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...jen o'connor's...Artful Adventures & Daily Inspirations

I Love Art, Adore the Handmade and Treasure the Vintage. I am the Fun Mom, the Silly Friend and the Writer who wants to make more room for beauty in the everyday.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Thanks Cyndi

On Halloween in 1986, I walked through the doors of Saint Francis Prep High School in Queens dressed as Cyndi Lauper. The costume was a melange of textures from the closet, the castoff bin and the jewelry box. I had the hair, the height and the hype and my get-up was “awesome”, “wicked” or whatever meant “sweet” in the late 80s. And so, that DJ played my songs…her songs…after all... Cyndi was at the top of the charts with two albums under her multiple belts (worn over plaid hot pants and polka dotty layers of skirts, of course).

This rollicking bash was thrown in the school's cafeteria; latent lunch grease and soda machines imbued the scene with a surreal familiarity despite dimmed lighting and a "dance floor” flanked by stacks of lunch tables and lit with disco balls hung from asbestos ceiling tiles. I loved all of it; I knew it was magic and I danced and danced and sang my own songs out of tune.

Somewhere during that night I realized just how much the tattered, vintage and oh so funky peach tulle prom dress suited me. Accompanied with an army jacket, chiffon scarves tied on all limbs, pointy metallic pumps and armloads – literally armloads of bling and bangles, I felt good. Really good. This was a costume yes, but I felt right. I was liberated by the (extra) big and asymmetrical hair, the baubles, three colors of eye shadow -- which I vaguely recall were mardi gras colors -- and my rhinestoned dipped ears. I think after that my wardrobe choices, and perhaps a score of other choices, were decidedly different. I had found – somewhere on the slippery terrazzo dance floor – my “true colors”. And I was never the same.

I went to NYU less than a year later, learned a lot, and then even more about myself over that next decade of years I accumulated. Gaining confidence, learning to love myself and give it out. I took many steps down that path that keeps taking me onward toward me…

When I was almost 30 Kodak launched a campaign with the song “True Colors” and I realized, I just might be a grown up. When someone takes your mantra and starts to sell something with it on the t.v. you can resent them for it, or make it an anthem. I chose the latter, and every time I hear the song, it makes me cry.

Yes, really, cry. Just ask Laurie Meseroll -- who was the first to document this Pavlovian response -- or any of my girls who still wanna (and do) have fun.... Anyone that knows me well enough to understand, has seen me laugh hard enough to cry, has seen joy sweep me into tears, and has shared this tune -- lost in thought of the years that have collected about us with a beautiful patina of good memories.

I turned 41 last month, and the bangles are still on my arm. And yes, I find it totally acceptable to wear crinolines on the outside… if for nothing more than the fun of the twirl of my skirt.

Thanks Cyndi.
Xxoo Jen

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow


jennifer lanne said...

Yes, that song can easliy turn me into a sobbing puddle as well...but in a good way!

You do embody... and channel the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in all of us
there's got to be a plethora of juicy "Jen as Cindy "photos out there somewhere!

Anonymous said...

o wow, so just yesterday I was working on some artwork with that theme and that song. what are the chances?! did you hear me singing it at the top of my lungs?!

Teresa McFayden

Lana said...

Cyndi was 'IN' when I was in high school, too! It's a good thing you did your own thing. If not, there may not be an Earth Angels!

Melissa said...

Thank you for the imagery & the "aha" moment. That song definitely emboldens those who struggle with themselves...myself included.
You're a great gal pal!
Would love to see the pics!

Jandi Small said...

What a beautiful post, Jen! Brought tears to my eyes, too. I forwarded it to my three young nieces who are just at that stage of figuring out what their own true colors might be.

Thank you...

simplydelicious said...

I have raised four girls..two daughters and two nieces. I have always encouraged them to embrace their "true colors". Today my girls celebrate their individuality! And the song "True Colors"....we can sing it like a rock star!!

Dara said...

Wow! What a frip down memory lane!

I love when people cry happy/good tears! Thanks Jen ( and Cyndi) for the inspiration!!

Lova and Hugs,

becca jo said...

cyndi IS amazing! i saw her in concert earlier this summer and her energy, joie de vivre, and spunk are infectious! we could all hope to live as fearlessly as she does!

Thea said...

Having had the supreme luck of meeting Jen when she was 18, it has been a amazing to see her let her true colors shine.

And as we who know and love her can attest, Jen's letting her own true colors shine has brought so much joy to all she meets. The courage of wearing your crinoline on the outside and stacking your arms full of bangles called forth Jen's inner spirit! I hope Cyndi Lauper's PR folks find this post!

Jo James said...

That song always gets me too.
Shine on, Rainbow Girl!

Art Is...Slan said...

and now you made me cry....what a beautiful post to awaken to this lovely Saturday morning.

ellen said...

Thanks for such a great post, Jen. It's been a loooooong week and this was perfect... said...

LOVE YOUR BLOG! As you well know, I am a Cyndi Lauper addict also. Love her music, loved her fashion in the 80's and admire her today. Tryed to mimic her style at the clubs, me and many other envious girls! Once again I dressed in Cyndi costume for our Pumpkin fest last year. The adults all knew who I was but I had to educate Tess and her teen friends! Enjoyed every minute of it. True Colors is an anthem! xoxoxo

Micah Holden said...

You pegged that sentiment perfectly! Gonna go home and introduce my kids to some C. L. now! Thanks!
Happy day!!

MODERN Prairie Girl said...

Oh, that song tugs at me too, Jen. I like to sing to it LOUD in the car, as it always seems to come on our "easy listening" station over here.

Her "wanna have fun" anthem is so perfect for you, it's unreal. You wear it so well.

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