by Marion Rosenfeld
Unlike most Americans I grew up (and still live) in an apartment in New York City. Due to inherent space restrictions apartment dwelling is unforgiving towards sentimentality. Unless you're one of those who rent a storage unit, in New York City there is literally no space to store decades of memories, mementos, and stuff that may not quite spark joy. (NB: Every city dweller has a "crap drawer" or "shit closet" but unlike house-dwellers there are no basements or attics to scuttle away much.) I was a fortunate city kid because in the early 1970s, my parents decided to purchase a modest country house in the Berkshires (southwest corner of Massachusetts) so I was lucky to have a repository for some of the detritus of my youth.
Currently I am in Maximum Middle Age: As of two years ago I am an adult orphan; my daughter is now 13-years-old; my husband and I — together for over 20 years — have earned and saved some money (not only for daughter's education but also for... STUFF); and my father bequeathed us the country house. I recently started cleaning it out and in doing so I discovered ICONIC memories of the 1980s. Here are some of the best, authentic, awesome, ugly, and non-digital touchstones of the period shellacked with hair spray, and noise, and MTV infancy.
1. (College) sweatshirt with the neck-band cut off.
The fake feminism of the film Flashdance created a trend so perverse millions of neck-bands and sleeves were discarded in unmarked graves.
2. Lo-fi agitprop poster from one of the political social actions of the era.
I went to several protests in New York, Washington, and Boston decrying American intervention in Central America. The Iran/Contra situation was fucking wrong. And bizarre.
3. Analog contacts (aka "address book").
OMG. We wrote in longhand. And we had to scratch out numbers. And why the hell did I keep this anyway?
4. Oversized and hideous earrings made out of plastic and terrible gold paint.
This may be one of the most embarrassing things I'm sharing with you. Yes, I actually wore these. Yikes.
5. A cool-ass precursor to 'zine – an indie book about a then-current underground music scene.
I may have bought this from a street vendor on Saint Mark's Place in the East Village (where punk in the US was born). I may have bought it from Scholastic Books at school? I honestly have no memory of how I acquired this book. That's what 35 years does. It's still a cool book though.
6. The requisite Madonna-homage wrist.
Mine was mixed media. My most style-conscious friend at the time, Julie, fucking rad with her asymmetrical haircut, wore over 100 black rubber bracelets on each arm. She was the boss of this trend. But since my style was a little more punky and vintage, my mixed wrist worked just fine.
Marion Rosenfeld, a lifelong New Yorker, walks the fine line between polymath and dilettante. She has spent her entire career in media, topically focussing on pop culture and food. Married to a Marine-turned-Pastry Chef in 2000, she recognizes that her now-teenage daughter is not the narcissistic extension of her self.