Totally Awesome

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Totally Awesome

By Caitlin Cunningham

I was an eighties girl. I embraced the radical change away from the disco and traditional rock music that I did not really care for when I was young.

The eighties brought an entirely new sound that I loved. It was fresh and energetic.

After I turned twenty-one, I went to nightclubs frequently in the eighties,

I would dance to every song, not caring who asked me. I just wanted to dance all night long.

And the outfits we all wore—so much black and neon. Most clubs had black lights that made our colored accessories glow… as well as the lint on our black garments.

There were a few clubs I frequented regularly, both at home and at college. I remember one place that was a former Safeway grocery store converted to a dance club. There was day-glow paint splattered on black walls. They had giant lighted cubes we could hop up on to dance (for the very confident). The place was huge but always had a line of people outside waiting to get in. 

Another place I liked had a small interior courtyard with a swimming pool. At night the pool was covered by a Lucite dance floor that lit up. It seemed so extraordinary, and slightly dangerous, to be dancing on top of a pool. There was also an indoor dance floor but being out in the cool air, within a crush of sweaty bodies was always preferable to me. Young men and women in cutting edge outfits and over-gelled, gender-neutral hairstyles, stood about trying to look cool and severe.

It was a new era, a time of changing viewpoints and the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, the explosion of Mt. St Helens, Reaganomics, and Glasnost. There were battles against communism, against human rights atrocities in China, against AIDS, against the status quo. It was the generation of MTV.  Musicians now competed for prime spots on the network through elaborate video productions of their songs that visually brought the music to life, even using the platform to raise money and awareness for world causes.

Appearance was everything, both politically and literally. Copying the attire of the top performers was common. Everyone wanted to look like Madonna with her sexy tousled blonde curls, heavy eyeliner and controversial crosses dangling about her neck or Duran Duran with their tight pants, heavily padded shoulders and spiky bleached hair or Michael Jackson all decked out in skin-hugging, bright red leather. 

It was a dynamic time, a changing of the guard. Everything was extreme. The music, the clothes, the hair and the attitudes. It was a sort of rebellion against the laid back, free thinking 60s and 70s, a generation seeking its own identity.

It was a totally awesome era.

Caitlin Cunningham lives and works in Petaluma, CA. She is an educator working with high school students who have mild learning disabilities. She especially loves helping students with math and writing.

She has two adult children, a son who graduated from Iowa State with a history major and a daughter who is currently a pilot studying aviation and aeronautics at the University of North Dakota.

She started writing with Jumpstart years ago but stopped when her husband became ill. After his death in 2020, she returned at Marlene Cullen’s urging.

Returning to the Jumpstart group has been a supportive and therapeutic environment for resuming her writing and escaping her grief.

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