—Mom really did the most, and usually on her own. By 2012, marriage had declined specifically among lower-income families, reported The Atlantic, with single parents becoming the new norm, and that single parent was “overwhelmingly a mother with a job,” the article explains, stating that, “​​19 million children live[d] in single-mother families, up from 17 million in 2000” due largely to a sweeping economic slowdown, public sector job cuts, and, IDK, the erosion of the nuclear family myth. “I was told my dad was Vin Diesel as a kid,” captioned one TikTok video creator. 

As Meredith Brooks sang in a song your 2000s mom definitely blasted, “I'm a bitch/ I'm a lover/ I'm a child/ I'm a mother/ I'm a sinner/ I'm a saint/And I do not feel ashamed.” 

Capitol Records

Blurring The Edges Cassette Tape – Meredith Brooks

Sony Legacy

The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill LP - Lauryn Hill

Sony Music Canada Inc.

Left Of The Middle LP – Natalie Imbruglia

Sony

On How Life Is LP – Macy Gray

Gasoline Alley

40oz. To Freedom LP – Sublime

A&M

Cmon Cmon Cassette Tape – Sheryl Crow

Single 2000s moms also straddled a kind of final information frontier. Access to the internet was around, but not ubiquitous, and most cell phone plans made you pay per SMS. Many of these moms were once steeped in the grungy, underground coffee house culture that had transitioned into a cultural aesthetic niche that design researchers call Global Village Coffeehouse in the 90s, and which became even more pervasive with the mainstream popularity of Starbucks and Frasier. “It's very wide-ranging and could be split into many sub-groups,” explain the coiners of the phrase at the Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI), think, “natural elements like trees/waves/landscapes, earth tones, hand-drawn look, 'airbrushed dirty look', the earth/globe, hearts... [Global Village Coffeehouse] is usually trying to convey 'sincerity' as much [as it] needed to sell something; sorta faux-naive, down to earth, warm [energy].” It was environmentally minded, and doused in essential oils. Neo-groovy. Barefoot, sexy, and in a bedazzled Bebe top. It was Mom.   

Bebe

Swarovski Logo Jersey Tank Top

Urban Outfitters

Wave Maxi Mesh Skirt

Vintage

Sobe Drink Graphic T Shirt

Simply put, the single 2000s mom was a real one. She was a goldmine of sincerity, self-agency, and lip gloss, and it’s no wonder her lore resonates so much with community-minded Gen Z and nostalgic millennials alike—and I’ll be leaning into it. The staler the Kid Cuisine, the more authentic the Y2K queen. 


The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.