There is no describing the desperation with which I wanted Sherry Kean’s haircut, plunging neckline, lipstick and dance moves. I was eleven, a tomboy, in love with pretty clothes and curling irons and high heels and things I felt I’d no hope of learning to navigate or growing to fill out. Sherry seemed securely sexy. Hot enough to be surrounded by dancing, twirling, suspender-wearing cute (read “queer”) men, but classy enough to not be, like, you know, a ZZ Top video slut. Somehow, I knew I was supposed to be prettier, but wasn’t really excited about how that meant I was supposed to look.
The 1980s were an ugly yet lucky era. The hair was bad, the make-up was applied like a veneer, noses were rammed with coke, attitudes were “all about me”, and clothes had zippers and snaps in regrettable locations. But, I was free to admire Boy George, accessorise like George Michael, emulate Nick Rhodes and fall in love with girls who looked like boys. In grade six, my boyfriend and I had identical hair styles and wore matching pink polo shirts and neckties to the June dance.
In high school, a girlfriend and I cringed when guys we had crushes on called us “cute” and “adorable”, stamping our boot-clad feet and complaining that we wanted to be sexy. My friend was an unintentional master of physical comedy, and would strike a pose, hand on hip, other arm crooked behind her head. She’d shake her hair, and shout, “Come on! No woman wants to be cute; call me sexy!” I’m not sure she made much of a case in our hot favour, but she was right then and she’s still right now: no woman wants to be cute. I haven’t seen her in at least eighteen years, except a brief peep on Facebook, but I suspect we both remain on the cute side of things, perhaps a little more elegant and hopefully a lot more refined, but…still…cute. Ugh!
Lately, a guy friend and I have been hitting the town a little more frequently and with a little more enthusiasm than I have in ages, and it has been rather awesome, if also a bit wearing and more than slightly tough on the liver. He has declared himself my wingman, and does his best to inject male perspective into our evenings, encouraging me to give that one over there the eye, but avoid that other one like a disease…which the guy just might have.
Cocktails till the wee hours throws a curious shine over things that looked tawdry a few short hours ago, the bar scene in general and some of its patrons in particular. I was flattered to catch someone’s eye one evening, despite my plain clothes, straight hair, absent cosmetics and clunky boots. Surrounded by women who had taken the time to hoist themselves into tight dresses, pantyhose, entire product lines of make-up and hair-gloop, tottering on heels, clutching pretty handbags and purring across the bar, I felt like one of the guys, someone fun to go out with because you wouldn’t have to watch your language or worry about getting sloppy toward the end of the night, and probably I’d be ok with a shoulder-punch or two. Meanwhile, these ladies seemed like sexy success stories, women who didn’t need to cross their fingers and hope that “cute” matched this season’s “it” style. Women whose shoulders never get punched, and who never hear men within ogling distance say “fuckin’ eh”.
I’m pretty settled with my stature, my style and my place, but sometimes, a field trip to “sexy” would be kind of fun.