As the 1980s dawned, my Baby Boomer generation was morphing yet again. We went from the laid back 1970s to the “Gravy ’80s” of the “me generation” and Wall Street. From communes to condos, yoga studios to yachts, we were moving—perhaps unknowingly—from transformative to transactional.
It would prove to be a truly lynchpin decade, starting off on a sad and ominous note when John Lennon was shot outside his New York City apartment building. Diana married Prince Charles in 1981, while the AIDS epidemic began its global killing spree and Nancy Reagan was telling us to “Just Say No.” Sally Ride was the first woman in space in 1983, then in 1986 the Challenger blew up. That same year, the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl scared the hell out of me.
The stock market was booming, President Reagan was telling us about the “trickle down economy,” and we women were determined to have it all. Our mothers and older sisters had been confined to nursing, secretarial, and teaching jobs—their success defined by the socioeconomic status of the man they’d married, the squareness of his chin, and the all-American good looks of their children. But not us! We’d have our lovers, grab a husband (maybe), and never miss a beat climbing the success ladder of our chosen profession. Oh, and we’d have a few children along the way as well, if we chose.
And there were examples showing how that out-of-the-box thinking was beginning to find mainstream acceptance and popularity. In 1982, the Church of England permitted women to become priests, the movie “E.T.” was released, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman ever to run as a Vice Presidential nominee (with Walter Mondale), and Michael Jackson released “Thriller.” By 1984, Madonna was dancing on the stage “Like a virgin” in what looked like only a bra. In 1985, Live Aid erupted on everyone’s television sets and Queen sang “We Are the Champions,” rocking out almost the entire globe. Indicators, all.
Disco was still king in the music and club world, but I didn’t know much about that—music on my radio was Springsteen’s newly released “Born in the USA,” U2’s “Joshua Tree” and Windham Hill’s instrumental anything. Sitting in a bar in Burlington waiting for a business associate, I first heard Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” and fell in love with it, beginning what was to become a lifelong, if unschooled, love of classical music.
On TV, The Oprah Show first appeared in 1986— casting a truly different and refreshingly honest image and attitude across our feminine psyches. I cried when “Mash” ended in 1983, but by 1987 had fallen in love with the new “Star Trek,” in spite of the weird guy overplaying Captain Kirk—wasn’t it William somebody?
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