I was 9 when I first saw Grease. Needless to say, at that age I didn’t understand a lot of what went on in the movie. But I loved the music, the clothes, the hair, the cars, and, most of all, the attitudes of the women. From Frenchie’s scatterbrained optimism and Jan’s surprisingly unannoying perkiness to Rizzo’s absolute refusal to apologize for being only who she was, I loved those women. The more I saw of them, the more I wanted to be every one of them when I grew up.
Except Sandy and Marty. I never wanted to be Sandy or Marty, and it didn’t occur to me why until just yesterday. Sandy and Marty were products of lack of experience, at that point formed more by what they hadn’t seen and done than what they had. Even at 9, I knew that wasn’t how life really worked.
And then there was Cha Cha DiGregorio.
The best dancer at St. Bernadette’s. With the worst reputation. I remember not knowing exactly what that meant the first time I heard it, but it was pretty clear it made the other girls not like her very much, and equally clear that Cha Cha didn’t care. And I remember thinking, if I could dance like that I wouldn’t care what anybody thought of me either.
I saw Grease again when I was 13. That time, when Frenchie gave her snarky response to Cha Cha’s claim, I knew what it meant. And I remember thinking... yeah, if I could dance like that I wouldn’t care what anybody thought of me either.
Like Rizzo, Cha Cha was who she was. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing she would ever apologize for. A St. Bernadette’s girl who had no problem walking into the Rydell gymnasium and winning their dance contest with somebody else’s boyfriend. Question her motives and judge her character all you like, you couldn’t fault her execution. Or her hair. She had awesome hair.
I have since seen Grease at least a dozen times, and the lesson Cha Cha had to share only grew more meaningful as I grew older; true happiness is found in knowing who you are, being who you are, and having the best hair possible.
And I guess the good hair is actually optional.
In fond memory of
3/5/1948 – 8/3/2011