Michelle's daughter, Babs, has comissioned me to go thrifting on her behalf: apparently, men's plaid flannel shirts are in again. For whatever reason, these relics are prized and precious in Copenhagen second-hand stores--like Levis in the former Soviet Union, maybe--and so I hit the Value Village tonight and am sending a bale of not-too-ratty lumberjack wear back to Denmark with a mutual friend.
The grunge movement and its attendant fashion swept the world in the 1990s, but when I was in high school, Babs's age, it was just...what we wore. I had Chucks and ratty jeans and a variety of flannel shirts, but I'd bought them all new. I had one particular blue plaid shirt with little copper buttons, like pennies, that I particularly adored when I was 14, for a spectacularly dorky reason that I can't quite believe I'm about to reveal. But will, anyway.
Remember the t.v. show Family? Big 70s ensemble drama with James Broderick as the dad, and cute li'l tomboy Kristi McNichol as daughter Buddy? (And then, when Buddy outgrew being quite so cute li'l, Quinn Cummings as the...cousin Oliver character?) I guess it was quite groundbreaking and controversial in its day; the episode summaries at TV.com indicate that someone went alcoholic or got a divorce or turned gay every third week or so, or that some Shady Friend from brother Willie's past would turn up to make things interesting. What was Willie's deal, that he had so many dubious friends in his history?
Anyway. The syndicated reruns of Family played every afternoon on a local station at about the time I got home from school...and though I was hooked, remember watching it avidly, I can barely recall a single detail, except for Willie. Willie the proto-slacker, quitting jobs, living in an apartment over the family garage, I think. How old was he supposed to be, anyway? I remember him, at all, for only one episode, in which he was dating Stephanie Zimbalist in her pre-Remington Steele days. And ohhhh, how I lurved Remington Steele. I obsessed over every episode with my friend Erika. By MAIL, because the Internets were but a gleam in Al Gore's eye. We wrote each other LETTERS, in our respective boring 9th-grade classes. We swooned over Pierce Brosnan, though when Moonlighting premiered a few years later, I switched my loyalties to Bruce Willis. Remmy was prettier than I was, dammit; I figured maybe I had a shot with balding, broken-nosed, wise-ass David Addison.
I am getting way off track, here. So, Willie--who really got around, it seems--dated Stephanie Zimbalist for one episode, during which she scandalously stayed overnight in his apartment. It was so obvious, that they had totally had TEH SEX...not least because, in the morning, she greeted him clad only in one of his shirts. Blue plaid flannel.
I was 14, and this was...the hottest thing that I had ever seen. Lord. I wasn't hot for Willie, mind--I think he had a perm, kind of an Art Garfunkel aesthetic that did nothing for me. It was simply the concept, of so boldly spending the night in a man's bed, and of mincing provocatively around in his shirt, the morning after. It struck such a weird, powerful pubescent chord in me, somehow--so scandalous! So brazen! So confident! Right there on the television at three in the afternoon! Did anyone know, what ideas this program was putting in my head? I seriously could not wait, to grow up and be so glamorously sexy. To visit my man in his totally mature independent apartment...over his parents' garage. To wear his shirt. Without a bra, even.
I don't remember where I found my blue plaid flannel shirt (a women's shirt). I'm wearing it in my ninth-grade school picture, though...along with the dark lilac eyeshadow I'd just discovered, my greasy waist-length hair pulled back in two barettes that, only by the grace of God, are not actually beribboned roach clips. Fourteen. I was a massive dork, no arguments in my own defense...but in my head, I was years and miles away from the rest of the dolts slumping and sleeping in Mr. Anderson's 8 a.m. World History class. I was going to be beautiful and hot, and completely dateable, and totally not a virgin, eventually. Life was going to be AWESOME.
I kept that shirt for years and years, until it faded to gray; it shrank until the cuffs barely reached my forearms. Honestly, I thought I still had it--I was going to tuck it into the bundle of shirts for Babs (though, for her sake and her mother's, I wasn't going to tell her its origin myth, because she is now also 14, and my perspective? has CHANGED). But I rummaged through all the drawers, and: no shirt. At some point, it made its own journey to Value Village without me, and I didn't mark the occasion.
I did find another one, though, way in the back: a brown-and-blue plaid that had belonged to my ex. I shrugged it on, curious. It's way too big for Babs...but it still fits me.
Sorry, Babs. Keeping that one.