How to be Coachella

FROM MY HEART By Barbara C. Gonzalez

My granddaughter, Maxine, turned 18 recently. She had a big party, didn’t want a debut, but in the end we all called it a debut. But there was no cotillion, no long gowns, except one of the ones she wore.

Let’s step back a little. I didn’t get an invitation. But I teach writing at The Sunshine Place and Fidel Sarmiento teaches painting there. He once was the painting teacher of Maxine’s mother, my one and only daughter-in-law, Faye. Fidel told me Maxine’s party was that Saturday. If he was invited then I was sure I was too. I knew the parents were in a tizzy preparing so I called my son for details. 

“What’s the attire?” I asked.

“Coachella,” my son, who’s 45, texts back coolly.

“What is that?” I text back.

“It’s like Woodstock,” he says. Woodstock? That rock festival in the ’60s where people took off their clothes? That was my era! I can’t imagine my sweet, innocent granddaughter wearing a see-thru kurta (Indian dress fashionable then and once again now) and no underwear. I was in Sausalito in 1969 and saw a young woman dressed like that.

Okay, I said calmly, but I looked on the net and found out that Coachella is a yearly music festival held in the desert close to LA, attended by a number of celebrities who come wearing what they feel like even if it clashes and gives rise to fashion crazes for men and women. It’s taken the world by storm. Then I thought: Why should I dress like the children? I’m their grandmother. I took one of the tops I had knitted myself then sewed stones on it. I wore those over simple red pants. My date for the evening — my grandson, Nicc, who is much taller than I — said when I picked him up he that I looked like a Coachella. I did not know what that meant.

We arrived at the hotel and Maxine was posing in one of her lovely dresses. Over the evening I realized she had four dresses of different lengths. I also realized that Gino was right: Coachella was a fashion I had passed through. Almost all the girls had flowers in their hair, which explained to me all those circles of flowers hanging from booths in malls. It’s part of the Coachella trend, flowers in the hair. I wore a crown of fresh white roses at my wedding in 1963. Apparently that fashion trend is back in 2017, only 54 years later!

One of the fun things about growing old is recognizing the return of fashion. Different names, of course, but basically the same look. At the party many of the girls were in shorts but with long jackets. In the early ’70s we called those outfits hot pants — short shorts worn sometimes with longer mini-dresses buttoned to our waists only, so they showed off our legs. At the time, we shocked our grandparents. Now, nobody seems to care.

One day at Sunshine Place I saw our youngest member wearing a pair of what I remembered to be gladiator sandals — you know, sandals with straps that climb up your calves to below your knees. I don’t know what they call them now but I remembered that when I gave birth to my son, I walked out of the hospital in tangerine hot pants and beige gladiator sandals, carrying my little baby boy in my arms. I wasn’t overweight. I was 27 then, and now, I admit I looked sex.  I would never have admitted it then. Then, I was simply fashionable.

It amazes me now that at 73 we can look back at our pictures and gasp. I was so thin! I had such nice legs! Why didn’t anybody tell me then that I had nice legs? Why did they wait until I recently to tell me that once I had beautiful legs when the beauty and the sexiness of those legs are gone? I wish I could be sexy again!

I guess one must wait to be old, to revisit, to appreciate the value of when the lights and the music come together for you. For me, pardon my vanity, but the lights and the music played beautifully when my portrait was taken lately because the truth is I am no longer as pretty as I look in that picture. 

 Then also there’s the realization that fashion is just recycled constantly. Once you wore hot pants and gladiator sandals and could walk nonchalantly carrying your three-day-old infant. Now that’s just a beautiful memory that you can recall when it rains and you have nothing much to do. And the legs? They’re made for walkin’ and that’s all they’re going to do now.

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Please don’t forget to come and sing with us on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at Happy Garden Café, 56 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati. Call 856-4144 for reservations. Please text your comments to 0998-991-2287.

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