I'm sitting down when I see her. At a bar on New York's Lower East Side, I look up from my cocktail and there she is. Cyndi Lauper.
Generally I ignore celebrities. I pretend not to recognize them, especially if there's little obvious merit to their fame. Cyndi Lauper is another story. I've seen her sing strong in pride parades, at Mardi Gras in Sydney, on the True Colors Tour, but here she's within striking distance. So I pounce. Literally I hurdle a couch to confront her. She sees me coming. "Cyndi Lauper," I stick out my hand. "I have to thank you for something."
When was it? 1985? That's when I first noticed the shift. C.F. Tigard Elementary School was in Oregon, but all the girls in my grade started talking like California Valley Girls. They wore bangles and pins and big bangs. They tried dressing like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Popular culture had mobilized an attack of the clones. Gag me with a spoon.
The boys my age were wearing parachute pants. I wouldn't be caught dead in parachute pants no matter how popular they were (I preferred half shirts and short shorts). And while other boys fiddled with the highly frustrating Rubik's Cube, I spent recess pestering Roseanne Schot. Roseanne brought her Berry-Mobile to school, which contained all her Strawberry Shortcake dolls. On a good day, she'd let me take out and touch Blueberry Muffin. I told Roseanne I only wanted a whiff of the doll's blueberry-scented hair, but she knew better. I was obsessed with that doll. Roseanne let me play with Blueberry Muffin in small doses, always with the careful warning that it was wrong. I was a boy.
In 1985,1 bought the cassette tape of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual because I felt unusual. Cyndi was unusual too. She was also popular, so according to the transitive property, unusual was a good thing. Yet even in grade school, I could see. It's tough to be authentic. We live in a world that encourages every person to be the same person. …