Recently, as we were driving to Cape Cod on a family vacation, the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” came on the radio. Ever since, my five-year-old daughter has been asking when the radio will play it again. I can’t say that I blame her. That song is objectively awesome.
I came of age in Reagan-era Houston, Texas. The Look of the moment was Preppy Mania—you either wore the Izod/ Polo/ pink-and-green/ gold add-a-bead necklace uniform, or you were Out. Money was a huge factor in popularity and perceived “human value.” I didn’t have any of that stuff. My parents divorced when I was ten, and from then on, money was pretty tight.
I remember reading an article in Time or Newsweek shortly after Cyndi Lauper burst onto the scene with her album She’s So Unusual. The profile included a photo of Cyndi—as I remember it, standing with her back to her limousine, which was parked in a rough-looking part of some unknown city. I was struck by that image, just as I was struck by everything about Cyndi Lauper–her clothes, her makeup, her attitude. She was rich, true, but she didn’t dress rich or act rich. In fact, she didn’t seem to care about the trappings of wealth at all—her back was to the limo, as if it didn’t have anything to do with her. Her idea of beauty didn’t fit the norm, and she radiated a version of fun and playfulness that anyone could afford. Here was a woman who was living a Third Way, neither In nor Out, just Unusual.
Cyndi Lauper showed me a way to exist in the world. I didn’t have much money, but I could go to thrift stores, and I could sew. I never went as crazy as Cyndi, but I wore vintage with pride. I was the only girl at the formal dance with a 1950’s dress, feather boa, and elbow-length gloves, I can tell you that. I made friends with the “artsy” kids, and guess what? It turns out that when I stopped worrying about looking and acting “right” and embraced the idea of “having fun” instead, I had a lot more fun. It was a lesson that truly changed my life, and influenced my values. Most of my books are about that, in fact.
And now my daughter loves Cyndi as much as I do. What can I say? Girls really do just wanna have fun.