It was my French surrogate mother’s 70th birthday party. (Not the same kind of surrogate carrier who gave birth to my sons. Since my parents are gone, she’s an adoptive kind of mother.) She’d planned this bash for two years: an all-day garden party in the rolling hills of Normandy with everyone dressed in 70’s clothes.
I don’t do costumes. I’m an actor. I dress up all the time for my job. I bah-humbug Halloween and I don’t do costume parties. I don’t like wearing vintage clothes because they’re always too tight on me (apparently I’m bigger than anyone who ever lived in the 60’s or 70’s) and they smell.
But a 70’s costume party in France? Americans invented the 70’s. Everything cool about the 70’s – bell-bottoms, BeeGees, “the Bump”.
Nineteen-month-old Ellison and I had to be the best-dressed, there. (Because Colton was only two months old (and a preemie), my partner elected to stay home with him.)
I really wanted to be a white-jumpsuit-Elvis. I was informed such costumes don’t exist anymore, don’t fit me, or would cost $1,000. I was already spending enough on this trip. So I lowered my costume standards.
At Rags-a-Go-Go, I got a great pair of (too tight, hot, smelly) polyester pants (that flattened, but didn’t exactly flatter, my ass), along with a polyester shirt and blazer, both tight, hot, and smelly.
For Ellison, I found a toddler jumpsuit, festooned with sequins and (the pièce-de-resistance) a tie-under-the-chin Afro wig.
He hated it.
I got a matching ‘fro. Thank you, Ebay and rushed delivery.
We survived our overnight plane trip (I anticipated being able to “work my gender” for sympathy and advancement to the front of lines. Not so much. International travelers don’t care.)
Three days into our trip (and the day of the party), Ellison was having a great time terrorizing the neighbor’s chickens, moo’ing at the millions of dairy cows and staring blankly at the people addressing (probably lecturing) him in French.
At noon the first guests arrived. Women in their 60’s and 70’s were dressed in flowing hippy skirts. I figured they just dressed like my French mother…a little bit crunchy granola.
But then younger neighbors and grandkids showed up dressed in tie-dyed, tighter-than-normal (even by French standards of tight) pants, and lots of head bands.
During our sit-down lunch for twenty (no bowls of chips, beer or seven-layer dip for these Frenchies), I asked one of the grandkids, “So when are we changing into costumes?”
“Mais, Gavin, on est deja deguise.”
Wait, what? They’re already costumed? I figured they always dressed like Commie hippies.
“But, wait. You’re dressed like hippies,” I said.
“But, it’s a 70’s party.”
“But the 70’s is disco. 60’s is hippies.”
Another guest laughed. “No. 80’s is disco.”
I laughed. “No. 70’s is disco, 80’s is, well, 80’s,” (I couldn’t translate “neon parachute pants, shoulder pads and leg-warmers.)
“Non,” an older lady tsk-tsk’d me as if I had said the Germans have an artistic, expressive culture.
Another chimed in with a thick French accent. “Les 70’s is ‘peace, love, happiness,’” which sounds hilarious with a thick French accent.
OMG. This was the era that France was ten years behind America. I’d spent all this effort for wigs, polyester and fast shipping, and I’d dressed in the wrong friggin’ decade?
Eh. We all got drunk and ate amazing food and drank gallons of wine under the rural stars.
And Ellison and I were dressed from the future.