Avis A Townsend
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Growing up as a small-town teenager in the 1960's, there wasn't a lot a girl could do – especially a blocky, geeky one with pink eyeglasses and no social life

I lived other peoples' lives vicariously through books and magazines, especially the "Trues" that were released the second Tuesday of each month and available at the town drug store. My other geeky friends and I would rush to the store the moment school let out, and we'd buy the latest True - Story, Confessions or Romance – and for that whole week we'd be transported to another time and place, swept up in the imaginary arms of a handsome contemporary man set on saving his modern-day damsel in distress. We imagined ourselves in the back seat of a 1960 Thunderbird.

I was fourteen when I purchased my final magazine at that drug store. My friend Cheryl and I were giggling over the steamy story titles when the druggist appeared from the bowels of the store and peered over his glasses at us, glaring like we were women of ill repute.

"Planning on doing a little loving, girls?" he asked.

Cheryl burst out laughing, but my cheeks flamed beet-red. How dare he invade our private fantasy world and make it sound dirty? I hustled the magazine to the check-out counter, vowing never to go in that awful store again. I was mortified that a man would say that to us, but Cheryl found it marvelous. She always managed to laugh at life, while I took things way too seriously.

As I browsed through my final book of stories, a full-page ad caught my eye. It was in color, not a normal thing in those dull paper magazines. "Whirl-Skirted Glamour Dress. Turn men's eyes with this looker."

My jaw dropped and my eyes grew wide. The dress was beautiful. Shades of yellow and orange, the skirt seemed to whirl straight out on the model, like a square-dance skirt.

I had to have it. It was $12.95, a lot to spend in those days when the average dress cost about $7.50. I begged, pleaded, laughed, and bartered, but my mother wouldn't hear of it.

"These ads are come-ons," she said. "The dress won't look like that."

"It has to," I argued, "because this is an actual photo."

Eventually my mother relented and ordered the dress. I waited impatiently for it to be delivered.

After several weeks, my whirl-skirted glamour dress arrived, tied loosely in a plain brown wrapper. My mother stood over me as I opened the package and pulled out a wrinkled bunch of cloth.

The dress looked nothing like the photo. Not only wasn't it yellow, but the material was definitely not the "crisp cotton" the ad had promised.

My face flamed, cheeks redder than the huge red hibiscus' obtrusively outshining the orange daisies on the dress's hem – redder than when the drug store owner asked if we were going to do some loving.

My mother was always quick with the I-told-you-so's. "I told you it would be awful. But you wouldn't listen." Then she added insult to injury. "Well, we bought it so you're going to wear it anyway."

As I lifted it, the skirt drooped; and there was hardly enough material to cover my blocky butt, let alone whirl when I twirled. My only hope was that it would not fit when I tried it on so my mother could send it back. Unfortunately, it fit like it was made for me. I promised my mother that I'd wear it "for good" and not wear it to school. She didn't understand that wearing it to school would brand me as a true loser for the rest of my life. I don't remember ever wearing it, however.

Now and then I wonder what happened to that dress. Maybe my mother sold it at a garage sale. Maybe she used it as a cleaning rag. I'm guessing she sent it back.

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