15 Things I Remember About Being 15
By Aline Weiller
1. Me and My Calvins – Brooke Shields and I were simultaneously 15. If she could rock a pair of Calvins, so could I. And rock them I did, in every wash available. I’d imitate her limber poses from those print ads in the full length mirror my sisters and I shared, pretending my brown locks, too, were wind blown. Unfortunately, I didn’t have her God-given gams and stood a mere 5’2. But I bought and cherished those Calvins, and wore them thin.
2. The Dorothy Hamill – How can I forget my Dorothy Hamill wedge – the go-to haircut first unveiled at the Olympics? Though I relished my sought-after perm (applied though I already had curly hair), I willingly traded it in for “The Hammil” like all the girls who took a torn People Magazine page — showing the famed skater — to their local salon. I was thrilled with my upscale bowl cut, the perfect complement to my cheerleading and gymnastics garb, with nary a barrette needed. It was fashionable, yet practical; bold, yet subtle; Dorothy, yet me.
3. Christopher Cross – I couldn’t escape this 1980 phenom. That year, Mr. Cross won Album of the Year (aptly titled Christopher Cross), Record of the Year and Song of the Year; he was a bonafide triple threat. Not to mention his singer-songwriter vibe and careless curls that transcended his less-than-svelt physique. And those signature “Sailing” lyrics that spoke to my soul “Just a dream and wind to carry me…and soon I will be free.”
4. That Second Ear Piercing – I yearned to go asymmetrical. I owed it to the launch of a decade that would be deemed “The Totally Awesome 80s.” I, too, strove to be totally awesome, so asked a complete stranger to give me a second piercing (in only my left ear) at a New Year’s Eve Party, with a potato as a buffer.
5. George Jefferson, My Birthday Twin – Sophomore year I discovered Sherman Helmsley, the actor first famous on “All in the Family” and later on the spin-off, “The Jeffersons,” was also born on February 1st. This news rivaled a Quinceanera — the Sweet 16 at 15, my Colombian cousins enjoyed. I fancied wit and to me, his character was indelible. George Jefferson had comic edge. George Jefferson coined catch phrases. George Jefferson and his wonderful Weezy moved on up to the East Side, to live in a deluxe apartment in the sky.
6. Member’s Only Jackets – His name was John and we met while working at a grocery store — me as an aproned cashier, he the flirty, older boy in the deli. I spotted him first in the break room on a brisk fall day, sporting his Member’s Only – a taupe, cotton-polyester blend of uber coolness. He also drove a chocolate brown Nissan 280 ZX and was 18. But that slick statement of a jacket, with its logoed, left chest pocket, was enough to woo me.
7. The Sony Walkman – Good-bye vinyl, hello cassette tapes. What could be beat clipping a 14-ounce stereo system to my parachute pants, blaring Blondie at the mall? Teenage Nirvana I tell you, Nirvana. My Sony Walkman gave me 80s street cred and came complete with a built-in radio, headphones and case. A leather case.
8. You Deserve a Break Today – Being 15 was hard work. I did deserve a break in the form of the newly debuted Chicken McNuggets at McDonald’s. There was no skirting this menu selection with its mouth-watering descriptions, “Golden Brown” and “Piping Hot” on promotional placemats. It was a meal fit for a teen — processed fried chicken with a selection of tangy sauces, accompanied by fries and a beverage, all for under $5. A treat for my tastebuds — and my wallet.
9. Post-It Notes – I was an organzation enthusiast in my youth — a list-making, labeling, Type A kind of teen. When my Social Studies teacher stuck a pastel-colored square on my report, with the message, “Come See Me,” my right and left brain collided. I dismissed his note and instead, marveled at the new-fangled invention – a mini reminder in the form of pink adhesive-backed pages, sans sticky residue.
10. Pac-Man – Enter a banana yellow, one-eyed, video game blob with the munchies. Just the technology society cried out for. Pac-Man ruled and gave me a place to go — to the Arcade — with throngs of other adolescents seeking the thrill of early gaming, through nimble thumbwork.
11. The Sadie Hawkins Dance – It was the first time I’d asked a boy out. Brian became my boyfriend and future prom date. We soon discovered our full-on Italian grandmothers were close friends and secretly wished we would marry…at 15.
12. The Miracle on Ice – My family loved watching the Olympics, especially that historic U.S. win at Lake Placid. I would pretend I was sports commentator, Jim McKay, and stood on our coffee table — hair brush in hand — belting out the famed tagline, “The Thrill of Victory and the The Agony of Defeat,” in my best broadcaster voice.
13. Fame – I wasn’t all that flexible, but aimed to dance like my peers in the movie, Fame. Simply put, I wanted their moves. They attended New York’s High School of the Performing Arts and sought to live forever, as the film’s theme song promised. To me, Fame captured creative freedom and self-expression. I hailed from a conservative Connecticut high school and was often seen in “Talbot’s Wear.” Fame was a powerful showcase of multi-colored spandex and leg warmers that beckoned me to dance, or to at least try. Between its release and that of Flash Dance, I soon embraced aerobics, an envied collection of fluorescent headbands and the concept of paying in sweat.
14. CNN – A budding writer, I was both a reporter for my high school newspaper and a yearbook staffer. I vividly recall the launch of CNN, thinking how awesome it was to have access to the round the clock headlines. I could garner news tips at dawn and amaze my 12th grade editor with spot-on features before noon.
15. TAB – I consumed more than my share of this fad soft drink. I simply couldn’t resist its charm, conveyed in commercials with waifish girls and their foxy guys. And the soda’s whimsical mix of saccharin and carbonation was an enticing, winning combination. Plus, I looked good in fuchsia.
Aline Weiller’s work has been published in Brain, Child Magazine, Role Reboot, Skirt, Mamalode, Grown and Flown, Your Teen, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Scary Mommy, Great Moments in Parenting, Better After 50, The Change Blog and Weston Magazine, among others. She’s also the CEO/founder of Wordsmith, LLC — a public relations firm based in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two sons. A pop culture enthusiast, Aline enjoys weaving nostalgic references into her work.