Nobody Puts Nicole In The Corner

The Stampede is almost over and I have not worn my new denim skirt even once. This seems like a travesty. I think I’ll put it on today even though I’m only going to the esthetician and the grocery store. I had been planning on taking the kids to a neighbourhood Stampede breakfast, but we decided to hit the road instead and head up to my parents’ place at the lake. It was a lot of fun, although my hands were sore from white-knuckling on the highway, where people were driving anywhere from 85 to 150 km/hour. I had to pass not one but two houses being moved on semi-trailers, and also a woman driving very slow, weaving dangerously, and talking on her cellphone. I don’t like highway driving at the best of times, and I really don’t like it when my fellow drivers are a) talking on their hand held phones, b) taking up more than one lane, or c) driving super fast with a giant load of pipelines on the back of their semi-trailer. It’s quite unnerving. However, we made it in one piece and had a great time, marred only by Jake getting a wasp sting on his ankle one hour before we were due to leave for home.

Last night I watched that SharkNado movie everyone was talking about, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Sharks flying through the air! Sharks in the house! A woman falling out of a helicopter into a shark’s mouth, who was later saved by a man chainsawing his way into and out of that same shark. Good times.

Speaking of movies, I read this very fun piece on how Dirty Dancing was a subversive film, which makes me feel like an edgy person for watching it approximately one thousand times. The funny thing is that I clearly remember watching it in the theatre, and then renting it on VHS, and while it didn’t escape me that there was a back room abortion, a 17 year old girl getting it on with a 25 year old man, and a whole bunch of class separation, I didn’t really care about those plot twists. I hardly thought about them. All I really was interested in – and all I still am interested in – was the dancing. I still love when nobody puts Baby in a corner and the not-at-all-era-appropriate I’ve Had The Time Of My Life starts up. Whenever the kids play Just Dance 4, I immediately budge in so I can dance to this song, although no one ever wants to play Johnny to my Baby.

Digression: I remember my very first viewing of Saturday Night Fever. I was so excited to watch the disco dancing, and I still do enjoy the scenes about dance competitions, walking with paint cans, and John Travolta blow-drying his hair in his underwear. However, innocent young thing that I was, growing up in the “safe sex” AIDS-and-STD-aware 80s and 90s, I was shocked – SHOCKED – at the sheer volume of anonymous casual sex portrayed in such a normalized way. I was also shocked and revolted by my newfound knowledge of the origins of the term “sloppy seconds.” Just writing that makes me shudder. More dancing, less deflowering of virgins in the back of a car while the buddies wait their turn in the front seat, please.

Anyway, although I really enjoyed Dirty Dancing back in the day, I didn’t feel it to be a very formative or influential movie for me, with one regrettable exception. The shorts. How many of us had this exact outfit:

I sure did, right down to the white Keds that made everyone’s feet smell terrible. I don’t remember buying jean shorts – probably they were not available – we just all cut our high-waisted jeans off at the knee and then rolled them up, after tying our white blouses at our waists. Unflattering though this look may be, I found myself thinking nostalgically about it, the uniform for teen girls in 1987, when I took the boys to the amusement park a few weeks ago.

I knew we were in for a busy day when I pulled up into the parking lot right at the opening time and saw 50 school buses parked there, all filled with teens from surrounding rural communities. If I had been thinking, I would have turned around right there, because the sheer volume of people guaranteed that there would be lineups everywhere. If I had turned around and went home, however, I would have missed out on Teen Fashion Education. I needed to be schooled, since I had no idea that all the girls aged 12-19 are wearing short shorts and giant oversized tank tops. VERY SHORT SHORTS. Baby’s outfit is unflattering, certainly, but at least it precludes strangers seeing buttocks and, in one horrifying case, ingrown pubic hair. MY EYES. I should probably mention that it was 17 degrees that day and overcast. I was cold in my sweater and pants, although I do remember that teenagers run at a different temperature than I do. I do recall wearing mini skirts in the dead of winter because, in my crazed teenage mind, tights were every bit as warm as pants. HOWEVER.

One girl did seem to think ahead about the chilly weather, as she had what appeared to be very sheer tights with the feet cut out of them underneath her camo-print short shorts. I applaud her for wearing somewhat weather-appropriate clothing, although I cannot agree with the fashion statement entirely.

But who am I to say anything? At that age I was wearing jeans that I had ripped myself and washed twenty times to make them look worn out – “You look like a homeless person!” my mother would say, snappishly, to which I would roll my eyes at her complete lack of fashion savvy – or I was wearing tiny black babydoll dresses paired with army boots. Dear lord. Well, that’s part of growing up: making terrible fashion choices that make you cringe twenty-five years later. We all have our what was I thinking? moments, and mine certainly had a lot to do with spiral perms and Jim Morrison silk-screened t-shirts.


  1. So John Travolta is in TWO movies with a ‘sloppy seconds’ reference, because I first heard it in Grease and asked my mother what in hell it meant.

    Then she explained it to me. O_O

    Of course I had the jean shorts, and the white shirt tied at the waist, and the Keds. I have seen Dirty Dancing also approximately 1000 times, and every time I love it just as much. I wore out the soundtrack cassette trying to learn how to do the various dances.

    Everything about this post made me smile, even picturing the teenaged girls in their very short shorts, because I have seen them too and DEAR GOD AVERT YOUR EYES AND ALSO PUT ON SOME PANTS.

    • Sloppy seconds is one of the grossest all-round sayings ever. EVER.

      Did you just cut off your own jeans to make the shorts? I remember cutting them off unevenly. Oops. It’s like fixing bangs.

  2. warriorgirlca says

    Oddly, but I think in the same way that you were captivated by Dirty Dancing, I was obsessed with the two star sequel to Saturday Night Live – Staying Alive.
    Subversive? not really. I just thought it was really edgy for the times. Of course this was way before we all knew that John Travolta was
    a) a Scientologist
    b) possibly gay
    He was just this guy then:
    and a really good dancer.

  3. warriorgirlca says

    PS I did not put those weird spaces in there.

  4. warriorgirlca says

    PPS I was at the grounds last night and said to Tom, what is it with these 16-22 year old girls who think that we should see this much of them? His response “I just try not to look because it’s all to much and at my age it’s best to avert my gaze.
    That’s kind of sad I think! Of course I wore cut offs, but in those days a 5 inch inseam was DARING and it was NOT inappropriate if somebody’s dad thought I looked good. When I was that age I also wore blazers! With sweet little leather patches on the elbow! And I felt super cute!

    • Aw! Poor Tom! FWIW, my husband feels the same way. It’s just better not to look, he says. Cutoffs back in the day did NOT show actual butt cheek, that’s all I’m going to say.

  5. I saw Dirty Dancing twice in the theatre – back to back. My girlfriend and I loved it so much the first time, we walked out, bought a second round of tickets, then walked right back in. LOVED IT.

    I can only WISH, though, that I dressed as cute as Baby. My own fashion crimes of the era involved a lot of pastel pink and blue sweatshirts with pictures of cats and teddy bears on them. They were all gifts from my grandparents and aunts, but I wore them willingly enough. I like to say I’m not embarrassed by much, but those sweatshirts…RED FACE. Ugh.

  6. Of course I owned that exact same outfit, as did every one of my friends, but since we were 16 when DD came out, I feel this can be chalked up to youthful idiocy. Sigh.

    Speaking of youthful idiocy, on my way to work, I go through an exceptionally busy intersection at the local high school about 15 minutes before school starts. Because the intersection is busy, if I miss the light, I end up sitting at the light for 5 minutes or so. Those 5 minutes at the light every few days for years have given me more information about the dressing habits of teenagers than I ever wanted to know. If I hadn’t been totally aware that I was old before, I certainly am made aware of it nearly every weekday when I think to myself that my mother NEVER would have let me out of the house wearing the vast majority of the things I see being worn by 14-18 year olds. I am NOT looking forward to arguments over clothing with either child when they become teenagers. Sigh.

  7. God, I loved Dirty Dancing.

    And damn. Missed Sharknado.

  8. Ingrown pubic hair? Holy crap. You either have amazing eyesight, or are 3 feet tall and have no space bubble. Which is it?

    Oh thank god — I thought I was the only person who had stinky feet issues with Keds. However, I did not own that outfit because I only wore clothes sold at Boppers. Or it’s more glamourous sister-store: Mariaposa.

    I didn’t like Dirty Dancing when I first saw it. Still don’t. I couldn’t figure out how old Patrick Swayze’s character was meant to be. Same with Jennifer Grey. Neither of them looked to be teenagers, and Swayze didn’t even appear to be in his 20s. So I spent the whole movie puzzling this over and never got into the magical story of a statutory rapist and the young, upperclass woman he grooms for sex. Also I thought it was beyond stupid for anyone to allow themselves to be called Baby.

    • It was a combination of girl climbing into a ride directly in front of me, bending over, and also I do have good eyesight. But it would be hard not to notice, because her butt was only a few feet from my face, sadly.

  9. I remember being SHOCKED when I watched Saturday Night Fever the first time. That scene in the car SCARRED me…which perhaps is for the best because I was never that girl in the back.

    Keds made my feet bleed every time I wore them but I still wore them. Oh yes I did. Because I was determined to be cool.

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