My Life as a Hippie

Author: Felice Prager
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Having grown up in a small suburb across the Hudson River from Manhattan, the temptation to go into the New York City was always there. According to my parents, who sheltered me a lot more than I shelter my own children today, there was never a good enough reason to go into the city, especially without an adult chaperone. However, as a teenager, I broke a lot of rules.

At the time when kids were saying, "We can be drafted to go to war, but we can't even vote," I was saying, "We can be drafted to go to war, but I'm not allowed to take a subway without my mommy."

Until I was an adult, I never saw the whole picture my parents saw; I never considered the dangers and my own naiveté. I just heard about a Peace Rally and I thought, "Peace rallies are for college kids. Peace Rallies might be a great way to meet some of those college kids. Peace Rallies are a way to meet guys."

I read a few articles about Viet Nam so I could talk about it, and I practiced giving the peace sign in front of the mirror to make sure I didn't look stupid. However, the communal, anti-materialistic, live-off-the-fruit-of-the-earth, free-loving, anti-armpit shaving, take-a-shower-with-a-friend life was not for me. All I wanted was a cute boyfriend with long hair. I was just "a material girl living in a material world."

The only thing "hippie" about me was what I wore, and even that was a false front. You know those pictures they put in our kids' social studies textbooks today with hippies wearing tie-dyed shirts and carrying "Make Love, Not War" signs back in the Sixties? I could have modeled for those pictures.

I had eyeglasses with different colored interchangeable lenses. Some days I looked at the world through blue plastic, and some days the world had a pink or a lilac hue. I even mixed them to see the world from two different perspectives. The key was that they had to match what I was wearing.

I wore my hip-hugger jeans low and tight. To zip them up, I had to lie flat on my back and had trouble standing up. Sitting down while I was wearing my tight jeans was not possible - nor was eating. The jeans were bleached in my mother's washing machine, and I hand-frayed each leg. It took a lot of work to get them to look worn in. I remember my mother being very upset about me buying expensive jeans for $20 that did not fit and that I was deliberately ruining. I give my own kids similar lectures these days except it's about how low they wear their jeans and why they have to have their boxers sticking out.

I had a Jimmy Hendrix floppy brimmed hat, I wore sandals in the winter, and I wore a lot beads.

I wore embroidered shirts from India or tie-dyed shirts that I created, using and ruining my mother's washing machine.

I had an expensive fringed suede jacket that cost me two months worth of baby-sitting money because my parents would not buy it for me. They said I would lose it.

I did.

The most important part of my costume was my hair. Since going to Peace Rallies were planned well in advance so we could all coordinate our alibis, I had to get my hair just right. It had to look like I did nothing to it, and that took hours. "Twisted, beaded, braided" could take a day of preparation.

However, it was all a facade.

Inside I was a typical teenager looking for a place to fit in. Inside there was nothing hippie about me.

My children think I was a hippie because I am unconventional. They tell their friends that their parents used to be hippies. My cousin once showed my sons some pictures of me when I was a teenager wearing a yellow beaded suede vest and with my long hair frizzed out, and I guess to them, how I looked back then was proof enough. I have tried to explain to them that I really was not a hippie and it was all about meeting cute guys with long hair. Then they point to my husband, who has a lot less hair now than he had then, and they laugh at me.

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