Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Good Ol' Bad Ol' Days

We’ve been invited to a birthday party Saturday night for a friend celebrating one of those milestone birthdays ending in a zero. Her husband is planning the “penultimate” gathering for her and has suggested that everyone don their best 80’s gear – big hair, padded shoulders, acid-washed jeans, or parachute pants and head down to one of the bars in the Arena District to hear a local 80’s band.

My question is: how many of us still own parachute pants or clothing with football-sized shoulder pads or acid-washed jeans? If we answered "yes" to the above question, the next question surely must be: WHY? And, if so, do we really want to admit it by showing up at a bar wearing that stuff? I should think not.

First of all, there is the possibility that no one fits into those old clothes anymore. Can you imagine pulling on parachute pants and not having yards of extra material? Tight fitting parachute pants would be just sad. Not only that, but while dancing to 80’s music in such outfits might be fun, at our age, we’d be exhausted after the first break dance spin. We’d hobble off the dance floor clutching our aching backs and searching for a hit…off of an oxygen tank.

MC Hammer is the guy we most remember wearing parachute pants, though I do recall a good friend from college with a pair of blue and purple parachute pants that looked like two crayons got together and threw up. The reason I remember them is that they resurfaced at a Halloween party in recent years. I was shocked that he kept them. Mostly because it meant that when he folded up those pants sometime in 1989 or so, he consciously had to say to himself, “Hmmm…I should probably keep these.”

Do people in their 20s even know who MC Hammer is? Maybe they do because he did a Nationwide commercial during the Super Bowl a couple years ago wearing gold lamé parachute pants and dancing to “U Can’t Touch This” while his mansion and all his possessions get repossessed. It was pretty funny…and yet sad at the same time, because the guy really did make tons of money and then lost it all and had to file for bankruptcy. Apparently “U Can’t Touch This” wasn’t true as far as the IRS was concerned. Oh well, at least he got to keep the gold lamé parachute pants. After all, who’d even want ‘em?!

Anyway, at the very least, I’m thinking I could style my hair into big 80’s hair. All I need is hair spray. A can or two should do the trick. The only problem is that I don’t have a perm. Remember those? Hair that was totally frizzy unless you tamed it with hot rollers and lots of spray. The good news is that hair generally stayed in place and the curls didn’t dare fall out even while "dancing" (and I use that term loosely) to Devo or the B52s. The bad news is that many of us had fried, frizzy hair that slightly resembled the “gift” that the cat occasionally leaves on the carpet for us to clean up.

But still. It was “the look” back then. Does anyone remember using a hair dryer to blow back the sides and then spraying your hair in place? I remember learning that little trick from some 80’s movie probably starring Molly Ringwald and thinking it was pretty cool. Before that, I tried using all manner of hair gel, mousse and other styling products to no avail – the hair on the sides of my head still drooped minutes after styling.

Seemed like everyone – men and women alike – were working the mullet look. And, as most of us know by now, with the possible exception of certain Walmart shoppers, the mullet is not a good look.

For some reason, 80’s style meant – for me, anyway – excessive use of black eyeliner. I look back at some of my photos from that era and am in shock and awe at how much eyeliner I used. That and purple eye shadow. With sparkles. What was I thinking? Thank goodness I was young. If I tried doing that now, I’d just look scary. Probably I could even make little children cry.

I have an excuse, though. We copied images we saw in the media and on MTV. Melanie Griffith from “Working Girl” immediately springs to mind. And I figure that at least I didn’t wear as much eyeliner as Prince did in “Purple Rain.” It was a little disconcerting to see a man wearing that much makeup, though I grudgingly admit that I admired his high heeled pointy toed boots.

Oh yeah, and I have two more words for you: Twisted Sister. Remember Dee Snyder? No wonder 80’s fashion included frizzy hair, gaudy clothes and bad makeup!

So, anyway, it remains to be seen who will show up at this birthday gathering and who will be brave enough to dip their toes again in the 80’s fashion waters. I, for one, am on the fence about it. I mean, I’m just not sure I can pull off a jacket with shoulders big enough in which to smuggle several small illegal aliens. Who, upon release, would probably take one look at the parachute pants and mullets – and wonder how they ended up at Walmart.

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