A boomer’s memory of The Cool Girls

Ah, memories. For boomers, plenty good and, well, plenty bad. Valparaiso, Indiana writer Joyce Hicks has a few herself, and one of them went from bad, to good … but it took 50 years. It’s about The Cool Girls.

In my sixth-grade class the hierarchy of coolness was already well established by looks and parental occupations. I was middling cool with girlfriends like me. My status reflected disadvantages physical and social. I wore glasses, my hair hung in sausage curls, and my father was an English teacher.

Joyce Hicks

Joyce Hicks

One Friday I begged my parents to let me wear my new store-bought dress. At school when I twirled to show it off, a girl of the highest rank of cool was wearing the same dress! She was smart and pretty with dimples and a ponytail, the daughter of a seed farm dynasty.

“Oh, goody!” I thought to myself. I was sure that having the same dress would confer a similar coolness rank on me.

“Look, we’re twins today,” I said, fluffing my skirt.

“Maybe from the back, but sure not from the front!” said one of the boys looking on. My twin just smiled nicely with her dimples.

Shot down to my proper rank, I wasn’t really surprised. Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.

At two-thirty that afternoon, we shoved aside the chairs for square-dancing. My dress joined the dancers as my secret crush, son of a local industrialist, picked HER. This was an especially bitter pill, since I had spent so much arithmetic time admiring his cherubic features.

[Joyce Hicks book – Escape From Assisted Living – is available at Amazon.com.]

But thanks to my Arthur Murray lessons, I knew how to get even. When Prince Charming turned aside, I cut in. My twin had to sit down.

“You are so stuck up,” I said to him.

“Huh?” Same dress, different girl.

“You cool kids never give the rest of us a chance.”

“I’m not stuck up.”

“Well, that’s not how I see it.”

I don’t think he got my point — that being in the top tier meant that others were in tiers below. That those above have a moral responsibility to those below, his moral responsibility being picking lower ranking girls as square-dance partners.

Fast-forward a bit. I was back in my hometown at the country club, a place the less cool rarely visited, but that night was the class of 1963’s fiftieth reunion.

Hicks_reunion

A reunion on the country club porch.

Whom did I see but my twin! I recognized her without reading her nametag, a pleasant-looking, grandmotherly woman.

“I’m so glad to see you,” she said. Her warmth was genuine and so was mine. My old crowd had reserved a table and we asked her to join us.

Our accomplishments were reviewed— university administrator, museum lecturer, coordinator of volunteers at a historic site, and educators. It seemed we were all cool girls now.

On impulse I asked, “Do you remember the day we wore the same dress?”

“Yes, I do.” She smiled the same smile as that day, still with dimples. I wondered what exactly she was thinking, just as I did back then. But more than fifty years later, just as then, I didn’t really want to know.

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2 Comments on "A boomer’s memory of The Cool Girls"

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Sandra Nachlinger
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Great post! I’m guessing most people can relate. I remember suffering through various degrees of “coolness” myself — usually ending up on the middle rung of the social ladder. You were braver than me by telling Prince Charming he was stuck up. I never would have dared to do that!

Joyce Hicks
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I’m embarrassed to think of it now–he was a perfectly nice kid! Because he went on to private school, he wasn’t at the reunion, so where adulthood took him I don’t know. Thank you for your comment.

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