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The Flapper

November 1, 1927

It all started with Edith Purvis. She was eighteen, one year my senior, and quite popular in our town. I was delighted when I was invited to one of her parties—which were terribly notorious, particularly after Edith cut her hair and completed her transformation into a flapper.

That party was the first place I ever tried a cigarette. I coughed and made quite a fool of myself, but everyone was having too much fun to really care, myself included. Over the next couple months, I was invited to several of those “cigarette parties,” as they became known. Each one affected me a little more, pulling me more and more away from the safe, predictable life I had been raised to lead and further into the wild and energetic life of a flapper.

One night at dinner my mother, who was not timid about expressing her disdain for flappers, remarked, “They tell me that that Purvis girl has cigarette parties at her home.” Clearly she was saying it for my benefit, since she knew perfectly well that Edith and I were friends (although she did not yet know that I frequented said cigarette parties).

Acting impulsively, I turned to my father and said, “Dad, let's see your cigarettes.” He tossed them to me, confused. I withdrew one from the package, tapped it on the back of my left hand, inserted it between my lips, reached over and took his lighted cigarette from his mouth, lit my own cigarette and blew rings toward the ceiling. My parents were so shocked that they looked ready to fall out of their chairs! And the funny thing is, I didn't regret it at all.

Shortly after that fateful dinner, I cut my hair and styled it in a bob. Edith stopped hosting parties, instead traveling to dance clubs with a group of girls—I was among them. To the dismay of my parents, my transformation into a flapper was complete, and all because of a remark my mother made and one impulsive action.

After all, life is too short to worrying about pleasing your mother.




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