When a decade of your life becomes a party theme
I blame the weather. The brittle, volatile autumn light you could snap with your fingers and crunch underfoot, has vanished. Outside my window, glowering, flabby clouds have gathered like great big scowling washerwomen; they’ve crossed their fat arms and have settled in for the day.
I’m cold. I met a man the other night who told me that when he retired he went to live in southern Spain, rented a finca in the middle of the countryside, and got the bus in and out of the city every day to a university where he studied Spanish literature. When he arrived there he had two words of Spanish, “dos cervezas”, a far cry from the linguistic jigsaw of Don Quixote.
I’d like to have talked to him some more, asked him if his brain felt like a shredded mantilla trying to assimilate all that language, the rapid Spanish on the college stairways that must have sounded like a riot of starlings.
But we were freezing our respective tooshes off, sitting outside a bar that was hosting a themed birthday party we were both attending, and he was wearing a blonde wig and a Johnny Logan-esque white suit, and it was difficult to concentrate with fingerless lace gloves waving around and legwarmers swinging back and forward.
And my backcombed hair was hurting and I’d so much kohl pencil rimming my rheumy eyes I could barely focus. And then people started singing Happy Birthday and we all tottered back inside in our party shoes, and I never did get to finish the conversation.
We were at a 1980s-themed 30th birthday, and the 30-year-olds all looked fabulous, a pastiche of Day-Glo and Flashdance and fluorescent tutus and diligent crimping. Meanwhile, those of us who had been around that particular block the first time were looking a little less perky.
It’s disorientating when a decade of your adult life gets transmuted into a party theme. If you had asked me then how the era would translate retrospectively, how it might all boil down into an evening’s entertainment, I’d have thought you’d been hitting the Cinzano a bit too hard. Why, I would’ve asked, would anyone want to revive a decade of unemployment and recession, of dizzying interest hikes and cheese mountains and milk lakes? Not to mention the shuddering mail boat to England and mad fares to America, where you hid out in Brooklyn, sweeping the floor in a diner hoping that the immigration man didn’t come in looking for his eggs easy-over.