By Felice Prager
Writers are often asked for some biographical information about themselves to follow a published article. I used to submit the following:
“Felice Prager is a Jeep-driving, used-to-be-a-weekend hippie mom from Arizona…”
Upon reading the bio, a friend who knows me now, but didn’t know me then, asked, “What in the world is a weekend hippie? Is there a Hippie Central from which one resigns? Do they send you the negatives of all the photos taken at demonstrations? Were you having a good hair day?”
If there were any negatives of photos from back then, they would have been of me at Bloomingdales trying to find just the right thing to wear when my best girlfriend and I skipped school to go to Peace Rallies. Our motivation wasn’t about stopping the war or banning the bomb or legalizing anything. It was about meeting cute guys with long hair.
My life as a hippie was short-lived and shortsighted. It was a false front for a more primal need.
Simply put, I was a teenager.
I won’t even bring up the issue that I’m way too young to have been a hippie.
I grew up in New Jersey in the town near the George Washington Bridge that connects New Jersey to Manhattan. At the time, we weren’t allowed to go into Manhattan without our parents. We were very sheltered. According to our parents, there was no “reason” to go into New York.
At the time, we broke a lot of rules.
At the time when people were saying, “Sure, we can be drafted to go to war, but we can’t vote,” I was saying, “Sure, we can be drafted to go to war, but I’m not allowed to take a subway.” We could never see the whole picture our parents saw, such as the potential dangers or our naïveté. We just heard about a Peace Rally, and our radar was turned on. Peace rallies were for college kids. Peace Rallies seemed like a great way to meet some of those college kids. Peace Rallies were a way to meet guys.
I was smart enough to know how to participate on the outer fringes of an anti-war conversation if I had to. I had even practiced giving the peace sign in front of the mirror to make sure I didn’t look stupid. However, the communal, anti-materialistic, live-off-the-fruit-of-the-earth, free-loving, anti-armpit shaving, take-a-shower-with-a-friend life was not for me. All I wanted was a cute boyfriend with long hair. I was a Bloomies girl before the term was coined by Madison Avenue word-coining gurus.
I was a princess.
Princesses don’t become hippies.
At least this one didn’t.
The only thing “hippie” about me was my clothes, and even that was fabricated. I thought I looked so good. You know those pictures they put in our kids’ social studies textbooks now with hippies wearing day-glow clothes waving peace signs back in the Sixties? I could have modeled for those pictures, and I’d have looked more authentic.
I had special glasses with all different colored inter-changeable lenses. Some days I looked at the world through pink plastic, and some days the world had a blue or lilac hue. I even mixed them to see the world from different perspectives simultaneously.
I had a Jimmy Hendrix floppy brimmed hat.
I wore my hip-hugger jeans low and tight. To get them on, I had to be flat on my bed. I’d zip them up and then need help to stand up. Sitting wasn’t an option. The jeans were bleached in my mother’s washing machine, and I hand-frayed each leg. It took a lot of work to get them right. I remember my mother huffing about buying expensive jeans for $20 that didn’t fit and that I was deliberately ruining. (I give my own kids similar lectures now. Mental note: I HAVE become my mother.)
I wore embroidered shirts from India or tie-dyed shirts that I created, also using and ruining my mother’s washing machine.
I had an expensive fringed suede jacket that cost me two months worth of baby-sitting money because my parents wouldn’t let me get it. They said I’d leave it somewhere. I did.
I wore sandals in the winter.
And I wore a lot of beads.
The most important part, obviously, was my hair. Since going to Peace Rallies was planned in advance so we could coordinate our alibis, I had to get my hippie-do just right. It had to look like I did nothing to it. That took hours. “Twisted, beaded, braided…”
However, it was all a façade.
Inside, I was a typical teen looking for a place to fit. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to do the same thing.
My kids think I was a hippie because I am unconventional. I once overheard my son telling someone on the phone, “My mom’s not like other moms.” I’m not sure if that was meant as a compliment, but it is accurate. I’ve also heard them tell their friends I used to be a hippie. My cousin once showed my kids some pictures of me when I was 16, and I guess to them, how I looked back then was proof enough.
I’ve tried to explain to them that it was all about meeting cute guys with long hair. Then they point to my husband, who has a lot less hair now than he had then, and they laugh at me.
About this writer
- Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.