80’s Girl

You are cordially invited to
Mary Ellen’s
Dancing Down Memory Lane Party
Location: High School
Time: 1980’s
Attire: Goth, Punk, Mod, Preppy, New Romantic, Madonna, Jock, Hippie or Burnout
Please RSVP by calling 613-722-8181
Leave a message on the answering machine.

The first boy I ever loved in a truly, madly, deeply way was Luigi. He smelled like Ivory soap. I wanted to delay going to University for a variety of reasons, mostly because I didn’t want to leave him. But my parents were terrified that as the first born I would be setting a horrible example if I didn’t go directly – Do Not Pass Go – to school. So I spent weeks and weeks listening to Bryan Ferry’s “Slave To Love” while crying. And I mean crying. Luigi was the love of my life and my parents were tearing us apart. I mean true, we weren’t officially “a couple,” but still – he smelled like the love of my life. On the four hour drive to Toronto to drop me off at my dorm, I barely spoke two words to my parents; they were destroying my life after all.

I think it was Grade 11 when a few friends and I started a group called “The Glamorous Girls.” It was a tongue in cheek thing, there were no clique-y rules or mean girls. But, we did each wear an oversized faux gemstone ring, bought from those small coin-operated machines at the grocery stores. Our theme song was “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. We danced and vogued – before we knew what vogueing was – and for a few months it was a wonderful bit of lightness, a salve to soothe the sting of high school’s cuts.

Nothing says teenage angst like a messy bedroom with mood lighting. I had a hanging lamp over my bed and if I was really in the depth of misery, I would swap out the regular lightbulb for a red one. Then I would put on my giant headphones and listen to The Cure’s “The Hanging Garden” or “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. I remember one night feeling so, so horrible but I didn’t understand exactly why; I just knew that one girl was making my life miserable. Looking back it’s very clear that I was being bullied, (a term not much used in the 80’s), by a schoolmate who was jealous of me. She was controlling and manipulating, undermining me every chance she had. That particular night ended poorly, with me attempting to dull my pain by dying my hair a hideous shade of drugstore burgundy.

Years later when I lived in Los Angeles, I ran into this girl (now woman) at a dog park. I remember saying to my husband: “we need to get out of here immediately!” and so he and I and our Corgi fled. Talk about triggering. The next day I received a friend request from her on FB which I quickly declined. HELL NO.

When I went to high school we had to do five years – FIVE! Grade 9-13. By grade thirteen I had just had it, I was so over school. I knew I had to keep my grades high, so I was strategic about how and when I skipped classes. But I would guestimate that I skipped 1/3 of my final year. My friend Ali – who I still talk with every few days – and I used to play hooky together. We hung out in her super cool bedroom, which she had covered in tin foil a la Andy Warhol’s Factory. Drinking her mom’s boxed Pinot Grigio, we would smoke cigarettes and complain about the boys in our lives, all while listening to The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” on repeat. David Bowie was also on heavy rotation and I remember us dancing to “The Jean Genie,” spinning faster and faster to release the pressure valves of our psyches.

I grew up in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, which is right across the river from Quebec. Back then the main clubbing area was in Hull Quebec and it was owned primarily by the mafia. The owners didn’t care that we were fifteen with fake ID, in fact the Hull police would let the bouncers know when they were going to raid their club and the bouncers would kick us all out before the cops arrived. It was a system that worked for everyone.

I remember dancing to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax,” while wearing my Madonna style, pointy-toed buckled booties. The band’s original video for the song, which was pretty explicit, played on a giant screen. After twirling the night away, a friend and I went to a diner with a super sketchy dude who claimed to be in the mafia. Of course that became the story at school on Monday morning: we had met a real life mafioso.

Michelle wore long swirly skirts, armfuls of bangles, big turquoise rings and cowboy boots. She looked straight off of an album cover from the late sixties/early seventies. She had transferred from a different school so we only met in our final year. She introduced me to vegetarian food, herbal medicine, Isabel Allende’s books and Kate Bush. But she wasn’t just a granola-beauty, she had a bit of a tough vibe too. I felt like if anyone tried messing with me she would fend them off with her heavy silver jewelry – like a bohemian Wonder Woman.

Lying on the futon in her attic bedroom, we listened to Kate Bush’s song “Breathe:”
Out, in, out, in, out, in
Breathing my mother in
Breathing my beloved in

Dreaming about our futures and talking about guys and asking just how many rings was too many to wear? Laughing loudly as we crunched organic corn chips and salsa. Michelle was an only child and I had two crazy brothers, “the boys” I called them, so we imagined being sisters: two big haired girls, one blond, one brunette. Breathing life into each other. And thirty-five years later we still are.
Out, in. Out, in.


LOL. I think this was Grade 10 & I was wearing a 2-piece matching set ~ blouse & “trumpet skirt.” And of course teal eyeliner! I still have the skirt b/c I’m a fashion hoarder.

A few good tunes from my high school years:
1) Smooth Operator by Sade
2) A Blister In The Sun by The Violent Femmes
3) Borderline by Madonna
4) Raspberry Beret by Prince
5) The Tears of a Clown by The English Beat
6) Lips Like Sugar by Echo & the Bunnymen
7) In Between Days by The Cure
8) Town Called Malice by The Jam
9) What Difference Does It Make by The Smiths
10) Cloudbusting by Kate Bush