“Dune Dreams,” a Memoir

by Nancy A. Shenker

   Chubby, awkward, and full of dreams in 1970, I sat at the window of my parents’ house on Bayberry Lane in Amagansett Dunes. They weren’t called “the Dunes” back then. It was simply the big sandy area east of Mako Lane. I stared longingly at the share house behind us, watching singles drink and flirt on the roof deck. “Someday I will wear brightly-colored polyester and rub up against a single man with long sideburns too,” I thought. I longed for excitement, connection, romance, love, and disco dancing at Martell’s. I wanted life to speed up.
    My father, now long dead, was an East End pioneer. He bought a house in Amagansett way before the Hamptons were the Hamptons. He honeymooned with my mother at the Montauk Manor and used to talk about that magical feeling he got as he turned the corner past the pond in East Hampton.
    Although I loved the sun and surf, my head and heart were filled with fantasies of the romantic singles’ life of the 1970s. I took long walks past Asparagus Beach, the warm sand between my toes, and imagined the day when I would have big breasts and a skimpy bikini. I practiced the Frug in front of my mirror and drank Tab. I wanted to grow up. I wanted change.
    Then, when I was 14, the transformation began. Like the swans in the pond, I outgrew my awkward Jewish chick body and, fueled by artificial sweetener and the desire to be beautiful, I dropped 30 pounds and entered a new phase. Boys suddenly found me to be attractive. I bought a faux leather bikini and rode on the back of a beach motorcycle with a cool Waspy dude whose parents had a house on the water. I held on tight to his waist, enjoying the feel of warm skin. It was hotter than the sun between my toes. We drove fast and I didn’t care where we were going. I smoked weed at bonfires and made out with my prince of the Dunes until my Slicker-coated lips were sore. We went to Snowflake for cones to fuel our munchies. After months of pleading, my mother took me to the eye doctor and I replaced my heavy tortoiseshell glasses with contacts.
    And, like me, the Hamptons began a transformation. Houses sprung up around Bayberry Lane and new restaurants serving exotic cuisine opened in town. My newfound cool friends in school were all back in the city while I was out east with my family. By the time I was 17, I opted to stay behind in Queens and throw parties when my parents went out east for the weekend. I had my own private urban paradise then.
    Flash forward two decades. I got married and had kids of my own. We bought a house in East Hampton and loaded the S.U.V. with formula, diapers, and colorful plastic buckets, took our kids to play in the sand and surf at Indian Wells, and bought cones at Snowflake. From time to time, we drove past the house that Grandpa Lewis once owned on Bayberry Lane. It had changed hands several times by then and was worth seven figures. (He had paid $17,000 or so for it.) Martell’s was long gone. It also changed hands and now sits vacant.
    And now, it’s 2012. I am separated from my husband and my two daughters are living their own lives. I wonder what they dreamed about when they looked out the window in the Hamptons. Their skimpy bikinis sit unworn in the drawers of their room in the Northwest Woods.
    Like my father before me, I feel that sigh of relief as I turn the corner by the pond. I sometimes go out to the Talkhouse, where sweaty boys with close-cropped hair and plaid shirts or designer tees attempt to rub up against me. North Main Street, once a no-man’s land, is now the site of the East Hampton Grill. I sit at the bar, wearing cashmere rather than polyester, eating dinner alone, and drinking a dirty martini with bleu cheese olives. I often wear my glasses with designer tortoiseshell frames and my lips are covered with Chanel lip gloss. The dashing single men have been replaced by middle-aged divorced entrepreneurs, many of them hurt and angry. They don’t have long sideburns or dance the Frug, but we congregate on the East End, anxious and perplexed by the speed of change, craving adventure, connection, romance, and love. We wish life hadn’t moved so quickly. I am still awkward and full of dreams.

    Nancy A. Shenker lives in East Hampton and Westchester County. She is the founder and C.E.O. of theONswitch, a marketing consultancy, and is a professional speaker and writer who blogs for The Huffington Post Canada and writes for The New York Enterprise Report and Camping magazine.