I didn't really watch it the first time around. Here's a funny story about that: my sister's friend Jaime used to work where I worked, and she's a couple years younger than I am, and one day she asked me if I watched MSCL the previous night, and I was like (and this kills me now, what a snot I was) "Um, no, because I'm a grownup. I watched Friends". All these years later, that sounds absolutely hilarious and horrible. At the time it made perfect sense, because, god, I was far too mature to watch a show about high school.
Of course the truth is that the show would have killed me to watch. I was only a few years out of high school myself, it was too soon, the wounds of those years were too fresh, and frankly, the show is too real. Someday my kids will ask me what it was like when I was a teenager and I might as well just point them to the collector's edition DVD set, because there was nothing that happened on MSCL that didn't happen in my actual high school life. Those kids dressed like I dressed, talked like I talked, moped like I moped, and had voiceovers in their head, just like I had. Watching a couple of episodes for the first time a few years after it originally aired, I was non-stop cringe and cry. I couldn't actually watch the entire series. It was still too soon, wounds too fresh, high school too real.
Yesterday I watched a couple of episodes while folding laundry, and it still hits hard, but in a different spot: this time, it was the parents who made me cringe. Oh, the kids still resonate. But now, instead of being totally focused on those kids and how they were my exact past, I couldn't stop watching the parents and understanding that they are my exact future (minus, one hopes, the bad haircuts and incredible Mom jeans). And so again, I can't actually watch the series. It's just too real, and the future's close enough as it is.