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Wild Hunger of Youth
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My God! I thought to myself: I missed it altogether. I missed that wild hunger of youth.
My “youth,” so to speak, went from a constant yearning-for-something college undergrad to an over-burdened, perhaps even over-achieving, adult who didn’t have time to yearn. So much for hunger, wild or otherwise.
The other day I was viewing, with some friends my age, the Irving Penn photography exhibit at the Deyoung Museum. The photos of the Vogue models were startlingly beautiful, the “jobs” exhibit intriguing, the nudes and cigarette butts photos disappointing – a quick swipe there (an unfortunate figure of speech as well)—but we then moved into a room of the Hippie Movement in San Francisco in the early 60’s, an exhibit as foreign to me in experience as were the indigenous portraits of some Central American native peoples in an earlier room.
“This San Francisco era or event passed me by,” I said to my friend. “I was in New Jersey with two babies.”
“I was right here, at Berkeley,” she said. “It passed me by too. I was in a carrel in the library the whole time, I think.”
“I didn’t even know it was happening,” I added, getting closer, squinting at the long hair, the fur-trimmed brocade robes, the group nudies, too. What was the hunger that drove those young people to live with one another in such close quarters?
“Brenda was part of it all,” my friend said, referencing a mutual friend.
I agreed. I’d compared notes before with Brenda. She’d traveled from Idaho or some place like that to be part of that SF culture; she’d hung around Haight Street—I think lived there, too, in a group house, wore long hair, beads too, probably. She must have had that “wild hunger.” She always winced in pain for me when I said I was on the other coast with my two toddlers. She could not imagine having children.
I pictured myself in my polyester dresses and suits I made myself, pictured the kids, so damn cute at that age, the Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes I made them for a Halloween where they didn’t’ realize what props they were for me. I pictured the other matching outfits I made when they were 3 and 4, 4 and 5. End of that. I was teaching, too, teaching high school full time. Was there a youth movement out there somewhere, like California? The word “hippie” eventually drifted to New Jersey and perhaps was evident several years later in the high school student fashions—the middle-parted long hair, the prairie dresses, bell bottoms—but I was middle-aged at 25.
The wild hungers I eventually experienced and pursued came, perhaps unbecomingly, a decade later. Beleaguered by responsibilities I had brought on myself pretty much, I missed the first run. The world then shifted to disco dancing, trim outfits, suiting me more. My adolescent daughter and I went to separate disco dances. Odd.
Well, all that is a very long time ago, isn’t it? Hippies, disco. What is going on today? Even hiphop is out, isn’t it? What do those with wild hungers pursue today? And how would I know?

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