Getting Over Myself by Sue Barizon

 

I left for work on an Indian summer’s day in the fall of ’74 at precisely 7:51AM. It took seven minutes to walk the two short blocks to my job as Executive Secretary for the Carter County Dental Society. A two minute leeway allowed for greeting neighbors along the way, timing my arrival at the office by 8:00.

I felt the early morning sun at my back, firing up the spring in my step. I was feeling as lightweight as the new rayon dress I was wearing – a just reward for a twelve pound weight loss. I remembered the enthusiastic twinkle in my husband’s eye when I stepped into the skin tight, mini-dress with the drop waist and low neckline. My caramel colored boots sported 4” heels complementing my last pair of pantyhose in my favorite shade of “nude.” I was proud of my new svelte figure, but even more enamored with checking weight loss off my “To Do” list. In those days, I lived by my lists, organization and efficiency; that was the ticket. At twenty-two, I was married, had a mortgage, a career and a lifetime membership with Weight Watchers. I was at the top of my game.

The Dental Society was a professional organization of over four hundred dentists governed by a Board of Directors. I was basically my own boss, working alone in a one-girl office. The Board was hesitant to offer me the position after the previous secretary failed to show up for work one day. I was her assistant, working after school answering phones, stuffing envelopes and printing out the newsletter. I was nineteen at the time. The doctors were sticklers for punctuality and not above testing by calling the office at 11:59 or 4:58 to see if I kept to office hours. I learned that dentists were a demanding lot but I was a quick study and soon earned the nickname “Dental Society Sue.”

On this particular day, I was giddy with the prospect of accomplishing a rather long “To Do” list of personal errands on my lunch hour: the bank, the Emporium, the Five & Dime and the House of Fabrics. I’d routinely eat lunch at my desk and make a quick visit to the ladies room next door on office time before walking the few blocks to the Westend Mall.

The morning had been relatively manageable, it being the Friday that kicked off the Labor Day weekend. By 11:55, I was just finishing up in the ladies room when I heard my phone ringing next door. Grabbing my keys, I dashed out of the stall and back to the office in time to answer the call from Dr. Wendel, the President. When I hung up, I checked my watch. It was 12:00. I was off and running!

There wasn’t a breath of a breeze against the noonday sun as I power walked my way to the mall. My body felt long and lean like a thoroughbred sprinting out of the starting gate. My first stop was the Bank of America for some quick cash. On my way out, two middle-aged businessmen stepped aside, motioning me to go first.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” I smiled.

“Lady, the pleasure is all ours,” the bald one said with a grin. Men are such flirts. No time to waste.

My next stop was the Emporium to pick up a nightgown I had on hold for my mother-in-law’s birthday. I remembered the saleswoman from the week before when I had purchased a set of panties, one for each day of the week embroidered on the right cheek. She seemed rather aloof at the time. Today she handed my package with a smirk and a remark, “…and I trust you’re enjoying your undergarments.”
And why not? They’re two sizes smaller! I checked my watch, 12:30. I was off to the Five & Dime for nail polish and pantyhose. As I walked through the open mall, weaving my way through the holiday crowd, I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a storefront window. I liked what I saw. Rolling my shoulders back and correcting my posture, I’d repeat my Weight Watchers mantra, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.”

Upon entering the Five & Dime, I held the door open for a mother exiting with her little girl in tow. As the two of them walked by, the little girl tugged on her mother’s arm.

“Look Mama, that pretty lady…” she said.
Her mother looked back at me smiling, shushing her daughter as they disappeared into the crowd. Imagine that, even young children find me attractive!

I looked down at my “To Do” list. My last stop was the House of Fabrics on the other side of the mall. I had twenty minutes. I was determined to find a drip-dry fabric in candy-apple red for my first two-piece bathing suit. I was flattered as I weaved through sale-crazed shoppers, turning heads as I made my way through the crowded mall. Who knew looking this good would get me so much attention?

Inside the House of Fabrics the air was heavy for lack of circulation from the bolts of fabrics standing upright in their rows like soldiers waiting to be called for duty. I felt pressured from the time crunch to make my selection and get back to the office. Twice, I had to sidestep a little old lady who had been eyeing me from between the bolts. The poor dear was almost covered from head to toe in a beige woolen overcoat. Wisps of gray hair peeked out from under an equally beige turban styled hat. Beige gloves and a matching clutch purse completed her unnaturally neutral look. I smiled and nodded. She perceived it as an invitation and shuffled down the aisle toward me with great trepidation. Poor dear, she thinks I’m a sales clerk. Clutching her purse to her bosom, she came up close to me and motioned with her scrawny gloved finger. I leaned down and turned my head to offer her my ear.

“Excuse me, dearie,” she whispered.
“Yes, what can I do for you?” I replied.
“Did you know that the back of your dress is tucked into your panty hose?”
She looked up at me with an apologetic smile and slowly backed down the aisle as if she had

just delivered the news that I was next in line for a royal beheading. I was frozen, unable to engage my body, or harness the buzzing in my brain. I stood up and stiffly rolled my shoulders back, summoning the courage to look down and assess the dress. A wave of relief swept over me. My dress was perfectly fine. I saw nothing shocking or revealing about the garment. What was the woman talking about? Was she against mini-dresses? Was she daft? She must have anticipated my denial because at that moment she peeked out from between the fabric stacks and pointed that scrawny finger to a full length mirror on the wall next to the pattern drawers. Indignant, I walked over and planted myself squarely in front of the mirror. I could see her watching me from behind. I shrugged my shoulders and shot her a quizzical look. There goes that finger again. This time she pointed it down and made a twirling motion beckoning me to turn around. The slightest movement sideways revealed a flash of flesh. When I made a complete turn I could see that my backside was completely exposed. That little old lady had been as conservative in her revelation to me as she was in her wardrobe color choice. I stared at the mirror in horror. Not only was the entire back of my dress tucked into my pantyhose but I had somehow managed to roll what little fabric there was into a ball and tuck it into my panties. For all intents and purposes, I had traveled through the Westend mall dressed in a loincloth.

The old woman watched and waited for me to absorb the absurdity of the situation before delivering the final blow.

“Oh, and by the way, dear, it’s Friday.”

I was too numb and too mortified to take in any more of her well intentioned gestures. It wasn’t until l got home that evening and got myself ready for bed that I grasped the meaning of her parting words.

It was Friday and I was wearing my Tuesday panties.

 


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