A Mid-Century Modern Girl

At 17
At 17

1959 Barbie (Photo by: wikipedia.com) 1959 Barbie

When I was 17, I wanted to live in Paris, smoke Gauloises, wear only my black turtleneck and tight jeans, and have a series of erotic adventures along the Cote d’Azur. After all, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda were having a great time in St. Tropez. Gidget was busy California surfing but that wasn't sexy enough for my adolescent dreams.


I still want those things. Ok, scratch the cigs. After all, at six, I was introduced to Barbie.  The Original Barbie. The one with the ponytail in a zebra swimsuit and big sunglasses. She wore fur, open-backed high heels, and had separate complete wardrobes for a Roman holiday and winter skiing. I was busy knitting her cardigans and wondering how she kept those shoes on.

I finished high school early with no plans, no ambition except to paint, take photos and live a most bohemian sunny life. In those days, I read a lot, watched Liv Ullman being depressed in every Ingmar Bergman film and pretended to like Fellini.

Not quite en pointe (Photo by: ) Not quite en pointe


Like most suburban kids with 'no direction home,' I traveled around Europe for awhile looking for adventure. Too neat to be a bonafide hippie but I could carry off pretensions of an intellectual sipping wine at The Café de Flores. At least I thought so then.


Tiffany charm bracelet (Photo by: ) Tiffany charm bracelet

A product of the 1950’s, my parents introduced me to the arts, nature, literature, traveling, history, German automobiles, Danish modern furniture and ballet. Too chubby and lazy for dance, but it was a great way to know my body at a young age. 


My inspirations were Bob Dylan, Jackie Kennedy, Chopin, Hundertwasser and Corbusier. I loved buildings, I loved designers. Still do.


Look at the period between 5 and 25 of anyone's life and I bet whatever they were exposed to then still stirs them, still evokes nostalgia.


I suppose that’s why I’ve dug out my Tiffany charm bracelet. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So Manhattan, so Audrey Hepburn Euro chic. I call it retail regression therapy.

5 Comments For This Article

Tricia Huntley

Your chic and glamorous interests as a child/young adult were well beyond your years. You were like an aesthete prodigy! The rest of us are squares squared compared to you!


"Look at the period between 5 and 25 of anyone's life and I bet whatever they were exposed to then still stirs them, still evokes nostalgia."

This is such a gorgeous sentence, Judith. Your whole essay is a wormhole back to my own childhood. So wistful and full of optimism. Now I must dig through my own jewelry box, searching for the good ol' days contained within.


This is so beautifully written it deserves space in the New York times!!!


So beautiful, so you. Love it!!

Ray Whitehead

Judith, I'm so happy to have found this. Thank you for pointing me to it. Your essay is sublime. à ta santé!