I first heard this song waiting for carpool pick-up in my Volvo SUV☺ Not very nice to mothers are you Bowling For Soup? In cheesy recent pop, we much prefer Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom (has got it going on)” thank you very much. While I did (and still do) enjoy a lot of 80s music, I was also happy to put that decade behind me—no snakeskin miniskirt, boyfriend, or Duran Duran concerts to wax nostalgic about there.
My memories of the high school in the 80s have a lot more in common with Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep than “The Breakfast Club” or “Sixteen Candles.”
So it is not without irony that I find myself shopping for an 80’s theme party at H&M, where clothes from that decade seem to have made a comeback. They are playing “Blister in the Sun,” a female-vocalist, Euro-pop version that lacks all the angst of the Violent Femmes original. I score a pair of leatherette leggings, fuchsia satin top and black Members Only-style jacket. Paying for these clothes, wearing rather conservative and uninspired “bourge-y” sweater, slacks and Ferragamo handbag, I’m sure the register girl at H&M thinks I’m schizophrenic or have a whole alternative night-life as a street-walker.
After the H&M experience, I feel the need to explain to the 20-something sales-girl at Sephora the objective behind my request for shimmery fuchsia eye shadow: “I’m buying this for an 80s party” meaning “I don’t normally have this bad taste.” The sales girl with the dyed black hair and nose ring (who definitely was not born earlier than 1980) is impressed. “Una fiesta, anos ochenta, que guay!” She explains this to her gay male sales associate with the Clark Kent-style glasses. He’s impressed too. “Una fiesta ochentera! We wish we were going.” Are the 80s suddenly cool again, even for people too young to remember that decade?
Actual items of clothing or accessories worn by Nathalie MF in the 80s
1) Baggy sweater and leg warmers
2) Stirrup pants
3) Jellies shoes
4) Neon socks
5) Shirts with shoulder pads
6) Large hoop ear-rings
8) Stonewashed jeans with zippers at the bottom of the leg. I babysat many hours to save up the $50 for that pair of Guess jeans.
10) Catholic school-girl plaid skirt, white shirt with Peter Pan collar, knee socks and penny loafers--until my transfer to “The John Knox Institute” which didn’t have a uniform, but did have a strict dress code
11) Lots of Laura Ashley floral skirts and dresses. Embarrassing but true. I spent a lot of time ironing yards of floral fabric to perfect this look.
12) Bermuda shorts and argyle knee socks.
13) Kelly green and electric blue eye-liner
7) Pouf-dress for prom
14) Total write-off year? 8th grade: braces, bad Farrah Fawcett haircut, put on a few pounds, but did not grow taller, had chicken pox the summer before, which was not good for skin, almost failed Algebra…
Then vs. Now
Favorite High School Reunion depiction—30 Rock Episode where Liz Lemon goes back to suburban Philadelphia for her 20th reunion: their private plane gets stranded in the bad weather and Jack accompanies her. She says nobody will believe he’s young enough to be their classmate and he counters: “Rich 50 is like middle-class 37.” She remembers being a nerdy outcast, but they all remember her as being mean, sarcastic and intimidating. She plays spin the bottle and winds up with Jack. They not only don’t kiss, he decides her classmates are right about her.
Sure I was: Nerdy and sarcastic, but most definitely not intimidating.
Happy I grew up then because….no cell phones, messaging or Internet. The stupid things you said and did were confined to throw-away notes or your high school yearbook--not broadcasted, mass-distributed and memorialized in the ether.
Moved on to the 90s for:
Curtis Sittenfeld “Prep” fame-whore/narrow-miss media humiliation
Graduated from college in 1994. Pitched my failure to find a job, combined with large number of interview opportunities to Rolling Stone writer for their “Gen X column—looking for the first job episode.” Used winning lines like “I discussed this with my grandmother and her friends and they said “Honey, we just don’t know what to tell you. When we graduated from college, we joined the Junior League and started playing bridge’;” “I used to write about Personality and Artistic Theory, now look at me, I’m writing about evaporators and batch digesters;” “I picked which college recruiting meetings to attend based on the quality of their buffet spread;” “I failed my interview for a derivatives sales and trading position at a large multi-national bank. I don’t think it mattered so much that I didn’t know what a derivative was…it was the moment I discussed my senior thesis on Samuel Johnson’s theories about being un-able to enjoy/live-in the present because we are constantly fixated on a past or future, which is either far worse or impossibly idealized compared to the ever-vanishing present…where The Head wrote me off as not possessing the driven, goal-oriented Derivatives personality.”
Almost (sort of, not) briefly Infamous
The article never got published and I got three good meals out of this (including one at an upscale restaurant!) on Rolling Stone’s tab.
Will never be representative of my generation because
I actually know most of the lyrics to Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone”…