Party Hat

by Nancy Kane

We are the post-hippie generation. We were handed all of our freedom without ever marching, voting, or getting arrested. We licked ice-cream cones at Baskin-Robbins when Nixon resigned. We wore POW bracelets as jewelry because we didn't understand that there was a real man who was missing in action in a real war.

Our teachers had brothers, cousins, husbands, boyfriends sent to fight in Vietnam. Every night we cut articles about Vietnam out of the newspaper for Social Studies. Every morning we discussed Vietnam, every evening we watched the fighting there on television. We didn't really know where Vietnam was, we couldn't imagine a rice paddy. We were too busy with bursting hormones to understand death and war.

After school we slipped into alleys and drank Boone's Farm. We lit our first cigarettes and learned to blow smoke rings. We whispered about boys and had our first kisses. We got light-headed as we smoked our first joints and listened to acid rock. Our parents divorced, making it easy to lie to our mothers.

We never burned our bras or marched for a woman's right to a legal abortion. Our sisters had already done it for us. We believed abortion was our birth right. We didn't bother to vote, we knew it didn't matter. We were convinced the sexual revolution gave us the inalienable right to sleep with as many partners as possible. And so we did.

We knew we would do everything differently. We had done nothing, yet it seemed as if we had it all. We knew, as we took a hit off that fine Acapulco gold, that there would be no more wars. We reveled in our freedom. A drink, a toke, life was good.

Like every generation before us, we wanted to be nothing like our mothers. We scorned their way of life. We didn't need to get married and we'd never have children. We wanted to play all day and party all night, every day of our lives, with no one to tie us down.

We joined the club scene. This was ours, and it was real. We did our first lines in the women's restroom. We dressed in black. The tightest, shortest black clothes we could find. We wanted to be noticed. And we were.

Everyone knew us and we knew everyone. We danced, we laughed, we smoked, we drank and turned around and started over the next day, and the day after. Hangovers were "cool." They proved that we could "hang." We were waitresses and bartenders. We made fast cash and spent it faster. We tipped big and we expected big tips. The hours, the people, we loved it all.

Our party friends became our family. They understood us. Our families and married friends shook their heads. They didn't understand how we could wear the party hat every single day. They had real jobs, families, and mortgages. They were responsible.

Then we met "older" men. They made us feel special. When they professed real feelings for us, we fell hard. We put our trust in them and supported them emotionally and financially. Yet, they wounded us. So we got back out there and made different men pay. We would never be fooled again.

Marriage was something we couldn't comprehend. Monogamy was not an option. After all, what had our sisters fought for? There were so many men. We wanted men to spend the night, not the future. We would say good-bye in the morning, glad that they were gone. We didn't cry over men.

Our best girlfriends kept us grounded. We told them everything. When we were tempted to see someone two days in a row, girlfriends were there to talk us out of the trap of commitment. We knew they were right, so we went out to new bars, to meet new men.

Suddenly our 20s were over. We looked around. Our best friends had gotten married and had babiesówithout apology. We saw change everywhere. The right to a legal abortion was being challenged. The Wonder bra was a huge success. It happened right in front of us, without our participation.

And so we ran again, as fast as we could, back to our old friends and our families. We looked in the mirror. And we allowed ourselves to grow up.

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