Lament for a Rose-Colored Trench Coat
The year: 1945 or so. The place: The Bronx, New York. A strange phenomenon was taking place. Throngs of otherwise quiet, well-behaved, obedient teenage girls were playing hooky from school and sneaking down to the City to spend saved-up allowances and baby-sitting money to go to movie theaters named The Paramount and The Capitol. The underlying reason for this errant behavior was a singer – a “crooner” in the parlance of the day – a skinny young fellow named Frank Sinatra. Once inside the theater, the girls waited impatiently through the movie for the stage show – and the appearance of the object of their collective fixation. Mass hysteria ensued when “Frankie” began to sing. The screams and squeals that rose form the audience rivaled those of a slaughterhouse filled with hogs bound for their ultimate destination. Truth be told, the din was so loud that it was all but impossible to hear the performance. Not only was the behavior contagious – the manner of clothing one’s body was as well: pleated skirts; “sloppy joe” sweaters (crewneck lambs wool sweaters, one or two sizes too large, worn outside of the skirts); either brown and white saddle shoes or penny loafers (the more affluent “show-off” kids used dimes), both of the latter worn with bobby socks, of course. The most incongruous piece of clothing by far – which was worn rain or shine, in heat or cold – was the tan trench coat, creatively emblazoned across the back in bold black letters with the name “Frankie”. The tan trench coat was requisite garb for every teenager who fancied herself part of the “groovy in-crowd”. There was at the time a mother, who, noting that all the other teenagers were wearing said trench coats and hers was not, took her daughter to Alexander’s in Fordham to buy her a tan trench coat. A problem arose when the daughter spied, among all those many rows of tan trench coats, a trench coat in the loveliest, subdued soft rose color that she just loved. The mother, after many unsuccessful attempts at persuasion, finally acquiesced, and the rose-colored trench coat was taken home – along with a broad-tipped black pen with which to decorate the back of the coat. The daughter disappeared into her bedroom with her new rose-colored trench coat and the black pen. She finally emerged to show off her handiwork. And there, in bold black letters across the back of the coat was the name “Bing”. The mother was distraught, disappointed and disheartened. With sadness in her eyes and in her heart, fearing that her daughter would never be part of the “in crowd”, she asked the girl, “Why do you always have to try so hard to be different from everyone else?” The daughter, with sadness in her eyes and in her heart, fearing that she would never be able to please her mother, replied “I don’t try so hard to be different from everyone else, Mama, I just don’t want to have to try so hard to be the same as everyone else”. Gradually, the puzzled frown on the mother’s face relaxed and was replaced by a sad, soft smile. And she said simply, “Oh”. And that’s the whole story. Frank Sinatra went on to become a legend. The daughter went on to learn how to pretend to fit in whenever it was necessary. And the rose-colored trench coat – well, let’s just say it went on.