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Simply sensational

By Win C. Ivey / January 5, 1987



IT was two days before Halloween and they had just come from an early party. Maybe an office party, or could they have been working in a shop where they had been permitted to wear costumes? They were wonderful, these two young people, joking and laughing and loving all the attention their get-ups were drawing. I tried hard not to stare but was utterly fascinated with this Halloween vision. They sat behind the driver, facing the center of the bus, in full view of everyone. The fellow's profile was something - six-inch spikes of greased hair down the center of his otherwise closely shaved head. (I thought he must sleep sitting upright in a chair.) His baggy pants, held up with suspenders, were rolled up to reveal a battered pair of what looked like old combat boots.

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His companion had her own style, which included earrings that made me wonder how she managed to hold her head up. She was wearing one of those sweaters that come almost to the knees and a pair of cutesy little boots that looked as if they'd been dredged up from grandma's attic. I was intrigued and considered this one of my more interesting bus rides. I sometimes take the bus downtown and delight in the spectrum of human nature I observe.

Exactly when I began to realize these two weren't in costume after all, I can't recall. It just slowly dawned on me that they were serious about their outfits. Outrageous as they were, they seemed to think they were pretty sensational. And they were - unflattering as all get out, but sensational, yes!

I gave myself a little mental pat on the back. My children never looked so wild. But just a minute - didn't my ninth-grade son resemble Veronica Lake for a whole year when he insisted he be allowed to let his hair grow and draped it over one eye? And his curly-haired older brother, whose Afro had almost gone to seed, looked like a cross between Bozo the Clown and a sheepdog with a permanent.

Their sister wasn't much better. Given her way, all her clothes would have come from the surplus store. Blessed with naturally curly hair, she used to beg me to iron the curl out between layers of waxed paper. That had to be the height of foolishness! So maybe I didn't deserve my little pat after all. I thought my children's clothes and hairdos were a disaster, but they fit right in with their peers and considered themselves elegant. Does every generation of parents go through this, I wondered? Did I put my mother through it?

Gosh, maybe I did. The uniform of almost ankle-length ``ballerina'' skirts, sloppy Joe sweaters, bobby sox thick enough to choke a horse, and dirty saddle shoes was hardly guaranteed to flatter anyone - unless, of course, they're 6 feet tall and weigh 120 pounds (which didn't describe me!). Old high school snapshots make me shudder. How could my mother have let me out of the house looking like that? (That's precisely the question my own youngsters have asked me when looking at their high school pictures!)

We have grandchildren and I wonder what they'll be wearing 15 years from now.