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Where Were You in ’82?

Where Were You in ’82?
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

I wanted to cry, and at one point I did a little bit as I watched CNN.

No the channel wasn’t showing coverage of an ISIS bombing somewhere in the world or the latest juvenile exchange between presidential candidates or jobless protesters looking for a fair minimum wage; I was watching the premiere of the network’s new series called The Eighties — the decade I think of as mine.

I loved the 1980s. Hair was big and greed was good. Guys started wearing pastel t-shirts under suit jackets (and no socks with loafers) like Don Johnson on Miami Vice and girls dressed like boy toy Madonna. I wore so many cheap bangles at once, that if I held my arm straight out, I looked like I was about to shout “five for a dollar.”

I got married in the ‘80s, to a guy my father-in-law once called, “the original Alex P. Keaton.”

Speaking of which, on Thursday nights everybody’s eyes were glued to NBC’s Must-See TV line-up: Cosby, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court and Hill Street Blues; that is, when we weren’t watching video kill the radio star on MTV, where metal bands wore more make-up than the vixens that writhed on car hoods while they sang.

The ‘80s were like one big party kicked off by the shot heard ‘round the world – as in “Who shot J.R.?” — and not only was everyone invited, but everybody showed up. At least that’s how I remember it — or choose to anyway.

I was in my 20s back then, and although being young, with my whole life ahead of me, was exciting, it was also scary not really knowing how to navigate life.

Yes, my decade had its downsides. Besides global events like the eruption of Mount St. Helens, our president and pope both getting shot, and the space shuttle Challenger exploding, there were entry-level jobs (where I typed on “high tech” IBM Selectric IIIs) and the low wages that went with them; tiny Manhattan apartments and working late in order to petty cash dinner, so I could eat something more substantial than pizza.

It was pop culture that kept me upbeat.

  • The Reagan Years

I refer to the recently deceased Nancy. Reagan Red and the First Lady’s designer style, not to mention her class, poise and dignity brought glamour and elegance to the highest office, and was aspirational.

  • Cindy Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun” Anthem

Yes, we could grow up to be Nancy, but in the meantime we wanted to have a good time like Cindy — in neon, with chunky jewelry and Wayfarer sunglasses. And for climbing the corporate ladder, Norma Kamali offered shoulder pads aka “power shoulders,” so we could look like intimidating linebackers as we walked into meetings where often we were the only woman around the conference table.

  • Supermodels

Hey if you couldn’t be one, at least you could watch the antics. Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista, who famously said she didn’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day, lived their lives on Page Six of the Post because they partied with rock stars and actors, mugged in music videos and dominated all the glossy magazines.

  • Charles and Diana Mania

OK, we all know better now, but at the time, the schoolteacher plucked from all the girls in the world to become a princess kept the fairytale alive.

  • Working Girl

There was finally an on-screen character I could relate to (even though I came from the Bronx, not “Tess McGill’s” home turf of Staten Island.) Like her I started at the bottom, but “knew I could do a job.” I got to live vicariously as her backstabbing nemesis got her comeuppance, unlike a number of the “Katharine Parkers” — both female and male — I had the misfortune of working for/with.

  • Technology

It was coming, and it was going to be big, literally. Remember the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X? It was the first consumer, portable cell phone and made famous by “Gordon Gekko” as he walked on the beach describing the Hampton’s sunset to Charlie Sheen in “Wall Street.” Even the names were sizable: Betamax. Compared to today’s Apple Nanos, the Sony Walkman was a hefty handful – but worth it because suddenly our lives had a soundtrack.

So I guess you know where I’ll be every Thursday at 9p.m.; getting together with old friends like the girls from Facts of Life, watching Linda Evans and Joan Collins wrestle in one of Dynasty’s many pools, and seeing clips of Demi Moore, John Stamos and Rick Springfield break into show biz on General Hospital. Because even though I did attain the writer, mother and wife status that back then I so wondered anxiously if I’d ever achieve, inside, I’m still a girl who just wants to have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.