Wasted On Youth
Early each spring for each of my four years at Auburn, I sashayed downtown and bought a bathing suit at the Polly-tek. The name “Polly-tek” was a play on words; Auburn once upon a time had been Alabama Polytechnic Institute. But the store with the lame name had great and stylish women’s clothes.
The brightly-lit mezzanine window was full of mannequins who wore their spring finery well. The smiling stiffs dictated style on campus more than any human, letting us know from their spotlight all through the dreary winter what we’d be donning in the spring. I swear I sometimes dreamed about the clothes in that pool of fluorescence.
Across the Bridge
I’d save my money all winter for the routine spring splurge, counting the days till the sundeck was bearable. Soon as the temperatures made it past 50 degrees, we slathered ourselves in baby oil and iodine and worshiped the sun. I was always an even golden bronze by the end of March, ready to take the plunge -- along with my grade point average.
I can remember the look and feel of each of those four ancient swimsuits, always two pieces, though not bikinis, which nobody outside of the strip clubs in nearby Phenix City would have dared to wear. My favorite suit, bright yellow, had a little stop sign patch on the bottom half. I imagined it cute beyond words.
I remembered all this the other day when my 15th Venus catalogue of the past two months arrived in the mail. And that’s not counting the ones I suspect my husband of snitching. I’m not sure how I ever got on the Venus list. Even at 18 I wasn’t daring enough to wear Venus clothes.
The catalogue cover said “60 percent off,” and I wondered if they meant the clothes or the prices. I tossed the book in the trash.
If life gets any more ironic, I’m going to suspect O’Henry authored it. Now that I have a home near the beach, I dread with all my heart wearing a swimsuit. It’s not fair, of course, that the years you look stupendous in beach clothes are the same years you don’t have enough money for a cheap no-tell motel near the beach, much less a house. And now that the ocean is two blocks away and I have more time for sunning, I splotch and don’t tan. Where’s the justice in that?
Actual people on the actual beach look nothing like the catalogue, of course. Even the young people I see appear obese next to the swimsuit models. Those models are from Venus; the rest of us from Mars.
My late husband Don once recalled how his mother took a look around downtown Moss Point one day in the 1960’s and remarked: “All the modest women are dead.” Baby, look at us now.
It’s true that my own generation of women burned our bras. Trust me, in my case that was no big deal.