Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.
I am a defective woman. I was born without several gender defining genes; the House Cleaning gene, the Shopping gene and, most devastating, the Motherly Instinct gene. Somehow I’ve made it through life without these components and efforts to conceal or make light of my deficits have often lead to deception, embarrassment and, yes, even an occasional lie.
Back in the forties and early fifties, I watched my mother sing as she crouched on all fours to scrub the kitchen floor. She hummed while she dipped clothes into liquid starch and ironed every single thing that came off of the clothes line, including underwear and sheets that felt like concrete against my skin. It was comforting to know that one day I would carry on such womanly traditions.
But something horrible happened a few weeks into my marriage. My tall husband discovered dust on top of the refrigerator and I was smacked in the face with the horrifying reality that eventually everything in the house would get dirty, and I was the designated cleaner. I did not face this reality gracefully.
A number of years later I stood in a parking lot with my three young children. They, along with scores of other children, were waiting to board buses that would take them to eight weeks of sleep-away camp. They had anxiously awaited this day for months, but probably not as much as I had. I looked forward to not picking up soggy towels from their bathroom floor. I relished the thought of not finding moldy dishes under their beds. I dreamed of tackling laundry weekly, rather than daily. Mostly, I delighted at the thought of all the free time I would have without my usual six-day-a-week car pooling.
You cannot imagine my surprise when I looked around the parking lot and saw scores of mothers weeping, clutching their youngster’s shirt tails, unable to say goodbye. It would have been nice to see at least one other mother who shared my unadulterated glee, but if she was there, I couldn’t find her.
I’m certain I was viewed with shock and disdain when my uncontrolled exuberance slipped out and I began bouncing up and down, waving pom poms and cheering, “Hip, hip, hooray! Children goin’ away. Soon as she gets outta’ here, Mama’s gonna play.”
Fast forward a few years and it happened again when my children left for college. I was dumbfounded when I listened to friends sob as they watched their college bound children pack. I had to grab one girlfriend by the collar, shake her silly and remind her of when her son was caught smoking pot behind the police station, and her daughter came home from a party drunk, and her other son demolished her five week old car. I described the impending joy of doing laundry only once a week, of sitting in the bathroom without the pressure of someone banging on the door to get in, of cleaning the house, leaving for the day, and returning to find it exactly as she left it. I encouraged her to think about candle lit dinners and uninterrupted romantic evenings with her husband.
I guess my talk impacted on her because she ended up dumping her son on the college campus a full week before registration.
Then there’s my missing shopping gene. I like to think there are other women out there who, like me, detest shopping, but if they exist I’ve not met them. I once had a friend ask me to go window shopping with her.
“I can’t afford to buy anything,” she said, “but, let’s just go look.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Are you insane? Why on God’s earth would I want to press my nose against a shop window and stare longingly at something I had no intention of purchasing? That’s got to be right up there with the futility of buying a dress two sizes too small because I believe someday I’ll actually fit into it.”
There is only one item I have never minded buying. Shoes. Recently I gave away countless pairs of pointed three inch heels, circa 1955, to Salvation Army. Some lucky person is going to drop in and recognize a find when she sees it. And, if she’s smart, she’ll buy them all, because I’m sure one day they’ll be back in style. I would still be wearing them were it not for a bunion, hammer toe, knee replacement and arthritis, that make it challenging to walk in slippers, much less three inch spikes.
I think the reason I enjoy buying shoes is because I don’t have to struggle to pull them up over my generous hips or down over my ample breasts. But, I suspect that’s about to change; I saw boots in Nordstrom’s recently that came so high up the thigh, that the next step in shoe designs will surely include waist bands and buttons. When that happens I’ll probably hobble right out and buy a pair to go with the dress I bought that’s two sizes too small.
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