Life in Retrograde

Life in Retrograde
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

I feel like a teenager again and that is not a good thing.

It began a few days ago when it snowed. I had no plan to go out; just sit with a cup of tea and a fashion magazine, while in the background, the GOP candidates called each other names on MSNBC.

A Stuart Weitzman ad stared up at me with a willowy model in a pair of platform oxfords. Decades ago, I had those shoes in a few colors. My mother used to yell that I looked like I was walking on two blocks of wood.

I shook off that memory only to see a Facebook post from a site called Who What Wear announcing: “The ‘70s are back,” replete with suede A-line skirts, ribbed turtlenecks, and jumpsuits, which I will don again only if skydiving ever makes its way onto my bucket list.

The icing on the sartorial cake was a replica of an army jacket. There had been a few kids who wore ones that had belonged to their Vietnam soldier dads’, but most everyone else got theirs at the Army/Navy store. (The trend eluded me.) The new one I saw on social media had patches all over it, most notably the Rolling Stones “Tongue and Lips” logo, first seen on the band’s 1971 “Sticky Fingers” album, then on the binders of everybody I knew in high school.

The idea that, this fall, twentysomethings will be running around trying to look as I did at fifteen does not make me wax nostalgic. Not because I think I’m too old for the fashions; I don’t want to re-wear the styles. I didn’t really like most of them the first time around, except for Ali MacGraw’s looks in Love Story, but I wasn’t old enough, or more importantly, cool enough to pull them off (nor could I afford to.)

No, I just don’t want to be reminded of my waiting-for-life-to-start years. The sight of elephant bells, clogs and a suede jacket bring me back to my brief, albeit distressing, bout with forehead acne, the time I went on spring break vacation with my family only to return and realize that my boyfriend had a new girlfriend, and living with the unnecessary stress, as well as ludicrous idea, that the score on a math test was going to determine my future’s success.

Quite frankly, I think the clothing from the era of my youth was rather boring. Perhaps we needed them to be since life was in such turmoil: the Chicago 7 and “four dead in Ohio,” sung by Crosby, Stills & Nash; Vietnam; our president on television declaring himself not a crook, then resigning; Watergate; The Arab Oil Embargo and subsequent energy crisis; a new president as well as new pope; the juggernaut known as Star Wars; the NYC blackout complete with looting; the kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst; a meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant; Chrysler needing to be bailed out by the government; the Iran Hostage Crisis; and the ushering in of the tech age with computers the size of houses.

I’m glad those days are behind me.

I much prefer life since. I became a workingwoman in the ‘80s, a mother in the ‘90s, and believe I hit my stride at the turn of the 21st Century. I looked around and had gotten what I’d hope for in high school and college: a husband, two children and to be a writer by profession.

And getting dressed was more fun. MTV can take credit for the most outrageous styles with everything bigger aka better: hair, heavy makeup, piled on metal jewelry and pearls, and mixed bright colors were trademarks of the time, along with shoulder pads that made women feel powerful, and Flashdance-type sweatshirts that made us feel sexy.

The ‘90s offered a choice of grunge, hip-hop, and preppy a la Tommy Hilfiger, while the overall styles of the 2000s have put designer brands at the forefront of fashion.

The world today has also become a more accepting place. There’s a 56-year-old woman on the current Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in a gold bikini. Yes, I prefer to live – and dress — in the now.

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.