The best thing about school is the sense of closure you get after a semester. You’re rewarded with a break, you move on to something new, you have a way of marking the years.
In the “real” world, it all blends. One week crashes into another. A month turns into a year and soon you’re looking at retirement plans. There aren’t holiday vacations or final exams, either, just a lot of studying that tends to go nowhere.
Worst of all, there is no back-to-school shopping.
Oh, sure, you could pick up a shirt and pretend like it’s part of a grander scheme, but you’re not fooling anyone, least of all, yourself.
As a kid, I looked forward to new pencils, binders and lunchboxes. After the crayon years, I set out to get pens in a rainbow of colors. I stocked up on notebooks, too, and had so much candy in my locker I could have given Palmer’s Candy sellers a run for their money.
The joy, though, was going for new school clothes – the kinds that make an impression and draw compliments.
In the early years, I was constantly being ushered over to the “husky boys” department where, frankly, variety was not an option. When those gave way to the “young men’s” era, I was able to find things with a little more style – polyester in unnatural colors and shoes that required the balance of a Wallenda. (Remember, these were the 1970s when folks thought the most hideous things looked good.) Scarves (no kidding, scarves), headbands and chokers were big back then. Bell bottoms were, too. And shirts were so tight they made today’s “slim fit” styles look positively baggy.
One of my favorite combos had zippers – big zippers. The shirt had a zipper that could turn you from a priest to a gigolo in one quick move. The pants had two zippers – one on each leg – that could have been the inspiration for the breakaway numbers professional athletes now wear. In the 1970s, the look was hot (even if it didn’t have a scarf) and boasted that touch of danger even though school rules prevented shirts at half-mast. Topped off with a pair of platform shoes (think: John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”), I could have been arrested in six states for pimping.
Back then, it worked largely because those school years gave you the freedom to try different things, to look like someone you weren’t.
Now, in the “adult” years, patterned socks seem risky.
While my parents were fine with the clothes, they didn’t appreciate my desire to have long hair.
As a child, however, I was hauled into the barbershop weekly, just to make sure my hair hadn’t grown an inch. By the time I reached grade school, I started holding onto a clump in the front, just to make sure I had something to comb.
By junior high, I was averaging a tube of Brylcreem a week. The look was sleek (if a little wet) and masked just how long my hair had gotten.
By high school, when I had abandoned the hair gel, it had reached the middle of my back and prompted a nightly fight about haircuts. I’m sure I created the man-bun, just trying to avoid the battle with dad while we passed the mashed potatoes.
It stayed through graduation (where, I might add, my classmates boldly voted me “best hair”) and disappeared the first month of college.
Life changed. Colored pens weren’t important. Reality had started to set in.
Now when I see the ads for back-to-school goods, I wonder where I’d fall.
Would I lust after everything UnderArmour makes? Drool over every product Apple releases?
Or look at shirts with zippers and think, “I would be so cool in that.”