When I was young, I spent a lot of time with my grandma and by default, my grandma’s friends and older relatives. I was also typically the only child with them and so most of the older women would allow me to go through their stuff as I had a fascination with costume jewelry, old photograph albums and clothes. To say I loved it is an understatement; I obsessed on these things which I saw as the accoutrements of being a lady.
What made me think of this today of all days was the Halloween snow falling around my car as I drove home from work. I saw it and cringed “I am so not ready for this” I said to myself and had a near panic attack as I realized that much like being strapped into a roller coaster, there really is no way out of this. Winter is coming. Then I thought about how I am officially old. When you dread the snow and want to cry when you see it, you are no longer young. I began thinking about how I have changed, how I am now an “old woman” and that brought to mind the fact that I own none of the “Lady Things” I had so looked forward to as a child. Times change as much as we do, I suppose, and what my grandchildren might enjoy and look forward to owning will not be any of the things I had so often dreamed about.
Here is my childhood list of the “Things I Need to Have When I am a Lady” that I do not in fact have now nor have I ever had:
A rubber bathing cap covered in multicolored rubber flowers. Oh yes. My grandma had one. It was pink and covered with pastel colored flowers. I sat in her room and put it on my head. “When I am a lady and I just got my hair done at the beauty school, I won’t be able to swim without one of these. And mine will be just like this one. So pretty”
A Girdle with garter belts: Well, come on, church-going ladies would never be caught wearing a dress without one of these medieval torture devices around their middles. Of course I would have one too. As much as it may be uncomfortable, those polyester church dresses with the vinyl belt are pretty clingy in the mid-section (from what I observed at church) and God would not want to see curves where he never meant them to be.
A powder puff: In a big golden box and full of smelly white dusting powder. This puff was furry on one side and satin on the other with a ribbon across the satin side. You slip your fingers under the ribbon and just go to town with that shit. Sure you may inhale a little talc but your face will be porcelain white and you’ll smell like a “lady”
Big gaudy jewelry: My god-mother wore the most ridiculous HUGE beaded necklaces and earrings while my grandmother had a whole collection of big brooches. As a girl, I spent hours in their jewelry boxes planning the outfits I could wear to complement my behemoth accessories. I admit that I actually inherited a few of my god-mothers crazy pastel wooden square beaded necklaces and all of my grandmother’s brooches which I love and still have. I do not still have the wooden bead jewelry although I made good use of it in the late 80’s in junior high.
A tin of buttons: All proper ladies need an old cookie tin full of buttons. Buttons of all shapes and sizes. You can fix anyone’s clothes. You are always prepared and a tin full of buttons is a wonderful way to keep children amused for hours (of course this was back before all that “choking hazard” nonsense). I was sure I would have a tin just like my gram’s kept under my bed for all those last minute button fiascos.
A reusable rubber douche bottle: Ok, see the thing about this one is that all I knew was there was some mysterious thing that went on with this strange pink bottle in the bathroom. Most times, I was allowed in to visit during adult lady bathroom time (because where else does a kid want to be?) but never was I allowed when the bottle was being used. I suspected it was for some really secret lady beauty routine and I couldn’t wait to not only know what exactly was going on in there but also for the day my mom and grandma would take me shopping to pick out my very own! I sure liked that pink one, but I wondered if they had one with polka dots or maybe lady-bugs on the bottle part.
But alas, here I sit, nearly 40 years old and I own none of those things. I never made it to cool lady status like my Grandma and my God-Mother….but you know what, I don’t think anyone, ever again, will be as cool as they were and that I can live with.