The Warm April Day in 1998 That Changed Everything

This was not what I thought I’d be doing.

Jill Francis
8 min readApr 20, 2022


A woman’s legs from the knee down. She is wearing white sneakers that are covered in mud.
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel

At age 21 I was approximately 57 years old. I was in my last year of college and all I wanted was to end the ceaseless parade of red cups and all-nighters so I could get on with what I was sure would be “real life”. (Go ahead and roll your eyes now, but I’m warning you to pace yourself. We’re going to be here a while and there’s a real risk for an overuse injury.)

I don’t know what happened to me between freshman and senior year, but somehow the fun girl who was so enthusiastic about higher education that she couldn’t pick just one major became a jaded, world-weary broad who got in line with all the mini magnates gunning for a job at either one of “The Big Five” banks or a consulting firm. Why I was hell-bent on privileged, white-girl banality at the end of the 90s is still a mystery to me.

If we are to believe Dianna Vreeland who said that “You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in fashion,” then that time in my life signaled an approaching era of conformity as insipid as the suburban shopping malls where we bought our outfits. The uniform of my college campus was something I came to call “Blackpantsanda” because whatever we wore started with the base of a pair of black pants. These were, of course, purchased at J. Crew almost exclusively. We would add a pair of black leather, square-toed boots with an uncomfortable heel and some kind of turtle neck sweater or corporate-esque no-iron button-down. The entire campus was then trod over by legions of us, looking like a pack of Nine West-shod Paso Fino horses. The only difference between us was the color of our flat-ironed hair.

I took that a step further.

I had “The Rachel”.

Yes, if the resigned look in my eyes and the Banana-Republic ribbed knits weren’t signal enough of the fact that I hated myself, I cut my naturally curly mop into a hairstyle that could only be styled by conducting a two-hour blowdryer séance with at least $100 of frizz-tamers and roller brushes. My natural texture, you see, was simply not going to work if I was going to interview for those jobs that everyone told me I wanted. During a meeting with a career coach who openly…



Jill Francis

American immigrant in Italy with too many degrees in Psychology. I write about everything I’m afraid of.