Seven was my favorite age, and I told all the adults in my life. “My, aren’t you a precocious one?” many of them said. My grandpa told me that I was the smartest person he knew because I could see that things got more and more complicated as you grew up. All I knew was that I was having an amazing time, and I didn’t want it to stop.
When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “I want to be a plain old person.” Maybe I craved stability because there were multiple divorces in my immediate nuclear family. I spent every other weekend with a new mom and step-siblings, and I was bussed to a new school every year as part of the grand bussing experiment of the ‘70s. Don’t get me wrong, I made wonderful friendships at all my schools, but the bouncing around took its toll.
Sure, I was a ballerina, but I had no interest in being a noteworthy or famous one. My bio dad was an artist so I met countless famous people at his openings. Although I don’t remember any disdain for this crowd (in fact, many stars were very nice to me), for some reason I wasn’t dazzled enough to be wooed.
This yearning to be “normal” changed as I got older, but my affinity for the number seven didn’t. Every single time, no matter what, when someone asked me to pick a number between one and 10 I chose seven. “You ALWAYS pick seven!” friends complained. “Because it’s the best number,” I said with deep confidence.
As I got older and edged into an admiration for fame, I began to learn special facts about the number seven. When I was 10, I had a rainbow-themed party, and knew there were seven colors in the rainbow. (Well, scientists may have found more now, but that’s what I was told back then.)
There are seven notes on the diatonic scale. Seven days in the week. Seven letters in the Roman numeral system. There are seven chakras and seven continents in the world.
I can go on. The number seven is the number of Neptune, and I was called a “water baby” or “fish” all throughout my childhood, so I loved that. Being raised by my surfer dad and other beach-loving parents and grandparents, I was always in a body of water. Whether the ocean, a pool or the bathtub, I loved (and still love) being in the water.
And most super-cool is that Libra, my sign, is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. Who knew that when I was a young girl and decided that seven was the all-time-best number in the world that I was, in fact, correct?
As time went on it was clear that what I’d wisely hoped for when I was seven, came to pass. It’s turned out that I have become “a plain old person.” After a profound devotion to ballet, hard work, sacrifice and dedication, I was badly injured just as I had the opportunity to go pro. Although I managed to sublimate all that passion and pain into a career in art and — although I am most proud of my work — I’ve yet to become, nor do I desire to become, famous for it.
I’ve circled back to my respect for being a plain old person. I’ve had friends who have become well-known, and I’ve known some famous people, and you know what? It’s a royal pain in the ass. I want to go grocery shopping in my sweat pants. I want to go to the beach in early summer before I’ve managed to do anything to deal with my winter indiscretions. I want my kids to be able to run around town without winding up in People magazine. I want and need anonymity. I see it as a gift now, a treasure to cherish in this cray cray “City of Angels.”
Sure, you could say that my girlhood desire was very wise, but in reality all the drawbacks of fame hadn’t occurred to me then. I just remember really liking my life at the time. I had a great best friend. I had amazing parents and grandparents who had pools, took me to the beach and loved travel. I hadn’t gotten all mixed up with boys yet (although I did love Tony with his ginormous ‘fro). And thanks to ballet, I was a really good, “natural” roller skater, which was huge in 1976. Also, thanks to ballet, I was able to get “in” with the African-American girls at my school (whom I worshipped) through my mad double Dutch skillz. And ummmm: Queen, The Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Blondie! Hello?!
God, do I miss those days. I was smart to actually want to stop time in 1976. Every summer there were copious days spent all day at the beach. We developed crushes on the life guards but were never brave enough to actually talk to them. Still, they made us feel safe while our parents worked.
We swam in the ocean so long that our tummies were seriously rumbling by 4 p.m. We could see the salt on our eyelashes as we walked home with our boogie boards under our arms. Our noses and shoulders peeled in the shower while we danced to our favorite disco tunes on the radio sitting on the bathroom counter.
No sunscreen. No seat belts. No helmets, knee pads, cell phones or parents. Just free-wheelin’ in and around greater Los Angeles with nary a care in the world.
Happy with my groovy memories of L.A. in the ‘70s, I am pleased to say that today I live a very ordinary life, in an ordinary town, doing ordinary things, like writing articles, making art, taking my kids to the beach and grocery shopping in my sweat pants.
Hope Demetriades is an artist, writer and educator who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Her traveling mixed-media installation, “The North Stars: Canonizing the American Abolitionists,” may be viewed at hopedemetriades.com.