My fourteen year old daughter asked me the other day if she could get her working papers for a job this summer. After I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the floor, I said sure. Actually, it might have come out more like HOLY CRAP, YOU BETTER BELIEVE YOU CAN, GET IN THE CAR. And then I got all excited because I was actually seeing light at the end of that long, dark, scary, endless I-AM-NOT-AN-ATM-MACHINE-FOR-CRYING-OUT-LOUD tunnel.
It got me to thinking about my early days as a wage earner. I went the traditional route at first and built up a great reputation as a babysitter – little human beings loved me. I rotated between a couple of good, reliable families, sacrificed my weekend nights and made quite a bit of money for a couple of years. All right, perhaps “sacrifice” is a bit of overkill. I was a painfully shy fifteen year old with braces, glasses, bad hair, acne and I lived in a town 50 miles past the middle of nowhere. What else was I going to do with myself?
My babysitting career was brought to a screeching halt after I turned sixteen. I agreed to babysit for a new family with a toddler whom I like to refer to as Satan and that was the beginning of the end that came four hours later. This child’s parents had called me at the last minute, having been referred by someone who knew someone who knew someone. They practically begged me to help them out and at $2 per hour, I just couldn’t pass it up. I should have gotten a clue by the maniacal sprint they did to their car once the door closed behind me but I was naive.
Four hours later, I wasn’t naive anymore. Cleaning up thrown spaghettios, dirty toilet water and piles of poo scattered here, there and everywhere tend to knock the blissful ignorance right out of you. If the book had even existed back then, I would have said the Devil does not, in fact, wear Prada, he wears pull-ups and is three feet tall and I’d rather chew off my own tongue than babysit him again. This was painfully obvious to his parents as they pulled up to their house and found a blubbering heap of me on their front step. I resisted their pleas to give SISPU a/k/a Satan In Scooby Pull Ups another chance, mumbled something about being busy for the next two years and got the hell out of Dodge. I headed straight for the mall where I thereafter found my dream job.
I started work at a local record store in our mall and can I just say, THAT JOB ROCKED. I was seventeen with perfect teeth and good skin, thanks to Dr. Strauss and Neutrogena respectively. Puberty had finally gotten its act together and I was not all together hideous anymore. In fact, I looked pretty damn good. It was smack dab in the middle of the eighties which meant I had BIG hair and lots of it, tons of makeup, thick shoulder pads, shorty short mini skirts and high heels. Shiny black patent leather four inch heels, to be exact – the first to be seen at my high school, thank you very much. Sometimes I wore them with cute little frilly socks, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I had a killer set of legs and a fantastic figure and I worked in a place that played the latest and greatest in albums and cassettes and attracted everyone who was anyone. In other words, I was cool for the first time in my life and I made up for lost time in a way only an attention starved seventeen year old wallflower-turned-hot-chick knew how: at warp speed.
It was vinyl heaven and we’d rip the cellophane off any album we wanted and whip that baby onto our state-of-the-art turntable, turn the sound up to sonic boom level and let it rip. We were next door to GNC Vitamin Center and our daily mission was to shake their bottles off their walls. It was usually mission accomplished by dinnertime, thanks to a particularly loud piece by Mötley Crüe. You’d think their manager would have pitched a fit, but more often than not, he’d be AWOL, only to be found sifting through our head banger section.
I loved my job. I heard all the new releases first, got huge discounts on all the music I loved, met some great people and got to dress up in funky clothes that I got at incredible discounts because I was a mall employee and friend to a lot of other mall employees. I learned to flirt and was surprised at how easy it was to get some extra sauce on my fettucini alfredo simply by inching my skirt up a bit. After work, I’d hang out with these friends, all of whom were older than me and into the bar scene. They took pity on poor underaged me, doctored up my license and next thing I knew, I was a faux 22 year old burning up the dance floors at Flashbacks and Club 2001. Good times.
Would someone mind checking on my mom? I think she just fainted.
It’s hard to believe that I got near straight A’s in high school considering the above, isn’t it? But I did. I managed to keep my priorities in order for the long haul even though they veered a bit off course in the short run. I’ll always be grateful to my friend Pete who had my back at all times, making sure I was safe every time I went out. He was convinced I would tire of the scene in short order and he was right because he was always right, something that used to piss me off at first but then became what I trusted most. Of course, the suspicious bouncer weighing in at 400 pounds at Club 2001 who confiscated my fake i.d., helped curb my underage wild ways as well. HE WAS SCARY.
Eventually, I found my way to college, maintained an almost perfect 4.0 grade point average, graduated Summa Cum Laude, became a productive taxpayer, got married and started a family, in that order. All of it to the immense relief of my parents as I think it’s entirely possible I may have shaved a couple of years off their lives.
(As a side note: I am now well-versed in the theory of karma, having a teenage daughter of my own right now. I TOTALLY GET IT.)
Anyway … that record store and the mall it lived in don’t exist anymore and I don’t know of anyone who even owns any actual vinyl today. Any remnants of that seventeen year old with the drop dead figure are long gone now. But sometimes when this 41 year old wife and mother of two plays the oldies station in her car and hears Smokin’ In The Boys Room, she’ll sing off key at the top of her lungs, ignore the gawkers in the passing cars, and tap her flip flopped feet on the gas and brake pedals. And for a brief moment, that woman will yearn for some shiny black patent leather four inch heels.
And some killer legs to go with them.