First Person: Hippie Chick

By Sonja Fitz
Tuesday March 13, 2007

Since they are something of a dying breed and I’m someone who grew up in Berkeley in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I seem to have hippies on the brain not infrequently.  

In the neighborhood I moved to three years ago there aren’t any, unlike the Southside digs I occupied for 18 years, and their absence was one of the first things I missed. It made me think, well, why do I think there aren’t any? Maybe there are some here and I didn’t recognize them. Are long hair, tie-dye, and anarchism visibly proclaimed on patches or signs required identifiers? 

A friend of mine recently said she asked her 13-year old son if he’d had a wet dream yet, and we laughed about her boldness and his shocked reaction. It sent me on a strange chain reaction of musings, so bear with me—there is a point at the end. 

First, it made me think about the role of moms in raising sons, and how explicit it’s advisable to be with them, and whether something like that is best coming from a dad. Or questions about menstrual periods coming from mom. But then I thought, well, fooey (or equivalent expletive), if you have a good relationship with your kids and you don’t want to cultivate secrecy and embarrassment around sexual issues, both parents can surely talk to their kids about that stuff. 

Then my mind jumped onto a tangential track (as it is wont to do) and I thought, what a mind-blowingly taboo thing that would be to ask on my in-law side of the family. My husband’s family is Muslim (though he’s atheist like me), and a mom asking her son if he’d had a wet dream would be just south (ahem) of Bizarro world. 

Then I thought, well, it isn’t fair to put that taboo in a cultural box, there are plenty of WASPy households that wouldn’t dream of such prying. But despite my own WASPy heritage I personally loved the free and easy nature of her inquiry and hope not to avoid any such topics with my own little son, whose only wet dreams for the moment are related to wet diapers. 

And I thought, well, duh, that’s because I’m still part hippie. Part professional working woman, with Chamber of Commerce-friendly blazer and leather-trimmed purse-slash-briefcase. Part mod-surf-punk weekend daytripper with silly logo T-shirts I should have given up wearing a decade ago and mini-shoulder bag with old concert pins. Part mommy, with spit-up stains on my sweatpants and baby bag permanently packed and ready to fly out the door. And yes, part hippie—the only part of me that doesn’t seem to leave a visible footprint. Sure, some hippies are visually unmistakable, but many aren’t. 

Would you always know from looking at someone whether they’ve gone to political protests or lived in a commune? I used to visit the Berkeley Living Love Center as a child with my dad, and my best friend lived in a nudist colony briefly with her parents, but it doesn’t show. I think nothing of walking nude around my apartment, to the chagrin of my husband, who reminds me that the window’s open. I just don’t care—that hippie childhood again. “So what, it’s just cloth,” we responded when the boys snickered that they saw our underpants when we swung from the monkey bars. Snickering over underpants, yeesh—how establishment. 

I still think love is all you need which seems garishly naïve to many and I think that war, for any cause, is only a short-term fix at best and violence to solve problems is nonsensical. To get all John & Yoko about it, just imagine—what if we took the $369 trillion we’ve spent in Iraq so far (check out http://nationalpriorities.org and click on “Cost of War” under Quick Hits to see the total keep rising in real time) and plunked it down to build schools, businesses, roads, and hospitals? Er, talk about winning hearts and minds… 

But I digress (again, as I am wont to do). Basically, my inner hippie still believes in Free to Be You and Me, and I mean really free, as in free to be ugly or geeky or quiet or a homebody, not free as in “free” to fit the carefully disheveled activist-student-artist Urban Outfitters mold. 

Peace-love-live and let live. It’s all so … dated. 

And why is that? If being punk or goth or rock or mod or even country is perennially retro-cool, why is being a hippie relegated to Hopelessly Un-cool Uncle Milt status in the pop-cultural family? Who knows. But fortunately, hippies don’t give a damn. Which is why I love them. In this image/status-obssessed world, thank god(dess/universe) for the ones that don’t give a damn. 

So you may never recognize the hippie in me if you see me on the street, big deal. Just remember, it’s more than tie-dye deep. 


Sonja Fitz, who still has her vinyl copy of the Living Love Center LP and, well, all her vinyl records, in fact, lives in Berkeley.