In just a couple of weeks the country will go off Daylight Savings Time, which means everyone will turn back their clocks one hour. Every time this happens it makes me nervous, and you're about to find out why.
The year was 1997 and it was Homecoming at my son's high school that weekend. The theme of their Homecoming dance was "Saturday Night Fever", as in John Travolta. Disco. You know – the seventies. Naturally the kids wanted to dress appropriately, so they asked their parents, who had been teenagers and young adults in that time period, for fashion advice. I can't speak for the other parents of course, but for me recalling those styles was a lot like burping up a bad burrito.
After all, who can hear the word "polyester" and not begin to feel just a little queasy? At the time it was introduced, women all across the country were convinced they were beholding a fabric miracle. It was too good to be true. Just imagine – a dress that you could wear all day to work, toss in the washer and the dryer, and pull out ready to wear to dinner that evening without even ironing it! Then they came out with polyester double knit, which was available in such lovely colors. Sky blue. Sherbet green. Apricot orange. I even had a dress made of fuchsia pink TRIPLE knit! (It was so short I couldn't sit down in it without revealing more than I care to contemplate. Just thinking about it makes me wince.)
But unlike most fashion trends that only affect the female of the species, this time even the guys got sucked into those freaky styles. I suspect most men actually started wearing polyester when their wives brought home silky, slimy polyester shirts, to replace their traditional button-down dress shirts. But a polyester shirt with huge pointed collars didn't exactly go with a gray pinstriped suit, so some innovative person came up with the perfect solution... a LEISURE SUIT, comprised of an ill-fitted double-knit jacket and matching pants with flared bottoms in soft pastel colors, like turquoise or pale yellow, which was worn with the printed polyester shirt, white shoes, and a wide white belt around the hip-hugger waist. And if that wasn't bad enough, hair was lengthened, parted in the middle and combed down over the ears, and long sideburns and mustaches replaced clean-shaven faces. Finally, a couple of shiny gold neck chains were added to complete the look.
The remarkable thing is, this bizarre fashion make-over became popular with the most unlikely men. Accountants. Pastors. Optometrists. News anchormen. Pretty soon, every fellow in town was walking around looking like an odd combination of Butch Cassidy, Mr. 'T', and the Good Humor Man. It was enough to give you nightmares.
So perhaps you can understand why I was plagued by a nagging stomach ache when asked to chaperone the seventies-themed Homecoming dance that fateful Saturday night. I don't know if it was the sight of my handsome young son looking like Mike Brady during the season he wore an afro perm on the "Brady Bunch", or his lovely date looking like Mary Tyler Moore on her way to work at WJM-TV.
In any case, the whole night was weird. The high school gym was lit with strobe lights and mirrored balls. The kids were all wearing platform shoes and wide lapels and flared pants, and dancing to "Stayin' Alive". The air was filled with the familiar smell of Clearasil and Dippity-Do and body odor (did I mention that polyester traps sweat like a Ziploc bag?).
Suddenly I felt disoriented and confused. I couldn't remember what year it was. This sounded like my music. These looked like my high school friends. This tasted like my cheese fondue. Without realizing it, I began to dance. My arms and feet moved more and more freely as I bobbed and jerked to the rhythm of the band. By the time they started playing "Do the Hustle” – I was already doing it!
Then I felt a gentle tug on my elbow. "Uh, Mom..." Those were the only words my son spoke. His withering glare told me the rest. This was not 1972. It was 1997. This was his Homecoming dance, and I was ruining it, along with his life. With that one look I became, once more, just a plain old flabby, middle aged mom.
A mom who, on Daylight Savings night, came dangerously close to setting her own clock back just a little too far.