The 70s and early 80s were a scorching test of survival, but like Daenerys Targaryen, you endured the heat and emerged from the flames. Gen X sisters, join me in recounting the burn:
1. Dentyne. Chewing this tiny stick of cinnamon gum was like holding a shot of Fireball in your mouth as it disintegrated your tongue. Eventually the burn would subside, much like the infernal waves that leave you shivering nightly like a rain-soaked Chihuahua.
2. Closeup toothpaste. Did you brush with Crest like a normal kid? Nope, your mom bought Closeup gel, the toothpaste-and-mouthwash-in-one that was clearly intended for adults. The glowing hellfire of cinnamon red tasted like Dentyne in a tube — which actually paid off that time Adam from Hebrew school picked you for 7 Minutes in Heaven, even though he dumped you the next day for Jodi Levinson, whose family had an air hockey table.
3. Listerine. Speaking of mouthwash, it would have been less painful to gargle with gasoline, but with the oil crisis of 1973 (thanks a lot, OPEC) that wasn’t an option. The alcohol in Listerine left you as parched as your eyeballs after a night of menopause-induced insomnia stanning #silversisters and #grombre influencers on IG.
4. Noxzema. Washing your face with Noxzema skin cream — made with camphor, menthol and eucalyptus — took surgical precision. It inevitably got in your eyes; a painful assault akin to pepper spray, and likely the real reason your vision has deteriorated so badly you’ve resorted to taking all back roads to avoid driving on the highway at night.
5. Sea Breeze. A primitive facial toner, you wiped Sea Breeze over your face with a cotton ball to deep-clean pores. Once it burned off your epidermis, your complexion was noticeably tighter and raw as your upper lip will be when you finally slather it with hot wax and rip out the follicles of your new menostache.
6. Merthiolate. No first-aid kit was complete without this antiseptic — liquid fire in an old-timey glass bottle with a wand attached to the lid. Like its compadre, Mercurochrome, it was named for its key ingredient, mercury. Merthiolate contained alcohol and stung like a motherfucker. Just the threat of it set your heart racing, a preview of your now-nightly game of “Is this a hot flash or a heart attack?”
7. Frost & Tip. If you weren’t born with perfect blonde streaks like Jodi Levinson, you bought a box of Frost & Tip, the world’s most imprecise at-home highlighting kit. It included a plastic shower cap with color-coded dots, a crochet hook for stabbing through the cap and yanking out random strands, and an eye-watering concoction you mixed together and spatula’d onto your head. Your hair wound up three shades too light and drier than your estrogen-deprived lady parts.
8. Salon dryers. Once you graduated to professional highlights, your colorist would foil-wrap your bleach-coated hair, set an egg timer, park you under a 140-degree dryer, and forget about you. Trapped in place, your head would cook like a baked potato while your ears melted down your neck. No one warned you this would cause your eyebrows and lashes to abscond from your face 30 years later.
9. Nair. If you wanted to wear short shorts, you’d spread a thick coating of Nair on your legs and perch on the edge of your bathtub while it slowly ate through your hair like hydrofluoric acid dissolving a drug dealer’s corpse. The noxious stench would burn a path from your nostrils to your brain, which is the real reason you can’t remember why you walked into your bedroom five minutes ago or that your missing cheaters are actually perched on your head.
10. White-hot envy. Watching the girls in your seventh-grade class show up in Jordache and Sasson jeans while you were stuck wearing your sister’s no-name, hand-me-down dungarees made you burn with jealousy and shame. Then one day, you came to school proudly clutching the new tan LeSportsac bag you paid for with your Bat Mitzvah money and your classmate Jodi Levinson looked you up and down and sneered, “You have a Sportsac?” which simultaneously incinerated you and ignited a fire in your belly that roared into a flame last Tuesday morning when your neighbor Matt fired up his leaf blower an hour after you finally fell asleep and, having no more fucks left to give, you were forced to pour gasoline around his shed and burn that mother down.
I could relate to all bit two.
The Frost & Tip and whatever the bottle stuff was. Never used those.