the other night i found myself swaddled by the love and older faces of a few dozen grade school pals. thank you, yes, oh god of social media, for making something this inexplicable happen with the click of a few buttons. (and the dispensing of several last minute signs to help direct guests to my bat-cave like secret hideaway).
in the merriment of reconnecting after….38 years (but who’s counting), i found the energy high, the liquor flowing, the smiles cracking past the ear lines, and the love of grounded familiarity ever-present. i felt instant reconnection to these people, who all fell immediately into close legions of hilarity and recollections. it was fabulous!
as the evening swept along, i found that my hostessing tasks were keeping me from digging into some of the pow wows, and i longed to hear, too, what the heck these people had been up to for nearly the last 4 decades. ever ready with unusual ideas, i gathered in the kitchen with jo and omg that dashing ricky, to share my plan.
“a circle of truth?” they replied, sounding a little alarmed? no doubt, they first thought i meant to orchestrate a pagan ancient rite that involved long brown robes and some sort of sacrificial goings on. after all, we were all little children together sitting earnestly in rows listening to the hell and brimstone ‘talks’ given by a handful of priests and nuns ‘back in the day’….
i explained to my pals that no, the circle of truth wasn’t a creepy thing, but really just one of those “get to know you” games that teachers and retreat leaders seemed so eager to introduce to groups. they eased into my plan, though with a few caveats: we need a time limit! (3 minutes was agreed upon per person)…. we need category prompts! (two dozen notes with scribbled ‘category’ topics was whipped out, stat)….we need to get their attention so that they will play the game! (harder to do, someone brought jagermeister…).
finally i was able to corral these people into the living room, forming, yes, a circle. it took quite a while, and i longed for the day when mr. mullinex or sister bernadette would take out a whistle or a stern beady-eyed glare to get these people obediently moving! but, eventually, yes, they all refilled their glasses and little tapas dishes and gathered round.
hilarity ensued, like, i mean, hilarity!
one of the gents had a second hand on his watch, and was the timekeeper. (though his eyesight shot, i think he took to just counting “one one-thousand, two one-thousand…”) the pool of ladies sitting nearby took it upon themselves to thwack the restaurant/hotel desk top bell thingy to begin each ‘talk’, or hit it again eagerly if someone was boring or droned on too long….RING!
fun stuff. and i got the ‘scoops’ that i was missing during my earlier hours of running, fetching, greeting, hugging, and delegating. (single gal that i am, i’m prone to accept and rely on the kindness of gentlemen who volunteer for beer, wine, coat or recycling duty).
so here’s the part that i was just giggling about. as we went around in alphabetical order (which is totally apropos as we all learned the alphabet TOGETHER), we finally wound over to the W’s which meant, as was the st. anne tradition, i was last. believe me, i was grateful for this, though in the 60s when i was the last to make it back indoors after a freezing recess in the icelandic-ly cold streets, i’d longed to be an A.
anyway, i flew through some sort of engaging cliff note version of my life post the age of 14, landing smack dab into my fabulous current life as a goofball creative 52 year old. sensing the crowd was sated with my update, i reached for my prosecco, eager to give the floor to anybody else.
out of the blue, my sweet dear old friend leaned forward and said, “missy, can i ask you a personal question?”
here it comes.
uh oh, my reputation proceeds this party……
i took an extra gulp of that italian bubbly beverage and steeled myself for whatever she was poised to ask me.
she leaned forward, intent, and her pose made me prepare for the worst…
“when did you stop being preppy?”
omg, that was the last thing i expected to be asked, and the question so threw me, i was without words or thoughts for several moments…seemed like forever until i put together some sort of unintelligible reply…found my funny side, “oh those teen daughters of mine make sure i look hip so as not to totally embarrass them”, etc. and as i spoke, i felt like i was BETRAYING something deep within me that really…did…like…being…preppy.
it seemed like my answer was a flop. where was my clever banter that has been my sidekick since i was 5? worried that they’d think i’d grown up and gotten B O R I N G, i made sure i threw in a few more bon mots to keep my avid audience from frowning.
but since then, i’ve wondered…when did i stop being preppy? have i? huh?
so here’s the thing. growing up and making it through the cotton of the 60s and the quiana of the 70s…by the time the 80s came and lisa birnbach’s bible made it to my eager hands, i did feel (get ready for a big fat cliche here, folks) like ‘coming home’. i mean, how else would i feel when the verbage, illustrations, nicknames, architecture, weekends, expressions, menus, geography and attitudes were things i’d already grown up with. lobster. tennis. sailing. horseback riding. lacoste. sperry. ll bean. brooks brothers…a veritable roll call of americana with a bent towards haberdashery history!
well, i don’t know about you, but i grew up with a television. and on that black and white screen i spent countless hours (added up i’m sure it’s years, oops) learning and living alongside of katherine hepburn’s tracy lord and cary grant’s dexter in ‘the philadelphia story’….plus the hundreds of iconic glory days of starched shirts, shiny loafers, thick leather ladies handbags, summer lobster boils depicted in movie after movie after movie…(hello, doris day’s ‘it happened to jane’…see what i’m saying?).
yep, i grew up staring and learning and assimilating this world that here, sure, aims more towards the east coast than my little sleepy chicago suburb, and it was this button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves world that i wanted more and more of.
duck shoes, penny loafers, top-siders, baggy jeans, crisp white cotton tshirts, headbands (yes, i did do that for a while….), plaid skirts, irish wool sweaters: who wouldn’t embrace this world of natural material and sensible colors and patterns? and the bloody mary’s….
i could go on.
so, basically, the day that i was given an autographed copy of the preppy handbook (which later fell into the pool from my imbibing on too many preppy g&t’s) was a clarion call to embrace and love the first lifestyle i really had been exposed to, and one that was a mainstay in our culture.
fast forward to life here over fifty, i still have my preppy days, of course i do. but along with the decades of life since the 80s, i’ve dabbled a bit into something to be described as ‘fashionable’…or at least, again, according to the teen gals in this life of mine, ‘cool’ and ‘hip’.
being creative comes with a burden of attempting to look a bit, well, ‘out there’…but i can assure you, well, at least assure my pal who was compelled to ask me that riveting question: if you hung out in my room and dug a little into my shelves of folded and hanging clothes, you’d surely find enough traces of preppy stuff to know, wholeheartedly, that it’s firmly rooted as part of my bizarre, kookie lifestyle dna.