To the rest of the world it was dubbed, “The Summer of Love”. There was no social media outpouring, no Instagram shots memorializing the events, no tweets, no blogs advertising the date and time. There was just a movement. A groundswell of information passed mouth to mouth. Bringing people together. Young people mostly. 75,000 of them congregating in a few blocks area of San Francisco. Haight Ashbury where they would set in motion a revolution of the psychedelic kind that would set love free on raised consciousness and stranger sex.
Across the continent and over the ocean, I was oblivious to the Summer of Love. I had Paris. My Summer of Paris.
And I was cool. Not for me long velvet dresses paired with lace up boots dancing with spiffed up young men dressed in riding coats and top hats.
I had my hip-hugger, turquoise bell-bottom pants and my white poor-boy sweater. I had my twill quadrilles and my white patent leather purse. I had my sitting at a sidewalk cafe looking bored, like I fit in, like I was waiting to be discovered caffe lattes made with hot chocolate because, well, I was only 13 and 13 year olds did not drink coffee in the summer of 1967.
Life was calling my name. I could feel it. Sense it. I hungered for it. Yearned for it that Summer of Paris. I was 13 going on… 13. I knew nothing about being a woman. I was awash in a sea of knowinglessness and I was hungry. I wanted to know. Everything. Especially about sex. Same sex. Opposite sex. Going down sex. Going anywhere sex, maybe even the moon. I wanted to know it all but didn’t have the language, didn’t know the words to even phrase the questions to ask. And good girls didn’t ask anyway so I stayed silent.
I was an island of nothing other than my hip-hugger, turquoise bell bottom pants and white poor-boy sweater that I’d purchased in a tiny boutique somewhere near the Avenue des Champs-Élysées where every day my sister and I spent hours trolling the streets soaking in everything French.
And American too.
Like youth the world over, we gravitated to the familiar, the known, ‘our own’. And American boys were hot that Summer of Paris. Even if all we ever did was give them directions when they were lost, or pretend to be lost when we wanted to meet some cute young American boy selling the International Herald Tribune outside the entrance to the Gard du Nord on Avenue la Fayette where we would catch the Métro just to see him.
We were in love with all things ‘l’Americaine that summer of Paris. Especially the boys.
They were all blond and blue-eyed and fresh cut and seemingly pure in their white cotton striped shirts with the button down collars and cuffs rolled up to reveal the soft downy blond hair of their arms.
They had perfect smiles. And perfect accents and we wanted to be perfect for them.
Alas, we weren’t French and so we were relegated to giving them directions to the Tour Eiffel or perhaps le Louvre. Though I do have a dim recollection of my sister scoring a date with some young boy. I remember vaguely disappearing on my own near Sacre Coeur as she sat and sipped her Chocolate Chaud and listened earnestly while some blond haired Adonis made her laugh where they sat together, her dark haired head bent close towards his blond. I don’t think their hands even touched, or that they even kissed.
And I was so disappointed. She was my older sister. She was supposed to teach me the ways of being a real woman.
It was not to be.
The ways of being a real woman would not reveal themselves until many decades later.
After I rid myself of the notion that hip-hugger, turquoise bell bottoms and a white poor-boy sweater would buy me entrance to a world where to fit in I just had to be like everyone else.
After I quit playing lost just to get directions from a blue-eyed blond-haired boy who spoke not a word of French and did not know his way around Paris let alone the world.
Why I thought blue-eyed boys or tall dark strangers held the secret to my being a real woman is the stuff of history. The stuff of a patriarchal system where women had no voice. Where women had no thoughts worth hearing. Where women only belonged when they stood silently beside their man and smiled. Convincingly. Like they were everything they ever dreamt of being because they had ‘their man’ and their man was the only god they ever needed to know because their man was better than her man, that one over there who smiles just as convincingly but who also holds that vacant, frightened, empty look in her eyes that says silently, because no one was listening anyway, “Is this all there is?”
But it would take many broken dreams and shattered ideals to discover, the only way to be a real woman was to give up the idea, that to belong, I just needed to wear a size 8 or 6 or 4 or 2 or any size of turquoise hip-hugger bell bottom pants.
I don’t have to wear anything to make me fit in because I know, I am a real woman when I fearlessly speak my truth without tampering it down to fit into someone else’s.
I am a real woman when I quit pretending I am lost in a world of confusion.
I am a real woman when I fit in to being me.