This loss is personal. She was 16 years old. I was 13 and I knew every word to "It's My Party." One of her later hit songs, "You Don't Own Me," became my anthem! I remember telling my parents 'you don't own me!' when they wouldn't let me do what I wanted. To make matters worse, I couldn't tolerate boyfriends telling me what I could wear and who I could be friends with, so I would use the lyrics to declare my independence. It might be why my boyfriends came and went so quickly back then!
"American Bandstand" was a TV show that came on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in the early 1960s and my girlfriend, Betty Ann, and I were faithful fans. As high school freshmen, we were desperately seeking who and how we were going to be. We watched Bandstand for hairstyles, makeup, clothes, and shoes as much as we watched to listen to the latest tunes and learn the dances. For that half hour each day, we would dance around the living room in our sock feet, and share beauty tips and gossip. It's what teenage girls did back then. That was our social media, I guess!
Lesley Gore was a guest, singing her hit song, "You Don't Own Me," and I remember so well how envious Betty Ann and I were of her hair. We desperately wanted our hair to "flip" like that, but me being a blonde and Betty Ann being a red head, we were burdened with fine, straight hair that would only flip for a half hour, regardless of how long we wore those damned curlers or how much hair spray we used!
Eventually I figured out which hairstyle worked best for my hair, but, oh, what a lot of work that hairstyle was! Using big plastic rollers with the pink plastic pics to hold them in place made sleeping a real challenge. To find a comfortable position where a pic didn't poke was a nightly ritual. And, I did this every night, Sunday through Thursday. After all, I had to keep up appearances! That's what high school freshmen did in my day! It wasn't just about being smart (although that was very important) ... it was about what you wore and how you wore it!
One other reason why I am taking her death so personally has to do with mortality. Hers and mine.
With only a few years difference between us, it has given me pause to consider how close I am to the end of my life. Yes, I have longevity in my family ... my maternal grandfather lived to be 110 ... so, there's probably a longevity gene floating around in there somewhere. But, still ... none of us knows how much time we have left. None of us know this, not even those diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Yet, when a friend dies ... or someone we've known all our lives as I've "known" Lesley Gore ... well, it makes me think.
I won't dwell on it. It's not my style to linger on things I have no control over. I live very much in the here and now, but, occasionally I do ponder the future. I've learned so much in this life, yet, I still don't have answers when I need them, so, I know there's still a way to go to obtaining real wisdom.
Goodbye, Lesley. We loved you. Thanks for the memories.