Tag Archives: 80’s

Eating a Hot Dog in the Bathroom

 
No, that is not a euphemism. One time, when we were in middle school, one of my best friends and I ate a hot dog in the bathroom of the Sheridan Seven movie theater in Hollywood, Florida. We had met two boys at the theater to see the award-winning film, All of Me. Yes, it came out in 1984, and yes that makes me oldish.
 
Anyway, I had met the one boy, Bob, at a Bar Mitzvah the previous weekend, and had an instant crush on him. We had joined a group of other 13 and 14 year-olds in the designated make-out area in a dark part of the temple. As you can imagine, the Bar Mitzvah boy was not happy about all of this. Anyway, at the end of the evening, Bob asked me for my phone number and I was thrilled. Being a sort of dorky, chubby, and unpopular girl, I could not believe that someone so cute could like me.
 
He called me a few days later, and I about hyperventilated from joy. I sat on my bedroom floor with my Mickey Mouse phone and talked quietly so my mom could not hear me. During our brief, awkward conversation we decided to meet at the theater the next Saturday along with our best friends. I’m pretty sure the best friends went as our covers because neither one of us were allowed to date.
 
So, that next Saturday, my mom drove Hillary and me to the theater. We waited outside in the Florida humidity until the boys arrived. It was only a few minutes but I was worried that the air made of gravy would ruin my perfectly blow-dried hair. We didn’t have the flat irons and high-end shellacs and pomades that we do now.
 
The two boys arrived. I don’t remember what Bob’s friend looked like. I just remember that Bob was so cute that I could hardly look at him. I felt so lucky and so not worthy of any attention from him.
 
We decided to see All of Me, which sounded like a dumb movie to me but I went along with the group. I just felt thrilled to be on a “date” with a cute boy and my new bestie. I felt like I was straight out of a normal teen life or a John Hughes movie.
 
I sat between Hillary and Bob in the theater. It was awkward from the beginning. We sat there in the dark and just watched the movie. At some point, Hillary whispered that we should go to the bathroom. Since we were both girls we had to go together. When we walked out of the theater and into the lobby, we smelled the food and realized we were starving. We didn’t want to bring popcorn, or worse yet a hotdog into the theater and eat IN FRONT OF BOYS. We thought, or at least I did, they would think we were pigs. So, we did the only logical thing – we bought a hot dog and brought it into the bathroom.
 
Hillary and I passed that chunk of overly salted meat and white bread back and forth like we were college kids smoking a fat joint at a party. We finished it within five minutes and checked our teeth in the mirror. I think we even rinsed our mouths. It would be so embarrassing to have any evidence of eating, especially since I thought I was fat.
 
In reality, I wasn’t fat. I wore a size 5 in juniors, but since my thighs touched and my bones didn’t show, I thought I was fat. This was my main reason to not eat in front of boys. I didn’t want them to tell me I was fat and that I should stop eating. I already thought this. At 13, I felt guilty for eating that half of a hot dog.
 
My step-dad picked me and Hillary up after the movie. So, we couldn’t really hang out and talk much or anything. There was an awkward, quick hug as we left the theater. As we rode home, I replayed every word I had said during the “date” and thought about what a dork I was.
 
A week or so later, Bob called me again. I was so excited when I heard his voice. I was a little confused though because I heard another voice, probably that friend, in the background. Bob kept putting his hand over the phone. I would hear the noise of his hand on the mouthpiece and the muffled talking with his friend. When he finally started talking to me he said, “Hey, you’re a fat puss wad, ok?”
 
I was stunned. I already thought I was fat, but puss wad? Was he referring to the couple of pimples I had? I was 13 for fuck’s sake. I hung up immediately and cried. I called Hillary to tell her what he said and she told me to come over.
 
I sat on Hillary’s twin bed with her in the room she shared with her four-year-old sister. Hillary kept telling her sister to leave the room while I cried and talked about how fat I was and how I would never have a boyfriend. Hillary hugged me and told me what a jerk he was. Eventually, I agreed and we started talking about other things.
 
Thirty-three years later, I saw Bob in a news article online. I knew it was the same Bob because he looked exactly the same. I wish I could say he was in the news for a positive reason, but that is not the case. His son was one of the victims of the Parkland shooting. At that moment, I stopped thinking of him as that mean jerk from my middle school days and empathized with him as a parent.

The Jordache Smell

 

“You’ve been wearing those same pants all week,” Dickhead (not his real name) said to me in front of everyone in the hallway right after sixth-grade math. Until that moment, I had a crush on him. I looked into his smirking face and hated him and his dark good looks.

“Um, no I haven’t. I have a couple of different pairs, and anyway I washed them.” I stammered, trying not to cry.  This was total bullshit, as I had only one pair and we did not own a washing machine.  We took our clothes to the laundromat once a week.  My dad, whom I rarely saw thanks to divorce and his lack of interest in his own children, had just bought me a pair of dark blue Jordache jeans. I was so excited that I wore those jeans five days in a row, a big middle school no-no. So, instead of having “the Jordache look” I probably had the Jordache smell. No amount of Love’s Baby Soft could cover that up.

 

Dickhead and the others laughed at me as I walked away, turning red and feeling embarrassed about having only one pair of designer jeans. This was worse than the time I got my period on my chair in science class. I marched down the hall, staring straight down at my Trapper Keeper and trying to suck the tears back into my eyes. This is when I realized that I was poor.

I’m surprised it took me that long, as our little family (just mom and me – my brother lived with my father) had received government cheese twice.  It wasn’t bad, really. It was just a big block of American cheese. Also, I had taken some cold baths by candlelight when our electricity had been turned off due to non-payment. If the free cheese and cold baths hadn’t tipped me off, I probably should have realized we did not have money when we had to move into a two-room efficiency apartment with no kitchen. We did dishes in the bathroom sink and cooked dinner on a hot plate. We ended up staying only for a weekend because the landlady got drunk and hit on my mom. The apartment was attached to the landlady’s house. My mom borrowed some money, and we moved back to our two-bedroom, two-bathroom place somehow.

Even with all of these blaring clues, the poverty did not hit me until I became a middle school fashion outcast. Everyone had designer jeans, and I got made fun of a lot for not having the proper clothes. My father, during one of his rare moments when he remembered he was my father, had taken me to Burdines in his little MG convertible to buy the jeans the week before Dickhead called out my poor hygiene. I was THRILLED about the jeans, obviously. Today, they sell Jordache at Walmart, but back in the early 80’s they were only at Burdines or Macy’s or Jordan Marsh – places where poor people didn’t shop.

jordacheShortly after this, at Christmas, my mom’s boss bought me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt black denim jeans because my mom could not afford them. I had seen the commercials and just had to have them. So when my mom’s boss asked her what I wanted for Christmas, she told him. He didn’t know what size I was, so he just grabbed a pair at Jordan Marsh and told my mom to exchange them. Of course, the pair he gave me was size “tall and skinny.”  I have always been size “short and stout as the little teapot.” After I exchanged the jeans and got the right size, I was able to rotate my pants throughout the week. I even got a pair of Sergio Valente jeans from my mom, but I hated them because they had pink threading. My mom has always loved pink.  I prefer black.

When I was in eighth grade, two amazing things happened.  First, the county changed the school boundaries.  This enabled me to leave McNichol Middle where everyone picked on me, and start attending Olsen. On my first day at Olsen, I met Hillary, a super nice girl who introduced me to all her friends. I finally had NICE friends who were not mean to me. Hillary also helped me dress better. She told me I needed to get Guess jeans and huge EG socks. Hillary also taught me how to layer my tank tops to match my layer socks. She helped me with my eye makeup so that I didn’t look like Ozzy Osbourne pretending to be a raccoon anymore.

 

The second amazing thing is my mom met my step-dad.  Until then, my mom had been super protective of me.  I wasn’t allowed to do much. My step-dad encouraged her to let me hang out with my new friends. I went to the mall, to the movies, and to the beach like a normal 13-year-old Floridian. My step-dad also liked to shop. He would bring me home Guess jeans and other cool things from Macy’s.  I had the right clothes and the right friends. Life was finally coming together.

I still got picked on by some kids for being chubby, having pimples, crying in math class (I’ve always loathed numbers) and sucking at every team sport ever played in middle school PE. I still had bad hair days because I insisted on having my hair chopped into an 80’s do, against Hilary’s advice. Overall, though, eighth grade was a big positive turning point.  I didn’t even wear my Jordache jeans anymore.  Guess was WAY cooler.

Originally published on  Knot So Subtle .

Equations with the Stubbly Good Witch

“Think about what things mean.” This was my advice to my son as I drove him to his little slice of hell — school.  That particular day would be more hellish than usual as he had both his Geometry and Science final exams.   Like me, he would almost rather have a colonoscopy, including the dreaded prep, than be forced to learn math or science.  I felt for him, so I offered him the words of advice that got me through high school math.  Mr. Scott said them almost daily.  Whenever he would write a super long equation on the board and look out at sea of confused dog looks, he would simply say, “Think about what things mean.”  This simple philosophy has gotten me through a lot more than math.

 Mr. Scott was my favorite teacher even though he taught my most hated subject – math.  I had him for Algebra in ninth grade, and again for Integrated Math my senior year.  As a teacher, he was the perfect combination of firm, professional, and funny.  He knew his subject, but he didn’t just stand there and drone on and on about variables and the order of operations.  No.  He always kept our attention, even if he had to wear a dress.

 Yes, I said a dress.  No. Mr. Scott was not a drag queen, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  He was a Vietnam veteran with a permanent five o’clock shadow who usually dressed like a gas station attendant.  I’m serious.  He had a bunch of gas station attendant shirts with his name, Frank, on the front.  They were from all different stations.  I used to sit there and try to imagine where he got them.  He couldn’t have just ordered them on Amazon because it was 1987 and Amazon, or the Internet, or laptops, or iPhones, didn’t exist yet.  No.  He would have had to work at all of the gas stations to get a shirt. Either that or he toured the country finding gas station attendants named Frank who needed some extra cash.  No matter how he got them, I wasn’t sure why he wore them.  Maybe it was to remind himself that no matter how horrible high school students were, teaching was still better than pumping gas.  (Young people, gas station attendants used to pump people’s gas for them.) Whatever the reason, he wore them almost daily, except, as I mentioned, when he wore dresses.

 One particular Halloween (See, I told you he wasn’t a drag queen.), I remember walking into his class on the second floor of the old 600 hall at South Broward High School and almost walking right into his magic wand.  That’s right.  Mr. Scott, Frank from the Shell station, was dressed as Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  I couldn’t help but laugh all the way to my seat.  He just stood there and looked at me like, “What?”  I took my seat expecting an easy day of not really doing math.  I was wrong. 

 Mr. Scott began class by walking carefully across the classroom in his sparkly shoes and shiny dress, and pointing to the board with his wand.  He called on me, of course, and said, “Lisa, what is the quadratic formula?”  I looked at him like he was nuts, but he insisted that I say the formula out loud while he grabbed a piece of chalk with his wandless hand.  I’m happy to say that I got it ALMOST right.  I forgot to say “the opposite of” before I said “B.”  I’m sure at age 41 I still know MOST of the quadratic formula because of this experience. 

I never grew to love math, but I sure remembered it better after watching a man with a five o’clock shadow in a dress teach it.  Over the years, Mr. Scott donned many costumes, some of them dresses and some of them more masculine, like when he was Vince Fontaine in the school’s production of Grease.  No matter how he was dressed, he always took the time to slow down and show us HOW to think about what things mean.

 I kept that in my head during the SAT and I actually scored higher in Math than in English.  (Note: I ended up becoming an English professor.) I kept thinking about what things meant through college, marriage, caring for a baby, a divorce, a new marriage, moving across the country, and a host of other experiences.  Basically, whenever I was getting frustrated or taking things too seriously, I would stop and think about what things really meant.   Usually, they weren’t as bad, or as serious as I thought, once I really THOUGHT about them.  Sometimes, all I needed to do was put on a sparkly dress and laugh.  That always helps.  Thank you, Mr. Scott, wherever you are.

 

Translated 80’s Songs

Young people, in order for you to understand this blog, you need to be aware of a dark time in human history.  There was a time, brace yourselves, when people did not have smart phones or even regular cell phones. No, not even flip phones. I know.  I know.  Imagine a time where you couldn’t check Facebook every 19 seconds, or Instagram your lobster mac and cheese before you even took a bite.  Dark times.  Brace yourselves again.  Not only were there no smart phones, but there was no internet.  So, humans had no email, or social media of any kind.  We, gulp, had to call each other on archaic devices called home phones.  They hooked into our walls with wires. WIRES!! We had to sit or stand near the phone, and we could only move as far as the telephone CORD would allow.

When I was your age, back in the 80’s, there was music on MTV. Odd, I know, but stay with me. A lot of the videos showed people getting emotional about phone calls. These songs also talked about people meeting in person rather than on Facebook as nature intended. There were even lyrics about people reading paper magazines. What a waste of trees! Why were there no iPads?

Even though there was a shocking lack of technology back in the day, there was some great music. I wanted to share some of my favorite songs with you, but I realized they would probably not make sense to anyone born after 1992. To make them more accessible to those younger than me, I have updated the lyrics so you can understand and appreciate them.

 

Huey Lewis and the News, “If This Is It”

Original: I’ve been phoning, night and morning. I heard you say,”Tell him I’m not home.”

Translation: I’ve been texting. It says you read them. You keep letting me go straight to voicemail.

 

Duran Duran, “Girls on Film”

Original: Wider baby smiling you just made a million. Fuses pumping live heat twisting out on a wire

Translation: You used the right filter and got a million likes. You went viral on Instagram and Facebook, too.

 

Wham, “Battle Stations”

Original: You don’t know how much I hate that answer phone. Are you standing there? But – you won’t pick up the ‘phone. Why lie to my face? When you can buy a tape machine to give me bullshit in your place

Translation: I hate when you reject my call. I know my picture still pops up on your iPhone. You don’t even have the balls to Facetime me.

 

Ratt, “Round and Round”

Original: Out on the streets; that’s where we’ll meet. You make the night. I always cross the line.

Translation: In a Facebook group, I will see you. You post the best cat videos. I post politically incorrect jokes about Republicans.

 

Midnight Star, “Operator” (Young people, there used to be a person called an “operator” who used to help you make phone calls. It’s kind of tough to explain, but just think of this person as Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.)

Original: “Operator, can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m trying to, uh, reach my baby, and I dialed 6-1-6”

Translation: “Hi. You sound lost. Do you need a new iPhone?”

“Yes, I’m trying to text this hot chick, and I dialed 567-443-8671.”

“You didn’t dial a 1 first, doofus.”

 

Tommy Tutone, “Jenny 867-5309”

Original: Jenny don’t change your number
I need to make you mine
Jenny I call your number — 867-5309

Translation: Jenny, I’ve been tweeting you. Please retweet or reply. Jenny, I follow your Twitter — at sign J-e-n-n-y

 

J. Geils Band, “Centerfold”

Original: Years go by I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine
And there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in-between. My angel is the centerfold.

Translation: A long time after school, I was flipping through Instagram, and there’s my ex in a bathing suit with lots of tats. My bae is a suicide girl.

 

The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Original: One day is fine and next is black. So if you want me off your back. Well come on an’ let me know. Should I Stay or should I go?

Translation: Your Facebook statuses are funny but sometimes you vaguebook. Your relationship status says complicated. Should I comment or should I unfriend?

 

Prince and the Revolution, “When Doves Cry.”

Original: How can we scream at each other?

Translation: How can we all caps text each other?

 

Blondie, “Call Me.”

Original: Call me (call me) on the line. Call me, call me any, anytime

Translation: Snap chat me (or text) on the iPhone. I won’t turn it off at night.

 

Stevie Wonder, “I just called to say I love you.”

Original: I just called to say I love you.

Translation: I tagged you as my Woman Crush Wednesday on Instagram to kind of claim you.

What do you think, young people? Are you still thinking about the wired phone? I hope you don’t have nightmares about that. It was super frightening. Your mom could pick up at any time and tell you to get off the phone. Super embarrassing. Be glad you don’t have to go through that. Maybe you can translate your favorite songs for me now, or at least hand me the lyrics.  I can’t understand what the heck anyone is “singing” now with all of the yelling and growling.  Oh, shit.  I’m getting old.

 

 

Equations with the Stubbly Good Witch

“Think about what things mean.” This was my advice to my son as I drove him to his little slice of hell — school.  That particular day would be more hellish than usual as he had both his Geometry and Science final exams.   Like me, he would almost rather have a colonoscopy, including the dreaded prep, than be forced to learn math or science.  I felt for him, so I offered him the words of advice that got me through high school math.  Mr. Scott said them almost daily.  Whenever he would write a super long equation on the board and look out at sea of confused dog looks, he would simply say, “Think about what things mean.”  This simple philosophy has gotten me through a lot more than math.

 Mr. Scott was my favorite teacher even though he taught my most hated subject – math.  I had him for Algebra in ninth grade, and again for Integrated Math my senior year.  As a teacher, he was the perfect combination of firm, professional, and funny.  He knew his subject, but he didn’t just stand there and drone on and on about variables and the order of operations.  No.  He always kept our attention, even if he had to wear a dress.

 Yes, I said a dress.  No. Mr. Scott was not a drag queen, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  He was a Vietnam veteran with a permanent five o’clock shadow who usually dressed like a gas station attendant.  I’m serious.  He had a bunch of gas station attendant shirts with his name, Frank, on the front.  They were from all different stations.  I used to sit there and try to imagine where he got them.  He couldn’t have just ordered them on Amazon because it was 1987 and Amazon, or the Internet, or laptops, or iPhones, didn’t exist yet.  No.  He would have had to work at all of the gas stations to get a shirt. Either that, or he toured the country finding gas station attendants named Frank who needed some extra cash.  No matter how he got them, I wasn’t sure why he wore them.  Maybe it was to remind himself that no matter how horrible high school students were, teaching was still better than pumping gas.  (Young people, gas station attendants used to pump people’s gas for them.) Whatever the reason, he wore them almost daily, except, as I mentioned, when he wore dresses.

 One particular Halloween (See, I told you he wasn’t a drag queen.), I remember walking into his class on the second floor of the old 600 hall at South Broward High School, and almost walking right into his magic wand.  That’s right.  Mr. Scott, Frank from the Shell station, was dressed as Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  I couldn’t help but laugh all the way to my seat.  He just stood there and looked at me like, “What?”  I took my seat expecting an easy day of not really doing math.  I was wrong. 

 Mr. Scott began class by walking carefully across the classroom in his sparkly shoes and shiny dress, and pointing to the board with his wand.  He called on me, of course, and said, “Lisa, what is the quadratic formula?”  I looked at him like he was nuts, but he insisted that I say the formula out loud while he grabbed a piece of chalk with his wandless hand.  I’m happy to say that I got it ALMOST right.  I forgot to say “the opposite of” before I said “B.”  I’m sure at age 41 I still know MOST of the quadratic formula because of this experience. 

I never grew to love math, but I sure remembered it better after watching a man with a five o’clock shadow in a dress teach it.  Over the years, Mr. Scott donned many costumes, some of them dresses and some of them more masculine, like when he was Vince Fontaine in the school’s production of Grease.  No matter how he was dressed, he always took the time to slow down and show us HOW to think about what things mean.

 I kept that in my head during the SAT and I actually scored higher in Math than in English.  (Note: I ended up becoming an English professor.) I kept thinking about what things meant through college, marriage, caring for a baby, a divorce, a new marriage, moving across the country, and a host of other experiences.  Basically, whenever I was getting frustrated or taking things too seriously, I would stop and think about what things really meant.   Usually, they weren’t as bad, or as serious as I thought, once I really THOUGHT about them.  Sometimes, all I needed to do was put on a sparkly dress and laugh.  That always helps.  Thank you, Mr. Scott, wherever you are.