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Closer to Fine

31 Mar

The other day, as I ran errands, the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls came on the radio.

I of course, sang along, doing the higher harmony part.

But my mind wandered back to a time in the early 90’s at my small Catholic college, where one of the campus bands decided, for moral reasons, not to play their songs anymore. Because they were lesbians, and playing their music would be seen as condoning their lifestyle choices.

I remember being disappointed by the campus band’s choice, because I liked those songs, liked singing along with those songs. But my college was all about making “statements” and this was their statement to make. So my friends and I went back to singing along with “Closer to Fine” playing on cassette tapes in common rooms.

As I thought about that moment in the car, “Closer to Fine” playing in the background, I realized this was the only group that one campus band refused to play because of “moral reasons”. They were okay with playing Crosby, Stills, and Nash (a group comprised of men whose lifestyles included drugs and divorce), Bob Dylan (who had multiple relationships with women), Eric Clapton (who had a hit with the song “Cocaine”), and other such musicians whose “lifestyle choices” did not mesh with the Catholic Church.

But their songs, they could be sung.

Was it because they were all male? Was it because, while the multiple relationships were a bit frowned upon, were at least heterosexual? Was it because they were so established in society it was okay, but the Indigo Girls, they were new, and so had to be made an example of?

Who knows what their logic was for what they chose was morally okay and what was not. It was a strange place, my college campus, a place where I made lifelong friends and my husband, yet a place where I was also judged and shamed by people who didn’t get to know me for everything from musical choices to clothing choices (which I ignored – peer pressure has the opposite wanted affect on me – instead of bending to wills of others, I dug in my heels, and stayed true to me.)

Ironically, when I got home that day, thinking about these, a college friend published a story of judgment and shame she endured by roommates over a dress that was deemed immoral.

Have a seat.” One roommate called the meeting to order. “I found this in your closet.”

That’s when I noticed it. My dress. Laid across the table. Did they think I had stolen it? I had never stolen anything in my life, save a duck eraser from the prize box in fifth grade, but clearly that had riddled me with enough guilt that I was never one to foray into shoplifting. Between my guilt and the fear of getting caught, I had long since marked theft off of my list of must-tries.

“We know now. You were obviously sleeping with him.”

My heart started beating really fast. The room appeared to be spinning, and I saw spots. From what I could piece together, my concerned roommates had decided that my new, immodest dress was proof positive that I had been having sex with my now-ex-boyfriend. (I hadn’t been.) They had previously suspected as much because I had been so emotionally invested, but now this was their tangible proof that I was no longer a virgin. –  The Dress That Ended My Modesty Obsession, by Jenn Morson

I had no idea she had written this, and yet, the timing of it coinciding with my wondering why music by lesbians was banished, but music by men who had several marriages and did drugs was okay, well, it was a bit of a coincidence, was it not? Is it because now, we’re so far away from those days back at our conservative college, now that we’re raising children of our own, that we can look back and see what was maybe not the healthiest of atmospheres for a very young woman?

Because her incident with being confronted with her scandalous clothing choices wasn’t a singular tale. I vividly recall the day I wore a mini skirt (over leggings) and listened to a trail of “Wow, look at her skirt!” all day until a “friend” stopped me to say snidely “Isn’t your skirt a bit short?”

“Yeah, well so am I.” I snapped back, carting my tray of crappy cafeteria food to my table of friends.

Because flipping people the middle finger in the middle of the cafeteria was possibly frowned upon more than music by lesbians.

Ironically, if I want to flash back to my freshman year of college, it’s not one of the Christian artists that tips me off – frankly because I rarely if ever listened to them.

No, it’s “Closer to Fine” that puts me back there, with friends who are still friends of mine today, laughing, being too loud, too secular, and our own selves.

I spent five* years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper, and I was free…

*yes, I know, the original lyric is “four years” not five – but it took me five years to get that paper, and that’s how I sing it


That time I had to call Poison Control – a Flashback Friday post

23 Jan

Sometimes, I feel bad for all you readers, because when my teens were just rugrats, well, they kept me on my toes!

Like the time I had to call Poison Control.

No, not that time..

…not that time either…

That particular time I called Poison Control was when Sean was a toddler.  Sean was an amazing toddler who walked at 8 months, who could maneuver his little 50th percentile self up and over the crib rail at 14 months, who inverted the crib tent once, who wiggled an arm out of the papoose at the ER to slap the doctor stitching up his forehead after he fell “surfing” on the gliding ottoman…

Needless to say, I kept everything really high or locked up.  The top of my fridge was a ridiculous mishmash of knives and scissors and Sharpies.  If I wanted to clean something, first, I’d have to get a stepstool, because all cleaners were put up higher than even I could reach (okay, low bar, I’m short.) He was the sweetest kid though, which made up for the fact that I could never rest while he was awake.

Meanwhile, I have always had a water bottle for my hair, just a little sprayer to tame my hair down or revive my curls now.  Sean thought the little spray bottle of water was the coolest thing, and would walk around the house spraying water into his mouth.  Which was a step up from when he would lick everything.  Yeah, he was a sensory seeker, that toddler.

So that day, as I was sitting on the couch, I heard the sound of a spritzer – which was normal – but then I heard 2 yr old Sean go “Ew!”

I turned, and saw he was holding a bottle of Fabreeze.

I didn’t even question how he got it.  I never left anything low, but the boy was a magical monkey child who could get things he shouldn’t, despite my best efforts.  I sighed, took the bottle of Fabreeze from him, and dialed 1-800-222-1222.

Yes, I have that number memorized.

“Poison Control, how may I help you?”

“Yeah, I think my two year old just drank Fabreeze and I need to know what to do.”

“Are you sure he drank it?”

“Well, I didn’t see him do it, but his breath is really fresh.”

There was a snort, some choking, and then an apology from the nice Poison Control Center man for laughing.

“No, it’s okay to laugh.” I said.

At the time Fabreeze was still new, so he looked it up, and said to give Sean milk or something, and then just watch him for vomiting, etc.  Sean was fine, he figured out after a spritz that Fabreeze didn’t taste good.

When I told my friend that I was going to start buying all natural cleaners so that when my kids drank the stuff, at least it would be natural, she laughed – because she thought I was kidding.

I wasn’t.

And Sean did survive his childhood and grew to be a really laid-back teen who is more selective in what he ingests.

monkey boy

monkey boy


Flashback Friday – Erasure #fbf

12 Sep

As I did my suburban mom Target run last night in search for a Thermos container for Maura’s lunch of choice, organic mac and cheese (a sentence solidifying my suburban  mom status) – this song came on the radio.


So yes, I sat in my car to sing along with Erasure.

And posted this fact on Facebook.

And had three Jennifers reply in similar tones of excitement.

Erasure takes me back to the early years of college, being at Friday night dances in the student union, whipping my hair around.  Which probably explains my need for a chiropractor now.  But I was young, and out in the world for the first time, and had managed to find a great group of friends, most named Jennifer, all equally quirky and fun, and we laughed too loud and danced too well for the more conservative people on campus.

Me at 18.  I loved that outfit.

Me at 18. I loved that outfit.

We use to talk about the weather, making plans together, days would last forever…


I left for college at 17, young and worldly, being a girl from Chicago (well, practically Chicago).  I was all shades of young and optimistic and safety conscious.  I had a strange wardrobe that included a bit of retro throwback dresses, flannel shirts, and one kick-ask little denim mini skirt.  I did not have cool purple velvet shoes like my roommate.  I still envy those purple velvet shoes.  I did end up with a pair of fake Doc Martens that I got for five dollars at Gabe’s. Ah Gabe’s – where everything was name brand, cast off seconds, or had a hole in it.  Seriously, I had a shirt with the word “seconds” stamped inside of it.  Didn’t matter – it was awesome, name brand, and under $5.

I can see that girl I was so clearly, all the insecurity, the tiny waistline, the red lipstick, working custodial to earn cash, carrying her shampoo and soap to the bathroom in a McDonald’s happy meal bucket she swiped off little siblings.  And I can still see her in me, especially when I look at my collection of red lipstick that I don’t wear enough of.  I miss the tiny waistline.  But that girl I was, with all her big dreams, had no clue what was in store for her.  Even with my imagination, I couldn’t have imagined life would take me in so many directions.  The summer I was 20, I had given up on men and decided I’d live in a loft in Chicago with a cat and work for a publishing company as I wrote my first novel.

Six months later I was engaged.

Why yes, we were theatre people, why do you ask?

Why yes, we were theatre people, why do you ask?


Twenty years later, and here I am, singing along to Erasure, still wearing Doc Martens (only I can afford a real pair now) and red lipstick, and still have a ton of friends named Jennifer.  Because I met them all in college, and we danced along to Erasure on Friday nights in the student center.  Sure, maybe it was just our little group dancing, but we danced, and were carefree for a little bit.  I may have danced on one of the coffee tables in the student union, and may have gotten chastised by the night manager for dancing on said table, and may have said in reply “Hey, I clean these tables, I can dance on them!”

Such a rebel I was!

So today, I shall listen to some Erasure and salute that little college gal that I was, who doesn’t always seem that far away when the music starts playing…




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