Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time
It was my first date since a bad breakup, and I was looking forward to it so much that I’d bought a new outfit.
I was twenty, working two part time jobs and was briefly living with my parents after ending a short career as an actress.
It was 9:30 p.m., and my date was due to arrive soon. I had minutes to change out of my work clothes and into my new, sexy outfit.
I took it from the shopping bag. Something hard and plastic hit my hand. I realized with horror that the sales woman failed to remove the hulking security tag from the hem of the tiny, fitted shirt.
“What am I going to do?” I shrieked to my fifteen-year-old sister Fran.
“Wear it anyway?” she suggested.
“He’ll think I’m crazy,” I snapped at her. “The tag is almost as big as the shirt!”
“But you are crazy,” my sister said helpfully. “Isn’t it best to go ahead and put that out there in the interest of full disclosure?”
“Very funny. Help me find a way to get this stupid thing off.”
She stared at me blankly.
“Our father is a tool salesman,” I said. “Surely there’s something in the garage that will remove this!”
Fran and I dashed downstairs and assaulted our father’s perfectly organized and immaculate garage.
“Eureka!” I called to Fran. “Bolt cutters!”
We left the garage in disarray and started back into the house.
Then, something horrible happened. The doorbell rang.
He was there!
Fran and I stared at one another, momentarily frozen.
“Stall him,” I ordered.
I thundered up the backstairs to my room. Fran galloped to the front door. She let him in, and I could hear her talking to my date as I slipped the bolt cutters around the tag and squeezed.
The metal bent but didn’t release. I repositioned the cutters, gritted my teeth and tried again.
And then something happened that made forgotten security tags and early dates seem like petty aggravations.
My grandmother, who lived downstairs in the mother-in-law suit, opened her bedroom door.
The door creaked with a groan like a portent. It was the coming of the dating apocalypse!
“FRAN!” My grandmother was a diminutive woman. The top of her poufy hair didn’t reach my collarbone. But her voice was monstrous.
I could see her in my mind’s eye wearing the ancient pink “nightie” she favored. Thousands of washings had rendered it transparent. I cringed.
“You girls KEEP IT DOWN!” She bellowed like an angry bull. “You sound like a HERD OF ELEPHANTS!”
I stood up and walked to my window. “Might as well watch my date leave,” I thought. If he was smart, he’d run.
To my utter surprise, he stayed.
I hacked the tag from my shirt, changed clothes and went on my date.
Years later, my husband Brian admitted that my grandmother terrified him so badly, he was afraid to leave. She had that effect on people.
And Fran was right. It was best that he realized I was crazy from the start; and with Grandma’s help, he saw firsthand that it runs in the family.
This is the last edition of “Life Face First” as Nora Blithe has discontinued the column to focus on her novel, “Dog Gone.”
Readers can follow her at NoraBlithe.com.