When Jane was working on this story on the history of Seventeen, we did a lot of emailing back and forth about Back to School magazine issues and how much we loved them. In junior high I read the hell out of every September issue of Seventeen, and the memory is all caught up with the anticipation of seeing people again after the summer and the belief that Everything Was Going To Be Different This Year.
One year, one of the pieces of editorial advice was to soak cotton balls with perfume and lay them on your next day’s outfit so that the outfit would become pleasantly layered with scent. I did this DILIGENTLY for at least a month. Four or five cotton balls each night. So that’s what September always feels like to me, like the time of year that you believe that you can soak some cotton balls in Jean Nate, tuck them in your clothes overnight, and become magically alluring the next day.
One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I need to start having people over for dinner more often! What a pleasure to cook for people!” to “I need to stop having people over for dinner all the time, they’re assholes and I need more time to write.” (Loose paraphrase!)
I think of this whenever I get in a burst of sociability.
A couple of years ago we were in San Francisco visiting my stepson, and one night we were walking back from dinner and there was this nice grenadine-ish smell in the air, and I said, “It smells like cherries.” My stepson paused, sniffed, and said, “That’s urinal cakes, Carrie.” (Except he’s very deadpan, so it was more like, “That’s. urinal. cakes.”) Anyway, I was writing well this morning so I was late getting to the woods for a walk. It was already hot out and there were lots of thick gnarly spider webs everywhere with dime-sized spiders in them. None of the guys I passed were wearing shirts. And once in a while when the breeze picked up it smelled a lot like urinal cakes (not unpleasantly!).
“My stylist went out hunting for red leather pants and you would think that in 1981, in New York City, you would have been able to find red leather pants everywhere, but we could only find one pair,” he says over the phone from New Mexico. “So she brought the pants back and they didn’t fit anybody in the band.”
(Those pants! Get Lucky was in my first batch of tapes from the Columbia Record and Tape Club.)