Day 9 in a month of writing: Are We Younger Looking Than Our Parents Were at Our Age?

Dave Lee & Pete the Penguin

Dave Lee & Pete the Penguin

I have my hair in a ponytail. Not a nape of the neck sophisticated ponytail. Nope, it’s a no part, high on the head sock-hop sort of affair. I wear my hair this way often; at the end of the day after wearing it down, first thing out of the shower when I’m not up to drying it or simply when driving down the road in the middle of the day and my hair is bugging me. By the time my mother was my age (north of fifty) she had taken on a Bea Arthur look. Her hair had grayed completely platinum and she kept it short. The kind of short that allowed her to get her hair cut in a barber shop in Cumberland Wisconsin one summer, despite the barber claiming women were “too fussy”. She owned the Minnesota Mom Cut and never thought about whether anyone might question her femininity for wearing her hair that way. She was able to pull a winter hat over it, a snowmobile helmet went on easily when necessary and she could tie a scarf or bandana over it to protect her ears. That generation clearly had ear issues. Unless temperatures indicate possible frost-bite, none of my peers cover their ears on a frequent basis. I can’t even picture what my mother would have looked like in ponytail at my age. I think if I wore my hair like my mother did that people might inquire “how is your treatment going?”.

If one were to page through my parent’s yearbooks, they might think that Minneapolis was experiencing a graduation issue of some sort during the late forties and early nineteen-fifties. My parents classmates  all appeared to be in their forties. The boys had serious grown-men haircuts and if they wore glasses they could pass for an attorney, doctor, a pastor or someone you might buy a car from. The girls hair varied somewhat in length but there were no ends to their strands of hair, it all curled under, their hair being more of a  halo around the head. Lipstick and pearls balanced the look and they all seemed to wear either blouses that were buttoned to the neck or crew-necked sweaters. No time for flashing any skin, time to get an education! I remember that during high school  my mother thought I was being incredibly provocative for not just keeping the collar button undone but also wanting to leave the next one open as well. My cleavage did not begin for another six inches.

My own hair remains primarily dark with a couple of sections where the gray has gathered in one inch stripes. My husband recently suggested that were I to stand my hair on end I would look like the Bride of Frankenstein. No he did not just say that to me, it was an observation he shared with the entire table we were having drinks with. I could barely be offended because his comment was accurate and neither of us feel compelled to act like grownups very often. Acting like a grownup is saved for rare occasions; after funeral service discussions with older people who do not know us well enough to recognize that it is totally out of our comfort zone, purchasing a vehicle, signing a mortgage and having our taxes done.

I don’t wear my hair in a ponytail under some false illusion that it makes me look younger but honestly with a few exceptions I believe all of my friends look younger than their parents did at our age. Sure we were the first generation to embrace sunscreen but for the most part that happened after the baby oil tanning days had done their damage. Though our jeans and sweatshirt weekend wear have not changed much over the past thirty years, our hair has changed along the way.  Despite what a good look it was, I am no longer spiking my hair with gel or getting perms. The unisex mullet is part of my past. Occasionally at the Fair or perhaps a concert you do see a woman who peaked in 1986 and kept the hairstyle as a tribute. I remember thinking the same thing with some great hairdo’s on the waitresses at the old Thunderbird Hotel coffee shop, those beehives that they stored their pens in got them tips in the sixties, so they kept them all the way until the place closed, like a hairstyle time capsule.

A friend posted a picture of her parents on Facebook recently. The photo is from the 1970’s and they were in their mid-thirties. She is beautiful, he is dapper, with his arm around her waist and in his other hand he cradles a pipe. That is what grownups look like! I wonder how future generations will look at ours. We don’t have a Jackie O’ fashion icon that all women try to emulate. We have women with short hair, long hair, dreadlocks and hair dyed so well that the black doesn’t look blue, the blonde doesn’t look damaged and if someone wants pink or lavender hair they can have it at any age. We also have grown women who sport ponytails.

Perhaps it’s modern conveniences that have kept us from standing over stoves as long, not spending hours hanging wash on the line and ironing that has kept us looking younger than the generations before us. Then again, it might be that whereas I knew many families with six to twelve kids when I was growing up, today big families typically max-out at four or five children (unless they have a reality show contract). Maybe having kids ages you. Anyone want to discuss the merits of this theory?

Sure more women work outside the home then a generation ago, as a result buying more clothes and needing to dress in what current business wear dictates. This also exposes middle-aged women to coworkers of a younger demographic. I can see this having an impact on how one continues to evolve their hair, makeup and wardrobe and not simply freezing ones look in some bygone era.

We might look younger than our parents did at our age but for those of us with high school and college aged children this does not explain why so many of them got to skip an awkward phase and wend from childhood adorable to red carpet ready. No offense to my lovely bridesmaids but for some reason I think most prom attendees today look more sophisticated than you all did in your mid-twenties. We did however do our own, hair, nails and makeup. Maybe someday historians will look at us as the Peter Pan era, the generation that never grew up. That would explain why my hair is gathered in an elastic band right now.

Upon further reflection, I have had a genuine epiphany. In Minneapolis during the nineteen-sixties there was a locally syndicated show called “Popeye and Pete”. Dave Lee  hosted the show but naming rights for the program went to a cartoon character and a hand puppet. The program consisted of a studio full of kids who got goody bags filled with products from the shows sponsors.  Between cartoons the host entertained the kids with a couple of puppets, “Pete the Penguin” was known for tugging on the ponytails of unsuspecting girls in the audience (and boys ties, because you wore a tie when you were on TV in the sixties). At the James Ballentine VFW post Mother & Daughter banquet in 1966 Dave Lee served as emcee and special guest. Pete the Penguin was the judge of the ponytail contest.  I know the suspense is killing you but I WON! Yes, there was a prize. I took home what was the largest Slo Poke sucker known to man.  I guess I peaked in ’66 and that’s why I’m sticking with it!


One thought on “Day 9 in a month of writing: Are We Younger Looking Than Our Parents Were at Our Age?

  1. Steve Rose says:

    If you became the bride of Frankenstein, that would make Jeff …

    We recently discussed the pulling of hair by Dave Lee’s puppet Pete. Today, that behavior would likely get you called up on charges of something.

    I think they were older; I never recall seeing either of them ride a bicycle.

    I remember that Slo-Poke sucker; it was enormous. After the Slo-Poke was finally gone, the wooden stick was pressed into service as a closet hanger rod.

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