When my brother-in-law went to pick up his ten-year old daughter Giovanna at a birthday party, he found her cavorting on top of a loudspeaker, strutting her stuff à la go-go dancer. Amused and a little surprised, my brother-in-law waved at her. Giovanna smiled and waved back, totally unfazed, then fired off a succession of dance moves of a High School Musical caliber. A little later, on the way home in the car, she told her father that she’d been contemplating ripping off her cardigan, whirling it above her head, and then throwing it into the crowd. Unfortunately, she’d been sidetracked by his arrival.
“But…why would you do that?” wondered my brother-in-law, minimally perturbed.
“You know, like they do in Grease,” deadpanned the child, popping open her party-bag and selecting a Sugus.
Out of the mouth of babes…
Please believe me when I tell you that cavorting on loud-speakers is not actively encouraged in my sister’s house. But when one of your aunts is an ex-ballerina, the other is an over-aged rock-chick, your uncle an alternative music purist, your mother a boy band enthusiast, and your father blasts Krishna Das (country western meets Deepak Chopra) in his canary yellow Land Rover on his way to work, it’s highly unlikely that the eccentric gene is going to just walk on by. Besides, I wish I’d been uninhibited enough to scale the speakers and whirl my jacket into the crowd at school dances, not necessarily at the age of ten, but at least as a teenager. In my book, confidence is gold. So, go Giovanna! Woo hoo!
There certainly wasn’t much to woo hoo about when, at the age of fifteen, in a desperate bid for coolness, I threw my first party. My best friend Jenny had a crush on a hottie called John, and the sight of a certain Paul turned me into a mumbling, stumbling mess. Of course, Jenny and I were on par with rotten eggs on the list of chicks of our grade, our sweet and gentle natures invariably used as target practice by gum-smacking twits with smirks, repartee and back-to-back party invitations. Basically, John and Paul had cooler chicks to court.
One misguided day, Jenny and I put our naive little heads together and hatched a plan. We’d throw our own party, a party so fun and fabulous that our popularity ratings would rocket. We’d invite the right people, play the best music, serve great food, and in the space of one evening, we’d be reborn as the next best things. Summer lovin’? This year, we’d be the ones having a blast!
Giddily, we prepared for our social debut, handing out invitations, combining our record collections, carefully concealing mortifying mistakes such as “Kung Fu Fighting” at the bottom of the pile. We recorded hours of dance mixes onto chrome BASF cassettes. My room was a sartorial wasteland for weeks on end as Jenny and I tested potential outfits.
We practiced the “Bump” and the “Hustle”. We spent hours in the mirror perfecting sultry looks and the art of advanced hair flicking. When twilight finally crept over that much anticipated, idyllic summer day, Jenny and I beamed at one another. Irresistible in our bell-bottoms, paisley shirts and Stan Smith trainers, we’d have John and Paul nuzzling our necks before midnight.
One after another, the guests arrived, swaggering onto the terrace, expertly snapping their gum. Female pulses kicked into overdrive as John and Paul made their entrance, their trademark blasé expressions firmly in place, their hands thrust deep into the front pockets of their jeans.
I held my breath as everyone checked out the house, appraised the Hi-Fi equipment and my record collection. They fawned over my younger siblings who were dutifully embarrassing me by prancing around in their pajamas and waving semi-naked Barbies and flaccid footballs.
The hottest girls flirted with my father, the most confident boys chatted up my mother. Someone with authority selected a Doobie Brothers track, cranked up the volume and got the party started. As cool hips began to sway and influential elbows began to pump, Jenny and I shuffled self-consciously in a corner, hissing urgent cease and desist orders at my over-excited, pogo-ing brother and sisters.
Meanwhile, my parents cheerfully bustled about, pouring orange juice, Coke and Seven-Up, topping up bowls of crisps and popcorn, and serving giant trays of home-made pizza.
It was when they brought out the pizza that everything started going wrong. If my parents’ pizza hadn’t been quite so delicious, the dance floor might not have been deserted almost as soon as it had filled up, and my life in the cool zone might have begun decades earlier.
“Oh boy! This is awesome!” mumbled John, a string of mozzarella vibrating between his mouth and his paper plate like a greasy white spider web.
“Best pizza I ever ate,” declared Paul, his Adam’s apple all of a jiggle as he tackled a giant slab.
“Very good!” beamed my father, wiping his hands on his vinyl apron. “Meraviglioso! Tonight, we are making a lot of pizza! Real Italian pizza!”
“That’s awesome, Mr. Vecchi, because I’m starving,” continued John, flicking a flap doodle of hair out of his eyes as he flopped down onto a bench with another hefty chunk. This was when my youngest sister, Victoria, sidled up to him in her pink and white gingham PJs, batting her extraordinary, gold-flecked, sapphire eyes. John smiled at her. “Hi, cutie! You wanna sit on my lap?”
Cutie didn’t need to be asked twice.
Nibbling next to me, Jenny’s impressive teenage chest heaved repeatedly as she narrowed her eyes and snorted like a bull.
“Want some pizza, cutie-pie?” John bounced my little sister up and down on his knee. She nodded, adding some shoulder rolls and a little eyelash arrhythmia to her charmarama. “Hey, Paul,” called John, snapping his fingers at his friend. “Get this lovely little lady a nice juicy slice.”
“I want some too,” announced my sister Lisa, fluttering her big blue eyes and plonking herself down next to John.
“Me too,” echoed Nick, my cherub-faced brother, climbing out of his Formula One electric car and rushing over. He’d changed out of his pajamas and was now sporting his favorite red and yellow, vinyl racing-car-driver suit, complete with matching helmet and shiny black plastic boots. There was a crackle of static as he tore off his helmet, his drumstick-straight hair sticking straight up all over his head.
“Ooh, isn’t he just adorable?” gushed Suzie, leader of the popular world, crouching low and offering Nick a bite from her slice. “Is that your car, sweetie?”
“’lectric car,” Nick said, proudly, sticking out his pot-belly. “’S ’lectric.”
Meanwhile, in the disco tundra of our living room, Dire Straits were in a pickle: the needle on the record player had stuck. The Sultans weren’t the only ones to have lost their swing, I mused miserably, as I scurried inside to change the music, breaking into a nervous sweat over what to play next.
“We are bringing some more pizza!” called my father, as he and my mother staggered out with two more giant trays of party pooping finger food and were immediately mobbed by ravenous teenagers. Bored, Nick vaulted back into this ‘letric car and whizzed off.
“Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Vecchi, can you come to my party next week? And could you bring pizza?” cooed Suzie, rolling her shoulders and fingering her locket.
My stomach dropped into my stinky trainers. Suzie hadn’t invited me to her party, but she was inviting my parents? Could this evening get any worse?
Could it ever!
“Guess what! I’ve got bunnies!” piped up my sister Victoria, tugging on Paul’s stonewashed denim shirt.
I went magenta. Jenny went pale. She’s Asian, so when she pales, you know it’s really bad.
“You do? Bunnies are my favorite!” said Paul, stooping to wiggle her nose.
“Bunnies rock,” declared John in Seventies words to that effect.
“What do we do?” hissed a panic-stricken Jenny, pinching my arm.
I hate to admit it, but I distinctly remember that the option of surreptitiously wringing the bunnies’ necks did cross my mind, but it was too late. My little brother was already toddling towards us like a red and yellow mini spaceman, his tongue poking out between his front teeth, a scrabbling, choking rabbit wedged beneath each armpit.
I felt sick. Jenny and I were destined to spend the rest of our lives holed up under my bed.
“Look! Wabbits!” announced Nick, as the bunnies’ scrabbling weakened and their eyes began to roll back into their sockets.
“Oh my God! Somebody, do something!” squealed Suzie, Deena, Bonnie, et al, as John and Paul raced to rescue the poor things from death by strangulation. Pretty soon, a concerned, seated circle had formed around the bunny heroes, and my three siblings were comfortably installed on congenial knees. Jenny and I hovered on the outskirts, sweating profusely, dreading what we knew was coming next.
“So, what are your bunnies’ names?” demanded Suzie sweetly, stroking my brother’s hair while doe-eyeing Paul who was cradling a black and white fluff ball.
“What’s this little guy called?” wondered John, fondling long grey ears.
My gut sounded the imminent pizza evacuation alarm. Jenny whimpered.
Victoria swept her sapphire gaze around the circle and went to sit beside Paul. “This is John,” she said matter-of-factly, wrinkling her nose as she offered the black and white creature a nibble on a daisy.
Suzie’s eyes grew wide. Her mouth twitched with glee as she sensed a double whammy. “Really? And what’s the grey one called?”
“Paul!” giggled my traitorous baby sister, before tilting her head to further enlighten the damn rabbit’s namesake. “Just like you!”
In a soap opera, this is where Paul and John would have put a stop to the peals of laughter that rang out across the French countryside. They would have run after Jenny and I as we fled upstairs to my room. They would have banged on my door, telling us that it was OK, and that they’d loved us from afar since the first grade, and that – guess what? – they had Russian hamsters called Jenny and Francesca!
They would have assured us that Suzie and Deena and Bonnie were boring, brainless cows, upon which Jenny and I would have unlocked the door and fallen into their arms. There would have been a little kissing and much neck nuzzling, and then we’d have gone downstairs, hand in hand, our trophy hickeys proudly on display.
Instead, Jenny and I heard an explosion of laughter as some smart ass discovered “Kung Fu Fighting” in the record pile and turned it up full blast. Traumatized, we dove under the duvet, just as my mother trilled, “Anyone for more pizza?”
Woo bloody hoo!
Of course, Jenny and I recovered, eventually. Our necks were soon nuzzled by boys who appreciated us just as much as (and hopefully more than!) my wonderful parents’ pizza. As for cavorting, I’ve done my fair share at parties, concerts and discotheques over the years, but the whirling-my-jacket-into-the-crowd-from-a-top- a-loudspeaker experience still evades me.
However, in view of my recent foray into the music business with American rock band Drew6, under the right circumstances and with the right jacket, anything could happen. I may be a late bloomer, but I’m finding this sudden, thoroughly unexpected, multi-media adventure a heck of a lot of fun. Even my kids think I’m kind of cool…
Out of the mouth of babes?
Go Giovanna! I’m coming with you!