When Hayley first came up with the improg idea, she told me to send her an envelope with 30 words on slips of paper—10 verbs, 10 nouns, and 10 adjectives—and she would do the same for me. Today I pulled out hip. Hayley, not being quite the word-dork that I am, didn’t include parts of speech on her slips—which, apparently, I did on some of mine, according to one of her improg posts—so I’ve been pondering whether I should write about hip (n.) or hip (adj.) (yes, I really do think about parts of speech).
When I was little, the adjective dominated over the noun, primarily because it was the late 1960s/early 1970s, so it was easy to be hip (adj.), and because I was a scrawny kid and didn’t develop hips (n., pl.) until I was 12, when I hit puberty the same year we moved across town and I drowned my hormone fluctuations and loneliness in two bowls of ice cream every day after school. We didn’t have a lot of money, so I wasn’t an elementary-school fashion maven, but I did have groovy go-go boots, striped pants, a faux-patchwork skirt, and more than one poncho (and buck teeth, but that’s another story).
By a weird twist of circumstance, I ended up going to high school in a very affluent community, and there I was decidedly unhip. We just couldn’t afford for me to be hip (adj.). So I adopted the grungy stoners-hanging-out-behind-the-school look: tattered jean jacket decorated with a pin made from a Molson’s beer-bottle cap (classy, I know), holey jeans, and enough eye-liner to make a raccoon proud. Maybe it wasn’t pretty or feminine, but it was cheap and suitable for the type of parties I went to, and it met my two highest priorities when it came to teenage fashion: (1) it was comfortable and (2) my mom hated it.
Even when I was working full time and could afford to buy clothes, I didn’t care much about being hip (adj.). At work I wore waitress uniforms that were about as unhip as it was possible to be, even considering the fact that this was the 1980s. The worst, with its huge puffy sleeves, made me feel like Snow White dressed in polyester upholstery fabric. The rest of my time I spent sanding my boyfriend’s boat, trying not to throw up on my boyfriend’s boat, and partying. My jeans-and-t-shirts look suited my life just fine.
It continued to suit my life just fine through all my years in university. If I happened to like (and could afford) something that was in fashion, fine—thank goodness I was pregnant during the leggings and big t-shirts phase of the 1990s—but I didn’t think about being hip (adj.) and I was in an environment where most everybody thought the same way.
Once I became a mom, my hips (n., pl.)—or, more precisely, the things I carried on them, like babies and the laundry basket—were much more of a priority than being hip (adj.). Besides, shopping for my children was much more fun than shopping for myself, especially given the change in the size of those hips (n., pl.). But now I faced the issue of how hip (adj.) my kids were. Did they have the latest toys? Did they wear the right brands? Well, no, unless I could get the right toys and the right brands at a good price at the second-hand store.
When I returned to Vancouver, I was hit with the phenomenon of the hip (adj.) mommy. Living in the town next-door to the affluent one I went to high school in, I see these yummy mummies almost every day. They wear the latest fitness fashions made from the latest cotton-and-seaweed fabrics to the latest fitness classes. They drive the latest model SUVs and have the latest highlights in their hair. When they bend over their four-wheel-drive strollers, you can see the latest thongs showing over the waistbands of the latest how-low-can-you-go jeans. At my niece’s elementary school (in that affluent community), there was talk of instituting a dress code for the kids. My sister-in-law commented that one was also needed for the moms, who dress much more provocatively than their almost-teenage daughters.
Frankly, I don’t have time to worry about being hip (adj.). and the only way I could win a competition based on being the latest in anything would be if it involved how many weeks after Child Two’s birthday I finally organize her party. These days, I’m much more concerned with hips (n., pl.). I worry that my pencil-thin mother will fall and break one of hers. I search for pants that will stay up on my son’s hipless body. And in my belly dance class I wonder if mine will ever be able to do what the instructor’s do.