I watched the film Valley Girl today. It’s the first time I’ve watched it in its entirety in probably 25 years. It’s not a perfect movie, but I still love Elizabeth Daily as love starved Loryn and Colleen Camp and Frederic Forrest as Julie’s parents and my favorite, Joanne Baron as the teacher who gives perhaps the best monologue in film history as she presents West Valley’s Prom King and Queen. “I remember my prom. I wanted to be queen. I wasn’t.”
I can’t hear the music from Valley Girl without thinking about my own high school years, when the thought of shopping at Sherman Oaks Galleria or eating French fries at Dupar’s or cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in a convertible was a pipe dream. Do I live here because of this movie? If only I’d watched Footloose a few more times, I’d have never left home.
In high school, I had a friend who brought the California to Independence. I’ll call her Cindy. She’d attended part of grade school in Independence, but spent several years in San Diego. She moved back to Independence in the beginning of our sophomore year. She had short dark brown hair, but had a little rat tail that she braided. (It looked cooler than it sounds.) If I recall, as the year wore on the braid grew longer and at some point she dyed it maroon. We formed a friendship over our mutual love of “New Wave” music and she introduced me to her favorites like Depeche Mode, OMD, Bow Wow Wow and Yaz (she LOVED Yaz!). I had a tendency to quiz her about all things California. For the life of me, I couldn’t get it through my head that San Diego was over 2 hours from Hollywood. Do you know Molly Ringwald? Have you ever been to a Facts of Life taping?
Sometime in the winter of that year, February perhaps, Cindy told me in the hall that she was moving back to San Diego. I was heartbroken, and more than anything, I wanted to flee Independence and move to Hollywood with her (I REALLY didn’t get the geographical difference). She told me that someone was throwing her a going away party and then invited me. One important detail which makes me sound totally arrested development-y to even point out: Cindy was popular, I was not. Cindy went to fun parties every weekend, Kansas versions of the ones in Valley Girl. I stayed home and watched Dallas and Falcon Crest or Love Boat and Fantasy Island, depending on the night. I was a little apprehensive about going and I should have been. It was a wild party, several people were drinking (alcohol!) and it made me very nervous. Also, almost no one talked to me. Cindy talked to me a little as did a few others, but mostly I sat in a corner wondering why I came in the first place. I didn’t belong. Late in the evening, there was a commotion. A few guys started shoving each other. They were both drunk and unfortunately, they were also near me. One of the guys, if I remembered his name, I’d tell you, looked at me, and thinking I was someone else, punched me in the eye. When I came to, there were a handful of people around asking if I was okay. The rest of the evening was a blur, I think someone might have driven me home. I don’t remember if it was that night or the morning after when my parents found out about the attack. I wouldn’t have been able to not tell them because I ended up with a black eye that lasted for 2 or 3 weeks. Ah, high school. I actually never saw Cindy again. We wrote occasionally and she once sent me a rad mix tape.
And now here I sit on my Los Angeles couch in my Los Angeles apartment with my Los Angeles life. And when I watch the movies of my youth that called to me like a beacon, “What’s your dream? Everybody comes to Hollywood with a dream,” I think about the 15-year-old boy who dreamed of a life beyond the intersection of Penn and Main. And I’m glad I didn’t feel like I belonged at that party, because if I had, maybe I never would have left. Fer sure.