By Kathy Warnes
Marcy scrunched behind the concrete pillar and then she carefully peered around it. There was a break in the crowd of shoppers and she scooted across the two lane window shopping walk to the big picture window in front of Slater’s Department Store. Yes, the mannequin in the corner still displayed the blue satin peignoir set, the soft blue folds of the robe drifting around her like a fluffy cloud and the gown underneath following the mannequin’s curves like a velvet gloved hand.
Marcy’s inner woman fought a tug of war inside her soul. Her neon yellow, hopeful side with a daisy border advised her to hurry inside of Slater’s and buy the peignoir set. The bare black brick wall realistic side with a barbed wire on the top asked her what in the name of common sense she was doing there.
She asked herself the same question. Not in forty years of marriage had she been a peignoir woman. Whatever had made her think she could be now? Certainly Jeremy never required a peignoir woman. In fact, he would have been quite astonished if she had ever worn one in the privacy of their bedroom. He had approved of her sensible flannel nightgowns and robes in the winter and her modest percale nightdresses in the summer. To Jeremy, everything, including romance, could and should be reduced to its most utilitarian denominator. “I’m just a sensible, practical man, Marcy,” he had told her.
Marcy had been a sensible, practical wife. Even her name Marcy – was a plain and sensible name for a plain and sensible woman like her. Not that she was an ugly woman, certainly not ugly! Jeremy had once or twice told her that she looked pretty and their daughter Karen and son Sam often told her how pretty she was even though their admiring words never caused Jeremy to blink in her direction in the last few years.
Jeremy had been dead for five years now, but his words and attitudes thrived in her mind and in the sturdy, overstuffed living room furniture and the neutral browns and beige paint on their walls. The painting of the Puritan woman and her solemn children still hung in their living room and their bedroom looked as if Jeremy would step out of the shower any minute to carefully remove a pair of plain brown trousers out of his black walnut dinosaur wardrobe.
She had loved Jeremy and they had built a good, solid life together for themselves and their children. She appreciated and enjoyed the benefits of being solid, but underneath the sensible flat shoes that she had used to walk through life thus far lurked pair of frivolous dancing slippers. The slippers danced to the surface of her consciousness at the most inconvenient times, like when she looked at the peignoir set in Slater’s Department Store window and her heart told her she had to have if while her intellect scolded her unmercifully.
Most of the voices in her society sided with her intellect. They told over and over that she was a woman of a certain age and that light, romance, and fun were reserved for young years and sober responsibility settled like a mantle on the shoulders of a true adult. Her heart substituted the word shroud for mantle, but she still walked through every day of her life in sensible shoes.
Marcy remembered reading a novel with a main character called Cassie. When Cassie turned thirty, she spent most of her time trying to enjoy what she called her remaining years as a woman. Marcy pondered that idea for a long time. Certainly Cassie or any biological woman for that matter, didn’t stop being a woman when they were forty, fifty, sixty, and the uncertain number of years beyond that. Why did people and society since society is made up of people, consider only young women to be pretty and desirable? What age was really the cutoff age when a woman stopped being a woman? Why even set a cutoff age?
Marcy had even gathered enough courage to try to talk to Jeremy about age, and being sensible and frivolous, and some of the other thoughts that bubbled up like an unruly fountain from her heart.
Jeremy had firmly and sensibly said, “Marcy, we’re settled and we have a good life. Why even talk about such nonsense?”
She stopped talking about her thoughts but they didn’t stop bombarding her intellect in a variety of meteors of all sizes and shapes, and colliding with her sober nature and each other to erupt in incandescent showers of possibility.
“Pretty lingerie, isn’t it?” The voice came from beside her left shoulder. She raised
her eyes to the owner of the voice. Her eyes met a pair of sky blue eyes accented with eye shadow and arched brown eyebrows. The skin on the face reminded Marcy of smooth ridges of sand stretching out into a blue lake and her neck was as smooth as Karen’s bottom had been when she was a baby.
Marcy returned to staring at the peignoir set.
“Do you think that peignoir set would be okay for my honeymoon?
Marcy returned her full gaze to the face beside her. This time she noted that it
was framed in long, blonde hair.
“I don’t think you need to worry about what you’re wearing if the rest of you is as pretty as your face and hair.”
“I want to feel beautiful for Brad on our honeymoon.”
“You are beautiful,” Marcy told the young woman.
“What I wear influences how I feel,” the young woman said. “In some clothes, I don’t feel beautiful.”
“Feeling beautiful comes from inside,” Marcy said sensibly.
The young woman smiled. “Clothes help.”
“So do hope and possibility,” Marcy said sensibly.
The young woman continued to study the merchandise in the window. “Oh, that is a pretty black teddy,” she said. Maybe that will look better than the peignoir set. What do you think?”
“I think you have some time to decide,” Marcy said.
The young woman moved over to the far side of the window. “Or maybe this would be better. What do you think of this style in a nightgown?” she asked.
Marcy smiled. “I think you will find a lifetime peignoir set,” she said.
The young woman gave Marcy a puzzled look and then returned to her window shopping.
Marcy pushed open the door of Slater’s Department Store. Luckily the lingerie department was off to the right just inside of the door. After two salesclerks had brushed by her without even looking at her, she grabbed a third clerk by the shoulder. “I would like some help,” she said firmly.
“What can I help you with?” the clerk asked, sounding impatient.
“I would like that peignoir set,” Marcy said, pointing to its satiny, blue folds.
“A woman your age and with your dignity certainly would not be shopping for lingerie.” The salesclerk hadn’t spoken the words out loud but she looked them at Marcy.
Marcy looked steadily back at her.
“Something for your granddaughter, madam?
“No,” Marcy said. “Something for me.”