Somewhere Back in the Long Ago

If they ever perfect time travel I hope I never meet myself in 1981.

In fact, if they ever perfect time travel I’m pretty sure I don’t want to meet myself at any time before my 30th birthday. Let’s just say that my 20s were a very ditzy time for me. I didn’t go to college: I worked a lot of low-level retail jobs and saved my money and hitch hiked around France and tried on a bunch of personas that were embarrassing mis-fits.

I still remember a dress I spent way too much money on — almost a whole week’s paycheck — and only wore once because it turned out that I was not the kind of girl who could wear a rainbow-colored embroidered gypsy-gauzy dress with a handkerchief hem after all. In other words, when it came to frocks, I was not Stevie Nicks.

But by my 30th birthday in 1986 I was coming to grips with my authentic self:

1. I am not a night person. If you want to go out dancing at 11 freaking o’clock, count me out.

2. Spontaneity is over-rated. Give me at least an hour’s warning and DON”T SURPRISE ME.

3. Escargot: Never Again.

4. I like  the Doobie Brothers and Mister Mister. Punk rock and jazz are just plain creepy. So sue me.

5. Life is too short to date actors, have a complicated hair do, worry about my weight every time I eat dessert, or read any more books by John Updike.

I liked being 30, and old enough to know my own mind for once. By association, then, I also liked the 1980s.  No, that’s not exactly right: I loved the ’80s. Especially 1986. Ah, that was a good year. 

And now there’s a movie that takes us back to that golden age of 1986: Hot Tub Time Machine.

As soon as I saw the ads for this movie I knew it was my kind of film, and I convinced Top Cat to take me to see it in its opening week. Hot Tub Time Machine is stupid and a little gross and has John Cusak in it and has one of the best movie titles ever: I, for one, do not want to live in a world in which all that is not a recipe for a sure-fire 100% guaranteed five-star cinematic experience.

But  now that I’ve seen Hot Tub Time Machine (and it lived up to all my expectations) I can’t stop thinking about two things:

1. Are we supposed to think of the 1980s as so old hat that when people time-travel back to that decade it’s just to make fun of day-glo clothes and synth music and big hair?  Because I really miss day-glo clothes and synth music and some of the big hair…it sure beats tattoos and nose rings and droopy pants.  Right?

2. Why is it that only guys get to time travel? First there was Marty McFly in Back to the Future, and now it’s the lovely John Cusak and his three pals in Hot Tub Time Machine: doesn’t anybody want to make a movie about some grown women who travel back in time 25 years and recapture the missed opportunities of their youth? Or is there something in the culture that mandates that us girls have to always make do with the life we have, put on a happy face about the choices we’ve made, clean ourselves up and ride herd (suppress) our wayward tendencies?

I try to imagine what a movie with four women in a hot tub time machine would look like and I can’t get a bead on it.  And here’s why: 

It’s a sad fact of life, my friends, that watching women get drunk and hang out with their loser friends and play air guitar and howl at the moon and travel back in time in a hot tub isn’t as funny as when men do it. (Or, at least, it’s not funny when I do it , everything except the hot tub time machine part;  but I might be doing it wrong.)

How were the 1980s for you? Good enough to re-visit?  Or are you keeping the era alive and still wearing your leg warmers and shoulder pads?

And oh! How kind you all are! Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful messages of support for  That Damn France Book.  And no, that’s not the title I proposed to the publisher…I have a totally different working title that I love but titles are delicate things and tend to change month to month so until I ship the finished manuscript off to Bloomsbury (in about six months) I’m going to keep referring to it as That Damn France Book, or TDFB for short.

And I’ll be offering my dear readers of this blog a chance to get your name in print, in TDFB, in the near future (kind of a crowd-source project, to help me with a bit of the text) so stay tuned!

11 comments to Somewhere Back in the Long Ago

  • Deborah

    The movie Peggy Sue Got Married shows a woman time traveling, albeit alone and involuntarily, and not back to the 80′s (because I think it came out in the 80′s).

    I recently visited Iowa City, where I lived from 82-88 and was happy to realize I no longer had any desire to go back to that time, to be that version of myself. That hasn’t always been the case. For a long time I remembered those years as the happiest years of my life. Guess that means now is the happiest time.

  • admin

    Right! Peggy Sue Got Married! I’d forgotten that one…and didn’t she go back in time for the chance to choose the guy with the motorcycle and the black leather jacket instead of getting pregnant by the doofus jock? And she chose to re-live her life EXACTLY the same way, dreariness and all: she went back in time so she could live the same life with the same mistakes, instead of ending up richer with a hotter spouse (see Hot Tub Time Machine). That’s what makes me nuts, that men get to go back in time to change everything, but women have to go back in time to preserve the status quo, regardless of how happy (or not) it makes them. Pssssht.

    You’re right about Iowa City: when you no longer have a great urge to look back it MUST be because it’s more interesting to face forward. You and me both: I CAN’T WAIT FOR TOMORROW! (Because I get better looking every day!)

  • The 1980′s? Wasn’t that just last year? And it’s all a blank. But I distinctly remember the 60′s and 70′s. Is that a sign of alzheimers or was my life more exciting then? A little of both.

  • Wait a minute, I’m starting to remember the 80′s. That horrible trip to China…and more. It’s all coming back. Maybe I’m O.K. after all. Thanks, once again, Vivian.

  • Kim

    The 80′s … Uff dah! I was living with my dog in a tipi at the base of the Grand (and glorious) Tetons, when I met my husband in the Jackson Hole Valley. (At age 27, I had been certain that I was destined for a life of solitude.) For all the squeamish memories of the 80′s (and there are plenty!), there are some mighty good ones, too. Can’t wait to see Hot Tub Time Machine! Can’t wait for the France book, either!

  • Mindy

    In the 1980′s I was just out of business school and all of us wannabe corporate climbers had to wear business suits that were pretty much guy suits with skirts. I still have many of my little bow ties – I’m not sure why I think I will ever use them again!

  • I had 5 kids so I missed all of the 1980′S.
    Now that they are all married + having children they believe me!

  • Barbara Lemme

    Oh, egad, I had teenagers in the 80s! I wish I could have missed the 80s. Now, the 70s, I would love to revisit those years.

  • Nicole

    Have you seen the BBC TV series ‘Ashes to Ashes’? In it a present-day female detective wakes up in 1981 London and has to learn how to do police work in that era. There will be 3 series (24 episodes total – it’s currently transmitting in the UK). Great attention to period detail and music. It’s a sequel to the excellent ‘Life on Mars’, where a male detective wakes up in 1973 Manchester (please do not mistake for the American remake, which didn’t work).

    I can’t remember the 1980s myself – I didn’t have a TV, and that’s when I discovered the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), a medieval recreation group. I spent the 80s learning, then teaching, historical calligraphy, bookbinding, clothing, cooking, and history. Music, fashions, pop culture all passed by me unnoticed. At times I find myself adrift in my friend’s conversations and am continually asking, “what does that refer to?”, when they share a joke about an iconic 80s movie or TV series.

  • maryann

    Two things:

    If you start writing a back-in-time movie with women in it, count me in


    I want your “rainbow-colored embroidered gypsy-gauzy dress with a handkerchief hem”!!


  • I spent the 1980′s on the back deck of fishing boats in Alaska, but when I managed to get ashore I was able to make some hideous 1980′s clothing choices. The jeans I wore then still make me wince…acid wash, pleated in front, waistbands just below my breasts..What does make me wistful is looking at how young my face looked then. I turned 30 in 1986 too, and thought I was old. Now I know why my older friends laughed when I said that. I would not exchange what I know now with that unlined face though. If I could go back in time, I would reassure my younger self. Maybe I would have worried less and have fewer wrinkles now. Nah, they are mostly laugh lines and sun damage. It is what it is…my mantra these days.

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