in spring 1998, i was finishing up my first year at st. ben’s. i had three pretty good friends (all of whom dropped out), and i felt like i was edging out a little bit into the world. the same way that my family’s move from austin to new london helped me edge out a little bit, my transition to college also helped (maybe a little bit moreso…). it also seemed to be a time at a cultural precipice; i was now a huge fan of the internet and chat rooms, even though much of the world didn’t know 3 things about the internet at the time. we had moved from the mid-90s and were moving into the late 90s. my eyeglasses had gone from metal gold-rimmed gross looking things to a plastic frame with a slimmer look. instead of a pair of carpenter jeans, i had a wide-leg pair of levis. and it was the summer of the skinny-strapped tank top*.
oooh, i was really skeptical and scared when i went to target and tried on my first black skinny strapped tank. there seemed to be entirely too much skin showing on top with very little holding up the shirt. but everyone was wearing them (along with capris, but there was no way on earth i was donning a pair of those ugly things), so i sucked it up and plunked down the $8 for the tank.
the three first-year dorms at st. ben’s create a sort of U around a large piece of lawn, and when the weather was nice, we ladies migrated from our rooms to the lawn. this was a time when a few people had a desktop computer in their dorm rooms, and NO ONE had a laptop. laptops were entirely too expensive. we had to wait in line for the computer lab on each floor – 6 god-awful slow dinosaurs with 13″ screens.
so when students migrated outdoors, it was with books, notebooks, friends, frisbees, maybe a portable CD player, and card games. we’re talking even pre-mp3 players (soon to come!).
maybe a week or two before the end of spring semester, it climbed into the 70s, and the great migration happened. the time had come for me to try out the tank top. i don’t know why i was so nervous; everyone was wearing them, and it was a good time for a test run. i put it on and tried not to look down at my expanse of pasty white exposed chest.
i grabbed my three pretty good friends, a blanket, and a textbook or two (may was well feign studying, right?). we spread our blanket on an empty space on the lawn, stretched out, and did was college kids do. someone had opened up their first floor window and pointed their boombox outside, which was playing madonna’s immaculate collection.
so we listened to “vogue” (which was only 8 years old at the time but seemed ancient) and put our hands alongside our faces in our best madonna poses, maybe glanced at a textbook in prep for finals, talked about how two of my friends weren’t coming back, and soaked up the first 70-degree weather we’d seen in 8 months. pretty soon my self-consciousness about the tank slipped away a little bit. i ended up wearing that thing til it wore out.
when spring finally arrives every year and i pull on a tank top to wear outside for the first time (the straps are even SKINNIER now!), i am transported back to 70-degree weather at st. ben’s, surrounded by friends, and listening to “papa don’t preach.”
*i KNOW i have a picture somewhere. just gotta find it.