A few months ago, while visiting my cousin Jill in Boca, I had quite a start while mindlessly looking through her some of her old photo albums. I literally gasped when I saw this photo from 1983 of some girl she knew named Rochelle from Seattle, because not only did Rochelle bear an uncanny resemblance to me, but the image was nearly identical to a specific photo of me from the same year! I proceeded to become almost frozen in an uncomfortable yet pleasing narcissistic paralysis. I mean it just looks like me on a different night. Like instead of me on the way to Danceteria, which I was, it’s a photo of me on the way to The Underground the next day, only I’m a girl with spiky hair and amblyopia.
I kind of wish my doppelganger was a guy, but at the time I was so utterly in the thrall of Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Eurythmics, Culture Club and their brethren that who the fuck am I kidding? I had moved to Manhattan from New Jersey to attend N.Y.U. just a few months earlier and, as you can see, I was majoring in coming out with a minor in androgyny. My father wanted me to study something practical and he was right, but I swear, at the time self-actualization seemed not only practical but essential. After feeling so repressed in the suburbs, I didn’t really come out as much as explode, and, as we all come to learn, when viewed in the rear view mirror, explosions can make us want to avert our eyes, or, in Rochelle’s case, our eye.
Some people remember their college years as transformative learning moments with esteemed educators. Me, not so much. I remember the clothes, the music, and what I was complaining about. I remember 1983, my first year in Manhattan, as an extremely transitional period primarily in terms of my look. I was growing my hair out and had just discovered hair gel which nobody had ever mentioned to me in New Jersey. The brand was Dippity-Do and I definitely did. It was thick and green and came in a large jar that was really more of a vat. Gel, I quickly learned, was very good for sculpting unique hairstyles, like my signature cantilever fin, which I whimsically dubbed the “T.W.A.”, after the iconic 1962 Eero Saarinen designed terminal at Kennedy Airport. I liked the flexibility of my “T.W.A.” because by day, I could blow it out and feather it back conservatively and, if necessary, audition for a Proctor & Gamble commercial and then, simply by changing the direction of my hair, go clubbing at night! I sported my “T.W.A.” look until the following summer when I stopped trying to resist the New Romantic zeitgeist wafting over the Atlantic like a glittery mist and, faster than you can say Union Of The Snake, just let it envelop me completely. At that point, I permed the forelock and shaved the sides, rendering myself essentially unemployable except at nightclubs and trendy stores like Antique Boutique, havens where I was sure to be surrounded by people who were similarly defying convention, if not gravity.
By the way, in looking back at this picture, I have to comment on my plaid cotton shirt which was Williwear by Willi Smith and is one of those garments that I forever wish I didn’t lend or lose, which usually ends up being the same thing.