Unfortunately, I remember just about everything from middle school, from the Smurfs puffy stickers on my locker to that humiliating time I threw up in the cafeteria, and every awkwardly self-conscious moment in between.
During this gawky time in my life, I was clueless. It was as if I was hovering in a state of adolescent limbo between the days of carefree childhood and independent young adulthood.
I lay awake at night in my mock-brass twin bed staring at the Holly Hobby doll on my floral yellow Contact-papered shelf, wondering, “Who the heck am I, anyway?” I needed a little style, a decent group of friends, and maybe someday, a boyfriend. But other than practicing kissing on the back of my hand, I had no idea what to do.
Despite all that stuff my parents told me about being “beautiful on the inside”, I thought that wearing fashionable clothes to school was the first step to being cool. However, thanks to my absence of self-identity, putting together a stylish outfit was a particularly daunting task.
It was easy for my brother. All he needed was a pair of decent jeans, a few striped shirts left over from his color-coordinated Garanimals days, and some turf shoes. Part his hair straight down the middle with a huge plastic comb, put that comb in the back pocket of his new jeans and voile! He was totally in style.
For girls, however, it was more complicated. We had to keep up with an intimidating array of trends. Just getting a new pair of jeans was overwhelming. Pleated or plain front? Acid or stone washed? Tapered or Flared? Jordache or Lee?
There were madras shirts, Flashdance cut up sweatshirts, Members Only Jackets, cowl necks, Forenza sweaters, oversized blouses worn belted with a broach at the neck, Izod shirts with an upturned collar, turtlenecks printed with whales, and blazers with enormous shoulder pads. There were painter’s pants, Hammertime pants, parachute pants, stirrup pants, and overalls. There were Jellies, Converse Chucks, Tretorns, Reebok high tops, Vans, penny loafers, Capezios, Docksiders, and Candies faux wood slides.
Not to mention the dizzying assortment of accessories: fingerless gloves, leg warmers, Vuarnet sunglasses, Swatch watches, deely-boppers, bandanas, stick pins, braided headbands, mood rings, fanny packs and banana clips.
I was so confused, and I still had to decide whether rooster bangs or a bi-level would go better with my frosted purple eye shadow! Oh the agony!
Unable to discern my particular style, I never developed a real sense of fashion. I wore a lot of blouses that tied at the neck ala Colonel Sanders, and my hair long with a slab of bangs, or in a pseudo Dorothy Hamill that made me look like my face was framed with a ring of polska kielbasa.
Even when I managed to convince my mother to buy me something trendy from the juniors rack at Hills Department Store, I was still doomed. Like the time I accidentally flung the strap of my overalls into the girl’s restroom toilet before history class, or the time the boy sitting next to me in English took a bite out of my new root beer Bonne Bell Lip Smacker.
And now, as I take my girls back-to-school shopping, I’m amused that many of the trends that confounded me thirty years ago, are back on the racks. Although I am relieved that my girls have sense of style, I hope that less fashion-savvy kids are not stressing about what to wear to school like I did. Even if they can’t figure out the latest trends, it’s Okay because they’ll get another chance when those fashions reappear years later.
Regardless, what’s most important is that our kids learn enough at school that they don’t have to repeat English, Mathematics, Science or History. Besides, when it comes to back to school fashions, history has a tendency of repeating itself.