Temperatures May Be High, But…

For a bona fide Valley Girl, there’s only one cool side of the hill

I’m a Valley girl born and bred, which means I prefer coffee shops over cafés, commuting over community, sprawl over density, freeways over bike lanes. For me, exploring the Commons in Calabasas (200,000 square feet of retail!) is a far bigger adventure than schlepping downtown to plod through art galleries that try to palm off “sidewalk stenciling” as something adults should care about.

In the Valley our greatest natural resource is our malls. I’d take up arms to defend the Topanga Plaza. In the precious years between junior high and getting my driver’s license, the mall was the first place where I tasted independence. I’d be dropped off with my BFFs, and we’d wander, untethered, in department stores, free to try on outfits that exceeded our allowances. We’d smack our glossed lips in chintzy accessories stores before setting off on a hearty round of flirting with local boys in the neon-lit food court (there are few venues this safe for boys and girls to promiscuously mingle). The mall was an air-conditioned, multistoried incubator that also whispered a truth to tween-aged me: I was a consumer first, a citizen second. The mall—vainglorious, unapologetic—presented itself with a naked honesty that I have come to appreciate even more at the age of 27.

Malls make no excuses for themselves, and neither will a Valley Girl who wants to go to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Valley Girls are without pretension because they hail from the last concentrated refuge for everything that everyone cool is supposed to hate. Growing up just the right distance from the heart of a major metropolis makes us somewhat worldly but lacking in neuroses. We do not live under the tyranny of good intentions like our sisters in Santa Monica. We don’t vibrate with the same pathologies that pulsate through Hollywood. What we have in the Valley is what I think most L.A. women want: unrestricted movement, convenience, space, and a parking spot of one’s own.

A Valley Girl’s most vital accessory is her car. I am never more aware of the downsides of being a woman than when I am without my car: waiting solo in cavernous subway stations, walking between stops on blighted streets, being jam-packed into and felt up on belching buses. Such indignities rarely befall a Valley Girl because many of our parents, weary of shuttling us around, got us cars when we turned 16. Ensconced in more than a ton of steel, mounting colossal on-ramps, seeing the signs soar by overhead, I drive the freeways like Maria Wyeth, the heroine in Joan Didion’s heralded L.A. novel Play It as It Lays—“as a riverman runs a river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions.” A Valley Girl knows that she can just keep driving, alone, with her radio turned up, until she arrives at the place she wants to be.

Illustration by Joe Zeff

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