Richard Russo writes in his memoir, Elsewhere:
One of the sadder truths of childhood is that children, lacking the necessary experience by which to gauge, are unlikely to know if something is abnormal or unnatural unless an adult tells them.
In the 1970s, my family had chartreuse vinyl upholstered dining room chairs. Chartreuse vinyl? Not only unnatural, but also abnormal.
In fairness to my parents, it was the 1970s. But despite their subscription to Sunset: The Magazine of Western Living, they were not paragons of style.
I don’t even think about those chairs that much. But I did think about them this week. I was on a walk in my neighborhood. It’s summer, in a college town. Leaving furniture “free to a good home” on the sidewalk is a common practice. A neighbor had some chairs out that caught my eye. They were an ugly orange color. Not a familiar color, but something about them was familiar. The upholstered vinyl. Ugly orange cousins of the ugly chartreuse chairs! Photographic evidence below.
Thank goodness for my sister, my witness to the horrible fashions and the general abnormality of our childhood. Richard Russo observes that as an only child, he had no one to compare notes with. Here we are, comparing notes, or at least commiserating about the unnatural itchiness of polyester pant suits.