Going through my closets reveals culture changes and a nascent blogger

This weekend, I continued the assault on my closet and discovered gender madness in the making and the fact that I was clearly born to blog.

Cleaning closet file cabinets papersThis weekend, I continued my assault on the nooks and crannies of my house in which I’ve stored the unused bits and pieces of my life. It’s been a dusty and spidery journey, but also an illuminating and sometimes amusing one. The things I thought important enough to save reminded me how much the world has both changed and remained the same since I squirreled these things away. My collection also gives a hint about the fact that, long before blogging was a thing, I was meant to be a blogger.

I learned that, as early as 1974, when I was 13, I was sufficiently fascinated and repelled by assaults on the English language in the name of gender neutrality to save this article (for this and all other images, click on the image to get to its dedicated page and then click on it again to enlarge):

Eight years later, aged 21, I was still paying attention to the trend of de-genderizing language and using these language changes to shift morality:

I was also saving materials that, had more people paid attention, could have a stopped the whole silly self-esteem and “everybody’s a winner” movement. The information from this study would have encouraged students to demand more, not less, of themselves. I believe this article was in Psychology Today in the mid(ish) 1980s:

Also, in preparation for my future career as a blogger, without ever being a computer nerd of the type who could actually earn money writing wonderful programs, I was typing away at computers by the the time I was in high school. This is my first ever letter of recommendation, for work I did on that old classic, the IBM 3741. I hope you appreciate that the letter is still typed. Desktop computers didn’t exist then and, unless you had a dedicated word processing program, you still had to type everything else the old-fashioned way:

For you young ‘uns, the job described in that letter meant working at a station that looked like this:

For those young ‘uns who are interested, computer programs weren’t as sturdily built back in the day. The job I was doing at that work station required me to enter phoned in credit card sales for the San Francisco Giants. The phone operators would take the credit card information down by hand and I’d then type the data into the system. In retrospect, the program was what would now be considered a very simple database, which is standard part of Microsoft’s Office Suite. At the time, though, it was quite sophisticated and the man who wrote that lovely letter had to build the program from scratch, writing endless lines of code.

One memorable day, I pressed the wrong combination of buttons and wiped out the program. Fortunately, my boss, using back-up files and notes, was able to rebuild his program over a couple of days. Also fortunately, I hadn’t wiped out two months of data, so we were able to reintegrate the data with the program. That was a stressful couple of days in my life.

A few years later, when I was one of the few people who knew how to work the computer at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, a colleague handed me this, which I I thought was one of the funniest thing ever:

This trip down memory lane also revealed that, in addition to my long-standing skills at typing into a computer, I also had two traits that seemed to channel me into 21st century conservative blogging: (a) I could change my mind if shown the error of my way (as I did when I switched from Democrat to conservative) and (b) I was already writing and thinking like a blogger:

Because those old photocopies fade with time, here’s the part that’s relevant to my being an embryonic blogger long before anybody had ever thought of the idea:

Miss ____________ [don’t you love how people could still say “Miss” back in the day?] was one of the top half-dozen students in that class of eighty. Her work was of the highest order — her final grade was straight A. She has genuine intellectual gifts, capacity for rigorous analysis, and — perhaps most significant — the resourcefulness and adaptability to learn from her mistakes. [I agree that this is indeed an important thing.] Her [midterm] paper was poor; she resubmitted it and more than doubled its quality (and her grade). Her final examination demonstrated a thorough command of the subject matter of the course. This is no mean achievement. But then she writes well, is verbally articulate, and has a nice touch of imaginativeness and a sense of the humane that marks a first-class student in history.

(And yes, there’s definitely a strong element of boasting in my posting the above letter of recommendation. I admired Prof. Barnes greatly — he was a brilliant, knowledgeable man and a superb teacher in a department riddled with Leftist, many of whom were also hacks — so I’ve always cherished his kind words about me.)

The above is about cultural changes, politics, and blogging. The rest of this post is about a few memories from the late 1970s and early 1980s, which reveal me as a nerd, a romantic, and (very briefly) a cutting edge pop culture consumer.

For the first story, I need to remind you first of a song from 1981 or 1982, one that I really loved back in the day:

And now to my story. When I was in high school, I had one of those absolutely paralyzing crushes nerdy teenage girls get on football players. Oh. My. God. The object of my affection was so beautiful. Moreover, because this was an academic high school, he was no dumb bunny. He was gorgeous, athletic, and smart.

Of course, being the ultimate geek, I never got up the courage to say a single word to him — but I did act in surprisingly concrete fashion on my crush. Although I wasn’t initially interested in taking AP US History (I was totally into European history back in the day), I eventually took the class when I realized that I could sit right behind that gorgeous young man and stare at the back of his beautiful neck all year.

The plan worked wonderfully. His neck thrilled me every day, the teacher was great, and I got an A+. Win, win, win.

But back to that J. Geils Band song. A few years after graduating, my sister wanted a new swimsuit and ordered a copy of the Speedo catalog — and there, occupying the entire back page (so not quite a centerfold, but close enough) was my high school crush:

Almost 40 years after high school, I still think, “Oh, yeah….”

I was also reminded going through dusty old boxes that, thanks to my year in England, I had a brief period during which I was not a nerd. Back in high school, as evidenced by my spending a year staring at a gorgeous guy’s neck, I was a nerd extraordinaire. In England, I put that reputation behind me, and was the exotic, hard-partying (but not hard-drinking) American. Part of that whole experience was that, because I loved dancing, I loved all the pop music.

Shortly after I returned to America, MTV hit. That was in the days when the station wasn’t about politics or sleazy lifestyle, but was simply endless rock and pop videos. While music videos hadn’t been a thing in America before MTV, they’d long been a part of England’s music culture, thanks to a weekly show called Top of the Pops. MTV therefore went to England to get videos and — suddenly — I was fashion forward when it came to pop music. I knew all the songs and my wardrobe was filled with all the clothes (bought incredibly cheaply at Miss Selfridge).

When the Police brought a big concert tour to America, my friends already knew about the Police. However, I was also already in tune with the other British bands on the bill, such as Madness (still one of my favorites), the Thompson Twins, and the Fixx. I therefore talked a couple of friends into going to a stadium concert with me.

I had a lot of fun, even though our high seats in the way back meant that, over all the screams, it was impossible to hear the music. Had I heard the music, though, I would have realized that I was at one of the first “megaconcerts” for the new music of the 1980s. How do I know that? Because I just found the SF Chronicle’s review of the event (plus my ticket stub), both of which I’d squirreled away:

Good times. Being young and having an adorable figure (I can say that in retrospect), I probably went looking like a slightly more wholesome version of the gals in this classic video:

Oh, and I found one more thing, which really puzzles me. I have several affectionately written letters from a young man who was clearly interested in me . . . and I have no idea who he is! Somehow in the last almost 40 years, I erased “Jeff” entirely from my memory banks. It’s kind of a shame, because his letters are quite endearing. Shame on me!

Having posted this, I’m heading back into my house-closet salt mines. I’ve made good progress but there is soooo much more still to go. For example, in my sorting through boxes, I discovered that, back in the day, financial institutions routinely printed social security numbers on everything they mailed. I need to go through all my papers to get out things with my (or family members’) social security numbers, so I can take several boxes to the local secure shredding company.

Wish me luck on another deep dive into my past!