Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It Was Never 'Just a Phase'

We all go through phases. This morning, as I splashed to work in the midst of my latest one (more on that later), I began a mental catalogue of some of the phases I’ve been through – some of them were the kinds of phases everyone goes through, but others were… strange. I threw myself into them, strange or not, with passion and commitment. Some of them lasted a long time (still going!) and others were blessedly short. Here are the ones I remembered during the morning commute:

When I was about 5 I went through two phases simultaneously. The first was insisting that I would wear nothing but dresses. I had short hair and an irrational fear that people would think I was a boy (um, SO not boyish, ever) so I only wore dresses. And right around the same time I was flouncing my way through my first school years, I also discovered a catch-phrase that I worked into a surprising number of conversations, given how basically un-applicable it is to most everyday talk: “Who do you think we are? The Norman Luboff Choir?!” And I would make a very melodramatic face of surprised disbelief and shrug. To this day I have only the vaguest notion of who the Normal Luboff Choir is, and NO IDEA why I knew who they were when I was 5.

When I was about 9 I developed an interest in cars. Nothing too mechanical, just an awareness of them I hadn’t had before. Two things really caught my attention. Any time I saw an El Camino I would freak out and announce loudly, “Ew! Gross!” as if I’d stepped in dog poop. It was the late 70s. There were El Caminos EVERYWHERE. The other car-related phase was almost an obsession. I lived in small-town Texas and I REALLY wanted to see a purple car. Keep in mind this was right around 1980 and cars came in one of about 10 colors: white, black, brown, tan, rust (whether intentional or due to natural causes), red, yellow, green, cream, and two-tone. The widely varied palette of car colors we enjoy today just didn’t exist back then and somehow I got the idea that a purple car would be about the coolest thing in the whole wide world. And in Austin one day, while on family vacation, I spotted one and nearly had a conniption fit. Apparently I reacted with such dramatic fervor that my father thought I’d seen an actual miracle or at least Dolly Parton.

Ages 10-12 were simply a welter of phases. I was in love with plaid ruffly button-up shirts that HAD to have a metallic thread running through them. Also, anything to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder was sacrosanct. I boycotted the television show because Pa didn’t have a beard – and I was, after all, devoutly pure in my love for the books. I owned my very own red calico sunbonnet – and I wore it. Indeed I did. I wore my long brown hair in braids just like Laura too. This was the time in my life when I would quote things that Laura said or did in any situation just as if she were one of my school friends. After a while though my passionate love for Laura (while never-ending) yielded primacy to other things I was crazy about: dinosaurs, Greek mythology, Nancy Drew, how good and pure Pam was on Dallas, the origins of people’s names, helping my grandmother cook, dance classes, Flashdance, and going to the rock shop. I loved going to the rock shop. My sister and I would head out there with our grandfather, who had his own life-long ‘phase’ of being interested in geology. It was on Jacksboro Highway, west of Fort Worth, and I can’t remember now if it actually had a giant brown plastic jackalope on the roof, or if it was just near the store with the big jackalope. At any rate, when you saw the jackalope, you were near the rocks. Inside the rock shop there were all kinds of shiny, polished rocks and minerals in all forms. The shop was crammed full of small fascinating things that usually required hours of careful perusing before we’d choose something. Sometimes we’d go back behind the shop to the dusty wooden tables in the yard that were loaded down with big ugly rocks. We’d pick through the rocks looking for geodes we could crack open with our grandfather. He had a collection at his house of beautiful crystal-filled geodes that he had split himself and we were determined to do the same. Of course there were almost never any good-looking geodes on the rock tables. We did find a small one once and when we cracked it open we tried to muster enthusiasm for the dull agate we found inside. Really, we wanted the sparkle.

Oo, sparkles. That’s a phase I’ve never really outgrown.

When I was about 11 or 12 my friend Marny and I spent all our time together. We were best friends at school and in our dance classes. We went through a phase together which drove our mothers crazy. (Mom, if you’re reading this, prepare for an unpleasant reminder of a phase long past.) If we saw something we liked that had definitely earned our stamp of approval, Marny and I would solemnly pronounce it, “Cool.” But not just ‘cool’ the way normal people say it. We added a syllable and drew out the vowels so it sounded more like, “Kew-ehl”. The longer you drew it out, the cooler your estimate of coolness. After this phase wore on for a bit, Mom was vocal in her opinion that saying ‘kew-ehl’ all the time was NOT cool.

In high school I went through a brief phase of religiously reading the debutante pages in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. (I have no idea why really – maybe it was related to my Gone with the Wind phase…? They did wear giant poofy white dresses.) Oh and the curling iron/hot rollers phase. I’m not sure we can call that a phase since it was the 80s and I lived in Texas and it was simply what everyone who was anyone and had any hair did. But I had it all: the curling iron with steam, three curls to the side and one under, the pick for feathering and back-combing, Salon Selectives shampoo and Finesse or Clairol hairspray, the hot rollers so the long heavy hair at the back of my head could ‘have a party’ (I went through a phase of describing curls that way). Gave all that up in college when I became a ‘serious academic’. (I have not yet outgrown the unfortunate tendency to giggle at many things associated with ‘serious academics’ despite being one of those people who loves going back to college every few years.)

Speaking of college, while a freshman I went through a phase of calling anything I disliked (which was apparently almost everything) ‘heinous.’ I used this word so often that my entire family banned it from our collective vocabulary and in fact, even telling you about it now is giving me a bit of a law-breaking thrill. Just the mere mention of it as historical fact is flirting with repercussions for having broken the ban.

My most recent phase is an infatuation with rain boots. I have a new pair of pink and green plaid rubber rain boots, and I have become a connoisseur of cute rain boots on the slick and shiny streets of Boston. I tell you what. Rain boots ROCK. Having an adorable pair of rain boots in my closet has brainwashed me into looking forward to rainy days. I don’t get grumpy at the prospect of damp trouser legs and soggy socks any more. I relish puddles – for the stomping, you know. I don’t know why I didn’t throw myself into this phase sooner. It’s taken me back to that ‘loving to play in the rain’ phase which I thought Boston had soaked right out of me.

What about you? Did you go through a Normal Luboff Choir phase? Maybe dinosaurs? Maybe you too have gorgeous rubber rain boots? C'mon, 'fess up. I want to hear your stories!


Whiskeymarie said...

I had a phase where everything I wore had to be purple, or at least have a smidge of purple somewhere on it. I also had a phase where I wore sparkly lapel pins all the time.
And, when I was 9 or 10 I would only eat chicken if I could dip it in melted butter. Gross.

My recent phases have included eating the same cereal every day for 3+ months, taking scalding hot baths twice a week, and over-using the word "awesome".

L-Bean said...

Most of my recent phases have also included food: I ate oatmeal every day for about 3 I just eat it on the weekends. I've moved onto cold cereal and soy milk. I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day for about 2 months, then switched to bean sprouts, lettuce, and cheese for about 2 months. A few years ago I ate salads for lunch for about 6 months. It's just about all I can do to choke down lettuce anymore.

My new phase, which I plan on keeping for a while, is big earrings. I LOVE big earrings, especially with my new very short hair-do.

J-mom said...

Yes, I remember every one of those phases. I am so happy that is what we call them now - can you imagine how it would be if you still did all of those things? Love, J-mom

HolyMama! said...

canNOT believe you used the H word. you were never EVER supposed to use that word again!

the rock shop was definitely someplace different than the jackalope place.

picturing you in your rain boots reminds me of when we would go puddle stomping in clifton, walking up 'past the dip' to the house with the (pet) white duck.

The Thin Man said...

I think I can crack the mystery of why you went around referring to the Norman Luboff Choir, at age 5. Did you used to own an LP of Sesame Street singalong songs called "Singalong with Ernie and Bert" (or something similar)? I play this for my 5 and 3 year old almost every day, and know much of it by heart---there is a comedy sketch where everyone is gathered in the bathroom and singing, while Bert is trying to take a bath. Oscar the Grouch then comes in and yells "who do you thin you are?? the Normal Luboff Choir? You're making enough noise in here to wake up a parking meter!"

Ring a bell at all? I found your blog after googling "Normal Luboff Choir" because I too had never heard of it, nor knew what it was, and was getting tired of that given hearing this sketch endlessly...!