What a perfect morning we had today … bright and beautiful, and I was just itchin’ to get outside and enjoy it. I aimed to take a long walk, a journey of sorts, because today is the first day of a new decade for me – the 60s.
It isn’t an age that I will embrace, nor did I jump up and down when the clock struck twelve midnight to shout “I’m sixty now!” No, uh-uh. I know that when I fill out online surveys, I have to scroll down a little further now since I’ve jumped into the category of 60-64, leaving 55-59 behind in the dust.
Truthfully, turning 60 seems a tad sad to me, albeit even a little scary, because, it did not seem to be all that long ago, that I, along with my peers, proclaimed that we didn’t trust anyone over 30 … and, now I am twice that age. I wonder about the changes that will transpire in this decade like retirement, getting a senior discount, and going on Social Security just to name a few.
I had lots of thoughts and memories churning around in my head as I made my purposeful strides down Emmons Boulevard. During my walk, my mind, which is usually a blank slate and ready to observe and enjoy the doings happening beyond the confines of the house, was instead like a movie reel, replaying, and remembering the events of significant birthdays and years now long gone. So, as I meandered along on this fine morn, sunny to boot, here are some of memories and vignettes along that long path which began on April 14, 1956, some of which are chronicled in the collage above.
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Buzzwords bemuse me sometimes – there are always new ones to learn and the overused buzzwords and social media vocabulary get downright tiresome after a while. Really how many things can go viral?
I think one of the most overused words today is “millennials” – millennials do this; millennials do that; they like this, they don’t like that. Enough of the millennials already! I really don’t recall so much emphasis being placed on baby boomers and analyzing their every thought or action.
Even the word buzzword is a buzzword.
In a recent blog post here, I mentioned how we all had our photos taken years ago in our Easter finery, either posing with our basket of treats, maybe with our siblings, or maybe even with the Easter Bunny. I said many of our parents had already digitized those photos from the family album and you often saw those pictures posted on “Throwback Thursday” … well, that last expression prompted my friend Ann Marie to ask me what “Throwback Thursday” was. She is not on social media, so she had never seen how people like to post those old pictures of friends and family from “back in the day” (still another overused phrase) and then everyone makes snarky comments or reminisces about the good old days. “Throwback Thursday” has become a forum for laughing at ourselves, sometimes because the styles were somewhat outlandish – no, make that downright crazy. It is great to have a look back at what seemed to be perfect days, and in looking back, they were probably a little tarnished and not so golden as you remember.
One expression or buzzword phrase I keep hearing is “sixty is the new forty”, and, as I divulged above, I guess I’m about to find out if that is true or not, since I turned sixty today. I am buoyed by the story I read recently about the 90-year-old woman who had celebrated her 70th anniversary at the same job. She loves her job and there she was, dressed to the hilt, and teetering on high heels and only missing a handful of days in seven decades. That story energizes me because perhaps 90 now is the new 60 or 70?
Well, looking back through the years gave me a few giggles anyway. I mean, some of the things that seemed so traumatic at the time, just resolved themselves in the end … no worries at all and I have lived to tell about it, like …
Age 7 – Well, horror of horrors, I got my first pair of eyeglasses on my 7th birthday. They were pinky-brown with a cat-eyed shape and as I peered at myself in the mirror, I did not like what I saw and burst into tears and cried out “I won’t wear these!”, however, my parents, who were very strict, and not in the least bit tolerant of temper tantrums thought otherwise. I just hated those glasses and would take them off at school, sometimes even wrapping a piece of white bandage tape around the frame to pretend they were broken, thus ill-fitting and so I couldn’t wear them. The teacher probably caught onto this ruse, plus, I was also blind as a bat, so that when no one was looking at me, I’d sneak them back onto my face. I dodged my father every time he had the camera out as I did not want my photo captured on film with those glasses on, and, I would try a similar technique years later when I wore a mouthful of metal braces just to avoid getting my picture taken.
Age 13 – Back then, it was not just your birthday, but didn’t it seem that the whole week revolved around your special day? Please don’t think me cruel for saying that my grandfather spoiled my entry into the teen years by passing away a few days before my big event. I hated my grandfather, as did my grandmother and mother, and I’ve written about him here in the past. He was not the kind of grandfather that you’d want to climb up on his knee and listen to stories about him growing up. I was no precocious child, but he made me so mad one time that I climbed down onto the floor and went over and bit him – hard – on the ankle. He swatted me away like I was an annoying insect. So, sitting in the funeral parlor that reeked of lilies and false praise didn’t sit well with me then and to this day, the sight of white lilies remind of that time.
Age 17 – Every adolescent girl’s worst nightmare was not being asked by a boy to the prom, especially when it is on your birthday! Well, it was certainly not the biggest blow I’d ever sustain in my life, but at the time, it was devastating. Time, of course, has erased this teenager’s angst over the prom, which sentiments I identified with a few years later in Janice Ian’s song “At Seventeen”. I had five close friends the tail end of high school and we were inseparable – three were asked to the prom and three of us were not. My parents, sensing my anguish, threw a surprise party for me the night before at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor where my friends and I would feast on mounds of ice cream that arrived at the table in a huge silver bowl … their birthday specialty “World Famous Farrell’s Zoo”, and it was quite memorable to say the least (burp).
Age 30 – This was a nothing-special birthday as flipping into the decade of the 30s was no big deal for me. My grandmother had recently passed away and we had already planned to travel to Toronto for a birthday celebration at her house, so that idea had to be scrapped and it was just a subdued birthday dinner.
Age 40 – Turning 30 didn’t bother me, but turning 40 gave me cause to pause. I was very vain and didn’t think I looked my age, so I was very happy to volunteer my age every chance I got. “Do you need to see my driver’s license?” I would ask as I voluntarily whipped it out of my wallet. My mom would listen to my words and admonish me, saying “a lady doesn’t tell her age” but it really didn’t stop me. A few days before I turned 40, my mom announced she had ordered the gag birthday gift “Flamingoes by the Yard” to be delivered in the very early morning of my 40th birthday. The company places pink plastic flamingoes on the front lawn and a greeting proclaiming “Happy XX Birthday”; well, I begged and pleaded and she finally relented, but not before she retorted “why not, you tell everyone how old you are anyway!” Well, that much was true, but, in my defense, I didn’t think I looked 40, and, I was sooooo vain. I wore contact lenses, and, I wouldn’t leave the house with my eyeglasses on, but I wanted to give my eyes a rest on the weekends, so I had these huge fly-eye-looking wraparound sunglasses that I would wear over my eyeglasses to run to the store, or pick up a pizza – “safe” places where I wouldn’t run into anyone. So, that gag gift flock of forty flamingoes never arrived due to my protestations, but my mom booked me a sitting at “Glamour Shots” instead and I’ve included two of the pictures in the collection above. What a treat to be pampered and have your hair and makeup done and pose in props and fashions they choose for the setting. Thanks Mom.
Age 50 – When I turned 50, well … I really felt I was dragging my wagon and to be turning half a century old did not enthuse me in the least. I took that day off from work, not to wallow in my sorrow at turning 50, but because it was Good Friday and to make it a long Easter weekend. A knock came at the door in the morning and when I answered, a florist delivery truck driver handed me a huge long box – inside were a collection of 50 Spring flowers and a note from my boss that read “these’ll put a spring in your step” … yes, they did help to soften the blow. Since we weren’t big on flowers in our house, we ended up dividing the flowers into multiple bouquets, borrowing some vases from Marge next door, and putting some into old instant coffee jars. I celebrated by climbing aboard the AARP train and buying a couple of Boyd’s Teddy bears in the “Ladies of the Red Hat Society” line.
Age 60 – Well, there are no celebrations for 60, just that slow realization that at least 2/3rds of my life might be over. I am more comfortable in my own skin now than ever before, having abandoned those high-heeled pumps, pencil-thin skirts and skinny capris I used to love to wear. I‘ve been an AARP card-carrying member for a decade, and, thus far, I’ve passed on a membership to “The Red Hat Society”, where the ladies don their bright-red festive hats and purple frou-frou, electing instead to adopt a practical and rather frowsy look. I kind of like the relaxed and no-frills me though.
Those special birthdays were memorable pit stops along the way, but to really have a good look back at the decades that have slid on by, is to take a look at the fashions and music, because they, too, tell a story. In the photo albums are so many pictures of me, beginning with those black-and-white snapshots with torn or bent edges, to heavily smeared-looking pictures from the Polaroid Swinger instant camera days. As an only child, I was the primary subject in each photo, even those homely pictures in living color of what we’ll just call “the awkward years” and leave it at that.
The hairstyles were hilarious and the clothing likewise was comical. For example, in the 70s, everyone tended to look alike. I know that in our high school graduating class of 1973, those 613 girls and guys in those sepia-toned, wallet-sized senior pics that we circulated to friends and family all looked identical. That’s because everyone in those photos had shoulder-length hair parted down the middle and wore turtleneck sweaters – the girls wore soft and fuzzy pastels with a cross or pendant and the boys wore their turtlenecks with a sports jacket.
That straight-as-a-pin hair eventually morphed into the Farrah Fawcett look – feathery bangs blown back and held into place with plenty of hairspray; after all, we couldn’t all look like Farrah with the perfect hair and wearing her famous red bathing suit, because a fan was placed in front to give her hair a naturally mussed-up look. Once this hairstyle started to wane, gals and guys next opted for the mullet, then afros or curly perms were en vogue.
The hairstyles sure left a lot to be desired, but then … so did the fashion trends that I, too, followed through the years.
In the 60s, the boys had their “Beatle boots” and the girls had their “go-go boots”, those white, shiny, and cheap-looking mid-calf boots which had to be worn with fishnet stockings to look “groovy”. The trouble with wearing fishnets, besides leaving big diamond-shaped indentations on your knees when you bent them, was that, unlike pantyhose, they had to be worn with a garter belt. No, it was not a garter belt that was all lacy and sexy like you buy nowadays at the store with the one-way glass windows. Oh no, this was a garter belt that was shirred and came in either pale pink or pale blue and white and it had extra-long garters. You had to hook the top of the fishnet stockings onto each of the four garters, and, you had to get them just so or else they snapped off. Yup, the top of the fishnet stocking would come untethered from the garter and the garter would pop – usually against your wooden desk seat at school. There would be an awkward silence in the classroom after the offending pop, while all eyes, including the teacher’s, would gravitate toward YOU. Of course, the other girls shared your pain as you meekly headed up to the teacher’s desk to retrieve a wooden hall pass to scurry down to the girl’s bathroom, red-faced and humiliated to repair the damage. By the way, it took forever to convince my parents that fishnets were a fun and funky fashion, and wearing them did not mean I was headed down the lane to ill repute.
Also circa the 60s, everyone had to own at least one heavy pewter peace symbol that hung suspended from a rawhide tie around the neck. This jewelry went perfectly with your homemade tie-dye tee-shirts. And yes, you had to wear a flower in your hair, just like the song says because you, my friend, were a child of the 60s.
By the end of the 60s, I had suddenly sprouted up, just all arms and legs and at 5 feet 9 inches tall, I was at least a head above my parents. In fact, in almost every picture taken of my mom and me or just me, by my father, he would cut my head off at the neck. The stores didn’t carry tall-sized clothes for girls back then, so I eventually started making my own clothes, otherwise my wardrobe would have looked as if it belonged to my younger sister. We had a dress code at Huff Junior High School and girls were not permitted to wear pants, even in the Wintertime. Since I was tall, it was difficult to find dresses that were long enough in the sleeves, so I wore a lot of skirts and poor boy sweaters which were the rage at the time. My parents absolutely forbid me to wear miniskirts, so I’d leave the house, then as soon as I got to the end of the street, I’d dip into the alley and roll up my skirt – it didn’t matter to me if my girth from two rolls of skirt material made it appear I was heavy, because in my mind’s eye, it was imperative that my knees would show, and maybe, if I rolled the material just right, and it held in place, a little glimpse of thigh might show as well. I’d reverse the process and unroll the skirt in the alley before I went back home. Well, that little scenario went on for a few years, then one day my mom confronted me. Her best friend, the nosey-parker neighbor across the street, saw me rolling my skirt in the alley while she drove by in her car, then promptly reported my delinquent act to my mom. Busted! To this day I never understood the uproar – I mean, was I rolling a cigarette, or even a joint? I was rolling my skirt waistband for goodness sake!
In the 70s, we gals strayed from the hippie look, but we still wore some outlandish clothes … perhaps costumes would be a better description. My parents finally allowed me to follow the fashion trends and so I donned those “mod” mini, midi and maxi fashions. Victorian-inspired chokers and mood rings were coveted to complete the jewelry look with these stylish clothes. We also wore vests that looked like two potholders seamed together at the shoulders, or long raggedy-looking crocheted vests that tied up in a neat bow across the chest and hung way below your jacket. Macramé purses and belts that looked like they belonged out in the garden hanging on a hook with a potted plant inside were all the go and for purses we carried something that looked like a treasure chest with a handle. (Really?!) And, it was anything goes as far as footwear was concerned, with Grecian sandals that laced from your instep to your knees, fringed Indian moccasin bootees that you could barely see under elephant bell blue jeans, and, then there were those Buffalo sandals and platform shoes that were clunky and added a good three inches to your height. Earth shoes brought your feet back down to the floor but were as ugly as sin. Hip huggers and hot pants hugged teen curves and Sizzler dresses with matching bikini panties were all must-haves for the 70s wardrobe.
The 80s suddenly became drab, when I had my first serious job. Straight out of college I headed to an ad agency which had no dress code but “anything goes”, so that’s how we dressed in the Creative Department, but, when I joined a law firm in 1980, I got my first real taste of conservative dressing . No pants, and dress suits only, so all the fun and frivolous fashions and the carefree look which threw caution to the wind, were abandoned and jeans in stonewash and a multitude of pastels, with matching tee-shirts, were relegated for the evenings or weekends only. (Some of those items still hang in the basement closet, long abandoned for sweat suits a/k/a the ultimate in comfort and “breathability”.)
So, what happened to that fashion plate and oh-so-vain young woman of yesteryear? Well, she’s still here and if she takes the initiative, she “cleans up well” … as for getting older, after all these years, I have finally found myself, even though I don’t think I was ever really lost.
And, let’s not forget the music that I enjoyed during the decades of my formative years. From a shell-pink wire snaking from my ear to a transistor radio, I was tuned into WKNR Keener 13 or Honey Radio. Saturdays I made my weekly trip to the dime store to pick up the latest Keener 13 top hits list and parted with a portion of my allowance to buy one 45. When I got older and had more allowance, it was a jaunt to E.J. Korvette to buy a record album. There was the ever-evolving music of the Beatles all the way to the bubblegum beats of Bobby Sherman. Whatever possessed teenyboppers to idolize the Monkees or the Partridge Family, I’ll never know. My parents didn’t permit me to hang those idol’s full-page pics from “Tiger Beat” magazine up on my bedroom wall, so I would vicariously enjoy them while sitting around cross-legged in my girlfriend’s’ rooms. In later years, I’d give a glance or two to the “Cosmo” poster-sized centerfold that featured Burt Reynolds on a bear rug, with a strategically placed arm, same which was taped to my friend Rosemary’s bedroom wall … ah, youth.
So, what a wacky and wonderful trip it has been and I like to think I’ve turned out okay. I like marching to the beat of a different drum and being the Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios.
Many of my school chums from the class of ’73 at Lincoln Park High School gathered together last Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate their collective 60th birthday. I respectfully declined the Facebook invitation, declaring that I was not yet 60, and reminding my school pals that I had just turned 17 at high school graduation, thus I was the youngest graduate in our class. “Let them eat cake!” I declared in my blog. So now that I am 60, I’ll still pass on the birthday cake, but what to enjoy instead? A Chobani Flip? Perhaps a bran muffin with a candle on top – nah, that’s for old folks, and nope, I ain’t that old … yet.
I’ll conclude this long and meandering post with this quote:
“Growing older is like climbing a mountain: the higher you get, the more strength you need, but the further you see.” ~ Ingmar Bergman