Listening to a particularly heart-twisting rendition of "Unchained Melody" takes me back to when I was a teenager and that song was one of my favorites. Then, my feelings would swell at the sound of particular music or during a touching movie. I feel the same when I tap into memories of my youth that I am eternally glad are still in my heart. I also think back to what it was really like then. I was an awkward person, acutely aware of what to do and not do to be one of the "in group," which usually I was not.

Looking at current fashion tells me I am truly from another generation. I can remember being shocked and stunned when pantyhose hit the market. Did that mean we no longer had to wear garter belts or long-legged girdles so tight they left an imprint of their flowery elastic design on your leg tops? Would it be ladylike to have only a thin layer of nylon under my slip next my light pink shirtwaist dress? My Mom said no. I didn't care. I relished the thought of not having to keep seams straight.

In the weekly "Personal Style" magazine in the Oregonian, today's popular attire breaks all the clothes rules with which I was brought up. Bellies hang out and heels are worn without nylons. Stripes, flowers and plaids are included in the same outfit. Jewelry is ostentatious, big brightly colored hunks of plastic, which hang at awkward lengths. Hoop earrings are so large they reach the wearer's shoulders. Yet, once in a while, I do see someone who looks just smashing in such an outfit. Her belly is flat enough to be sensual, with no waistband hangover. The fruit print in her skirt has striking, and complimentary colors that go well with her striped tank top. Her shoes aren't so delicate they look like they will break if she walks faster than a step a second. Most of all, she is young.

These duds are not for me, and probably wouldn't be even if I were 17. Thankfully my girdle days are long over. I remember how hard it was to get that girdle on, and I don't want to wear jeans so tight they are like my skin. I want comfort. I want to look nice, but to also be able to move easily and not worry if something is about to give.

I remember Blackjack gum and when all soda pop was in glass bottles. I remember when girls had to wear dresses to school except on Fridays, and when hems were well below knees. Now I have enough money so I can pay my bills without worrying like I did 40 years ago. I have something perfect to wear for a special event, but everyday I dress for living easy and not perfection. Most of the lovely jewelry I wore to work before I retired is unworn but not unwanted.

Since I became older, I have learned to use tools and have the courage to work on big projects myself. My family is wonderful, each of them. I have dear friends who make me laugh and who let me cry. They will never leave my memories or my life. It isn't always easy to see it clearly, but I know I have control over my destiny, which I did not realize as a young person. I am pretty sure now what I will or will not do in the name of love, and I know whom I can trust, whom I cannot trust, and what I will or will not take personally. I know I can accomplish things and make a difference in people's lives, but be sure I won't be wearing low-rise jeans and a camisole with a built-in bra while I do it.

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Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at cyhilden@msn.com.

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