So, it’s Saturday night, one bottle of red down and considering another, and I’ve just watched a stunningly sad and amusing program on More4 about the Eighties. I was born in the sixties, which sounds good until you realise it was March 1969 and therefore I’d hardly developed past a brainstem before it was the glorious (irony) seventies, but I hit the Eighties just as puberty kicked in, about four years after I’d first chosen to wear a frock in private. But watching the program it became apparent that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
Sure, the fashions were to die for. Hell, I’m waiting for fashion to wander back around to padded shoulders, primary colour eyeshadow and lipstick, biggggg hair, but it’s not going to happen again in my lifetime I think. But the mysogyny, sexism and racism was eye-openingly, err, familiar. What struck me as vaguely funny was they had a whole section on how open the 80s were around gender-neutrality.
I was there, and it was not open. Not like nowadays, where everyman and his dog knows or wants to cross the gender gap. The program made it out as if every town in England was full of Boy Georges. Which wasn’t exactly true. It took me until the age of bloody forty-five to *meet* another T-Girl in the flesh, and by then the Eighties were consigned to the embarrassing ‘what-my-parents-wore’ folder of history.
So why go on about it? Just because. If now-me could go back and, say, shop at Laura Ashley’s in 1984 I’d be squeeing like a dog’s chew-toy. Sod the sexism, sod the lack of TV, the lack of the internet. A chance to frock up in those flowery summer dresses, those hobble-skirted power-suits, hell yes.
But there’s the kicker. It’s all rose-tinted 1950s girlie glasses I’m afraid. I wore those dresses and they weren’t comfy. Today everything is fitted, flowing, catered for girls of my size. Back then if you were a girl and over 6 feet tall you were in the circus. Looking back is a wonderful thing, and it’s all contextual. Which is why I love retro *now*, as opposed to then.
Ever worn a vintage frock? It sucks. The material is odd, uncomfortable, it’s all threadbare and worn. Because it’s *worn* – and looking back, watching the comedians and commentators of today looking appallingly at the fashions, styles and mannerisms of the Eighties, it struck me how fresh everything looked on the program. Because back then it was.
It’s nice to realise that, with the tech and facilities we have nowadays we can look back with those previously mentioned rose-tinted specs. Bought from Amazon and delivered next day via prime. So now isn’t that bad a time to be, even though then would have been fun especially because I was two stone lighter and, gasp, a size 12 as opposed to a size 16 (18 if I want to breathe).
So when we look back it isn’t a yearning to be there. Hell, I love 40s, 50s and 60s fashions but I’d take the Internet over war, rationing and having to put up with the early Beatles any day. It’s a craving for the idealised version of what we thought it was. And that became obvious as I was watching this program – they referenced stuff that I remember the first time and it was pretty crap then, but looks so good now.
What struck me as ironic is the kid I was back then, dressing whenever the parent were out, wearing only lipstick and a crappy blonde wig bought in a joke shop, would beat me senseless for even considering anything other than utter happiness with my situation right now – courtesy of the Internet and a society which, while appearing restrictive to the ultra-PC is actually more open than anything I’ve read about, we of the gender-bridge are in a wonderful position.
We are the generation that stares back and wishes things were different, without realising we have the luxury to stare back and wish things were different.
On that red-wine-infused deep thought I’ll leave you beautiful people. Look back if you want, but remember to order matching shoes for the polka-dot frock. And enjoy it, it won’t last forever.