Sixty years ago this Wednesday something commenced that changed the world, and me. It was called the Sixties.
I was 10 years old when the decade began, 20 when it ended. Certainly the kind of growth and change that took place in my life during that span is no different from everyone else's path through their teens. And while we like to recall the Sixties as something unique — social change, sexual freedom, the British invasion, drugs ("If you remember the Sixties, you weren't there." Ha ha.) — it pales in comparison to, say, the Forties (World War II) and the Thirties (The Great Depression). Still, the decade set in motion many of the changes, good and bad, that continue to reverberate today.
As I look back, the changes in me, and most likely you, during those ten years seem staggering. Not to mention hilarious. Thank God there are few photographic reminders of the plaid bell bottoms I thought the height of fashion, or the double-breasted Edwardian-look sport coats. Or, gasp, the black loafers with the white lightning bolts on the side that I desperately wanted in sixth grade but my parents could not afford. As least that's what they said. They did go along with my Chubby Checker "twist" shoes though.
Ah, the twist. I learned to do the twist in the Sixties. And the mashed potato and even the watusi. But not the electric slide. That was a good 30 years away. I twisted in the aisles of the balcony of the American Theater in 1961 during the movie "Twist Around the Clock." Don't judge me. By then I had ditched the "GI" haircuts my mother made me get when I was 10 and 11, and slicked my hair back into a "DA." "DA" stands for duck's, let's say, derriere. I actually put Vaseline in my hair to try to look like Elvis. And in 1964, washed it out to try to look like The Beatles.
Ah, the Beatles. They defined me in the Sixties. And still do, in some ways. In the early 2000s, I'd tell my college students the difference between me and them could be explained by our music. In the Sixties, The Beatles sang, "I want to hold your hand." In 2002, a guy named Nelly sang, "It's getting hot in here, let's take off all our clothes."
I held hands a lot in the Sixties. That's because I fell in love at lot in the Sixties.