Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Stockings vs. Pantyhose. The war of the ages.

I received an e-mail the other day that supposedly was a test to determine whether or not I’m older than dirt. One of the questions it asked was, “Are you old enough to remember when your mother used to wear two separate nylon stockings?”

Heck, never mind my mother. I used to wear two separate nylon stockings myself. That, I suspected, made me even older than “older than dirt.”

My years in high school were extremely painful, thanks to those nylon stockings. Back then, there were only three ways of holding them up. There was the girdle, which took two hours to squeeze into each morning, and that was only if you greased your hips with butter first

Then there was the garter belt, but back then it wasn’t the lacy little thing that’s so popular nowadays. No, these garter belts were made of plain white turbo-elastic about four inches wide. Four long elastic bands with metal hooks on the ends dangled from the belt.

Believe me, those metal hooks were no fun to sit on during six hours of classes. And not a day passed when one of the hooks didn’t manage to twist sideways and dig into my thighs. There was no discreet way to adjust them, because reaching up under my skirt in the middle of class just might have attracted a bit of attention, so more often than not, I sat and suffered in silence. I think I still have hook scars on the backs of my legs.

The third way to hold up the stockings was to buy the brand that had built-in elastic around the tops. These stayed up pretty well when you first put them on in the morning, but as the day progressed they would start to relax, stretch out and slide down. As a result, a lot of girls in my freshman class walked around looking as if they had saggy knees and wrinkly ankles.

I guess in an era when my school’s dress code enforced the “skirts must be long enough to touch the floor when you are kneeling” rule, not a whole lot of our stockings showed anyway, so it really didn’t matter how ugly they were. But little did we know that the worst thing that could ever happen to the girdle and garter-belt generation was about to occur…the invention of the mini skirt.

The tops of the stockings back then always were a few shades darker than the rest of the stocking, and combined with the metal hooks holding them up, they looked anything but fashionable hanging out from underneath those short skirts. Even worse was the white long-legged girdle showing at least two inches from beneath the skirt. From a distance, we looked as if we had bandages wrapped around our thighs.

I can remember the first time I wore a mini-skirt and tried to climb into my father’s car. I’m pretty sure that most of my neighbors immediately were stricken blind by the sight.

Fortunately, manufacturers realized that something had to be done about the ugly stocking situation, especially since the mini-skirt fad really was catching on. The solution was a product called pantyhose.

I’ll never forget the first day I heard about pantyhose. I was working at Leavitt’s Department Store in Manchester at the time and the clerk in the lingerie department was very excited. “They’re like ballet tights!” she said, holding up a package of pantyhose. “Only they’re sheer, like nylons! No more hooks!”

I was intrigued, even though at $4.98 they were a pretty big extravagance for someone who was making only $1.50 an hour. But to save myself from further girdle humiliation in my mini-skirts, I doled out my hard-earned money for some of the new-fangled stockings.

And I put a huge run in them just trying to tug them up over my hips.

I wasn’t a big fan of pantyhose at first. The crotch on them never seemed to pull up high enough to be comfortable on me, and I also never knew whether to wear them over or under my underwear. Wearing nylon pantyhose over nylon underwear didn’t work because it made them as slippery as ice. And wearing them underneath my underwear didn’t work either, not with the crotch hanging down to my knees.

Then one day as I was walking through the main aisle at Leavitt’s, one of the employees, an older man who usually worked in the men’s department, was standing in the lingerie department and pointing to a display on the counter.

“Look, Sally!” he shouted. “They must have made these especially for you!”

I moved to take a closer look. The label on the package said, “Fat Fannie Pantyhose.” At that moment, I wanted to wrap them around the guy’s neck and strangle him with them.

Even if those pantyhose had been a perfect fit, I wouldn’t have bought them, just because of their name. And as it turned out, I don’t think many women did buy them, probably for the same reason, because the product wasn’t around for very long.

Since then, I have bought and worn all sorts of pantyhose – fishnet, patterned, textured, opaque, sheer to the waist, control top, support, silky and energizing.

And I still haven’t found a pair that fits me right.

I’m thinking that maybe Fat Fannie should start making them again.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Boys and their Toys

I often wonder what it is about some men that makes them so attached to their cars that if they saw a hailstorm approaching, they would fling themselves across the hood and risk getting pelted to death, just to protect the paint job.

I swear, there even are some guys who, if a police officer came to the door and said, “Your wife just accidentally drove your car over a cliff,” would gasp, “Ohmigod! Is the car okay?!”

A few years ago, I even heard on a news report that there was a man who was so in love with his car, he actually held a wedding ceremony and married it!

When I think back to my dating years and a couple of the guys who paid more attention to their cars than they did to me, I wonder whatever possessed me to keep dating them.

For example, there was one guy, Dave, who used to race his Firebird every Sunday at New England Dragway. All of his spare money went into that car, so our dates usually involved things that could be done with “two for one” coupons. If McDonald’s ran a special, you can bet that’s where we’d be eating on a Saturday night.

He even invited me to a drive-in movie one night and then tried to convince me to hide in the trunk of his car so he wouldn’t have to pay for my admission (back then, drive-ins charged per person, not per carload).

But the worst of the car lovers was Norm, who was so madly in love with his Corvette, most of our dates consisted of me sitting around watching him polish it. I was amazed that the car had any paint left on it, he polished it so often. And whenever I wanted to ride in his precious Vette, I practically had to wrap myself in sterile gauze before he’d allow any of my body parts to make contact with his upholstery.

After he’d finish his polishing marathon, the remainder of our date would involve “cruising” up and down Elm Street in Manchester for hours. Norm always took the same route over and over again: Elm Street to McDonald’s on South Willow Street, then Elm Street back to the Puritan on Daniel Webster Highway. He said nothing beat the rush he got when he saw guys turning green with envy while staring at his car.

The Vette’s convertible top also had to be down whenever we cruised Elm Street. Norm didn’t care if my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering like castanets. He said the car looked more sleek and sporty with the top down, and he wanted everyone to get the full effect of its beauty, which obviously was more important to him than my losing a limb to frostbite.

The first time I slammed Norm’s car door a little too hard, I thought he was going to go into cardiac arrest.

“What are you doing?!” he gasped, clutching his chest. “Do you want the door to fall off? Be gentle with her!”

“Her?” I repeated.

“All cars are female!” he said. “You can tell just by looking at the shape of their headlights!”

That convinced me. The guy was a bona fide lunatic.

Still, glutton for punishment that I was, I accepted a date with him to go to Canobie Lake Park one night. An hour before he was supposed to pick me up, he called.

“I can’t make it tonight,” he said, sounding frantic. “I just found a scratch on my car! It must have happened when I stopped at Zayre’s today.”

I tried to sound sympathetic. “How big is the scratch?”

“An inch and three-quarters!” he said in a tone that normally would be reserved to describe a head-on collision.

“But it’s still running fine, isn’t it?” I pointed out. “And a little scratch never hurt anything. There’s no reason why we still can’t go to Canobie Lake.”

“Are you serious?” he cried. “How on earth can you possibly expect me to have a good time when I’m so upset about the damage that was done to my poor baby? And when it comes to Corvettes, NO scratch is little! I’m sick to my stomach over this!”

Now that I think about it, I should have paid more attention to that news report about the guy who married his car. I have a sneaking suspicion his name might be Norm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another one bites the dust

It seems as if every time I fall in love with a food item, I jinx it.

I swear, the minute I say something like, “I just LOVE chocolate-covered Winky Blinkies!” you can bet that within a week, the company that produces Winky Blinkies either will cease production, file for bankruptcy or be struck by a meteor. And inevitably, this will send me on statewide search that ends up costing me about $500 in gas, just so I can stockpile as many of the last remaining Winky Blinkies as I can get my paws on.

Recently, I have had a sinking feeling that another one of my favorites, fresh-mint Skittles, also is about to bite the dust.

I first bought them about six months ago because I thought the little plastic flip-top container they came in was pretty nifty. Little did I know that the moment I popped that first spearminty Skittle into my mouth, I would be hooked. You see, these weren’t ordinary mints. These were shaped like M&Ms, with chewy, jelly-bean-like spearmint centers. I emptied the entire container in one sitting. I had to have more.

I got into the habit of buying five or six containers of fresh-mint Skittles every time I went into my local pharmacy. They were $1.19 there, as opposed to only 99 cents at the supermarkets, but I didn’t care. I figured that the money I saved on gas by traveling only three miles instead of 12, evened things out.

Throughout the day, I chewed on Skittles. I could feel the fillings loosening in my teeth and cavities popping up like gopher holes, but still I chewed.

Then I made the mistake of sharing my Skittles with my mother and my husband. They also became hooked. The three of us were like Skittles junkies, carrying them with us wherever we went. At first, we’d eat only one Skittle at a time, but soon, we were stuffing our mouths with five or six to get a bigger rush of flavor. There were times when I couldn’t even talk because my teeth were stuck together with a giant Skittles blob.

Then, a few weeks ago, the inevitable happened.

“We don’t have them any more,” the clerk in the pharmacy said to me the minute I set foot in the door.

My eyes widened and I stopped dead. “Don’t have what?” I asked, even though I already knew what he was going to say. After all, he’d rung up about 90 percent of my purchases and even had hinted that I might benefit from a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic to try to shake my Skittles dependency.

“The spearmint Skittles,” he said. “I think the company’s stopped making them. We still have the fruit-flavored and sour ones, though.”

My heart began to pound. “But I don’t want the fruit-flavored or sour ones!” I said, my voice coming out in a whine. “I want the fresh-mint ones!”

He shrugged. “Sorry.”

So I drove to the nearest supermarket and bought all of the fresh-mint Skittles they had. The supermarket never restocked. I cleaned out the supply in another supermarket. They never restocked either. I was becoming desperate.

A few weeks later, I received a call from my mother. Her tone was undeniably excited. “Guess what! They have our Skittles at the Dollar Tree store! And they’re TWO for a dollar!”

At first, I thought her words were cause for a “break out the champagne” celebration, but then I realized what they actually meant. If the Skittles were being sold at a discount store and no longer at regular retail stores, then their days were numbered. I rushed over to Dollar Tree and stocked up.

If I’d have been smart, I would have rationed them, eating only a few a day as a special treat and making them last for as long as possible. But instead, I ate two or three containers a day and acted as if I were trying to fatten up my body for hibernation.

And to make matters worse, my mother broke our sacred Skittles vow and shared some of the tasty treats with her friends…who also are trying to buy them now, adding to the competition.

So I did a search on my computer the other day and found a place that will sell me 16 packs of spearmint Skittles for “only” $25 plus $7 for shipping. That averages out to $2 per pack. And seeing that I need about 500 packs just to get me through the next month or two, I may have to go to the bank and take out a personal loan.

Either that, or I can hit up my dentist, Attila the Driller, for part of the money. I’m sure he’d consider it to be a good investment.