|It's funny how things you
haven't thought about in years suddenly and unexpectedly show
up in your thoughts.
Yesterday, while driving back from a
field trip with my son's fourth grade class, I remembered a
night some twenty-two years ago that I'm sure I had managed to
block out of my conscious mind due to the sheer level of
embarrassment it caused. All these years later, I can finally
laugh at the memory. At least I think I can.
I was eighteen-years-old and freshly
dumped by the man I thought would be my husband. My
Grandmother had passed away and for the first time in two
years, I was between boyfriends. I was depressed and on the
prowl for a replacement model (fiancé, not Grandmother) when
I decided to visit my Mother in Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
Ft. Knox is an army base and as such,
it is always teeming with young, disciplined, lonely men. Any
female with most of her teeth can find a man on a military
base. I was gonna get me one.
In 1982, eighteen was old enough to
be granted access to the clubs on post as well as old enough
to drink... as long as it was only beer or wine. The only
catch was you had to have an active duty military member agree
to sign you into the club. My step-father was such a person. I
was all set to go to the NCO club (non-commissioned officers)
that Friday night to hunt for a husband.
I spent the entire day in
preparation. In much the same way you wash, wax and detail a
car before you try to sell it, I was making sure my chassis
was in mint condition.
I carefully applied vampire red,
insanely long Lee Press On Nails. Rather than take any chance
one might pop off and leave me claw challenged, I decided to
go one better than the little sticky tabs that come in the
package. I grabbed a bottle of Super Glue... the same kind
that used to lift Volkswagens over a man's head in
commercials. If it was tough enough to suspend automobiles in
mid-air, surely it could keep my nails in place.
I twisted open a brand new tube of
Coppertone QT (instant tan stuff) and covered my entire body.
I knew that nothing attracts a man like warm, healthy, bright
orange glow. I couldn't reach the backs of my shoulders, but I
figured it would be dark in the club and men wouldn't be
interested in the backs of my shoulders anyway.
I curled and teased my long, brown
hair for at least two hours in order to achieve heights and
widths that would leave any 1972 country music diva envious.
Not yet satisfied with the large, winged helmet that was my
coif, I bent over at the waist... as was customary in my daily
hair-fixing ritual, and flipped my gigantic head of hair
upside down so as to achieve maximum hair volume. I then aimed
my industrial sized bottle of Final Net Ultra Hold hair spray
and coated the under side of my hair.
When I could touch my hair without
having my fingers get stuck in it, or when I was nearly ready
to pass out, whichever came first, I stood straight again and
started the Final Net process on the rest of my hair.
It was the epitome of big hair. And,
under no circumstances or weather conditions was it ever, ever
going to move. The only thing that could penetrate my giant
mass of brown locks was water and I was praying to the rain
gods that the skies remained clear. I knew if even the
slightest amount of water touched my masterpiece, my head
would turn into a giant mass of chewing gum.
Oh.. I almost forgot to mention the
stunning white and gold head band I was wearing across my
forehead. Olivia Newton-John had nothing on me. I was simply
fabulous and totally ready to get physical.
I pulled on a lime green and orange
striped shirt with spaghetti straps and a short lime green
skirt that had little metal snaps on the pockets. I wanted to
show a lot of skin in order to accentuate my brand new
When we arrived at the club, I was
reminding myself that above all else, I needed to look cool. I
certainly looked like an attractive completely adult woman
capable of bearing healthy children and cooking wonderful
meals. Now I needed to act the part.
And how better to say to the world,
"I am an adult" than to drink to excess and smoke
cigarettes? That's what I needed to do. Smoke and drink. My
stunning beauty would grab 'em, smoking and drinking would
seal the deal.
I went to a cigarette machine (they
still had such things in 1982) and picked the pack that I
thought most reflected my femininity: Virginia Slims, of
course. I found a table near the stage where a very loud
band was playing and tried to act as if I sat in bars every
The waitress showed up and asked me
what I wanted to drink. This was a toughie. I couldn't just
order beer or wine... even though the law said that was all I
could drink. Sophisticated women like me drank mixed drinks.
The only mixed drink for which I could recall a name was 7
& 7 so that's what I ordered. I had no clue what it was,
but it sounded like a womanly drink to me.
As I waited for my frou-frou drink to
arrive, I noticed that the band featured a very, very hot
drummer. He was beautiful. He had long, black hair, dark skin
and coal black eyes. I loved him immediately and imagined how
precious our dark haired children would be. I began trying to
make eye contact.
I don't know if it was my high hair,
my vampire nails or the striking contrast of my burnt orange
skin against my lime green outfit, but he couldn't take his
eyes off me. He'd smile and wink and I'd act as if I was way
too cool to notice, even though my heart was about to beat out
of my chest.
When the band took a break, he made
his way to my table and ordered a shot of tequila with a beer
back. What a grown-up, manly thing to order! I didn't know
what a beer back was, but I found it terribly exciting that
the father of my children did.
He told me I was beautiful and wanted
to know if I'd like to go with him to another bar when he was
through with this gig. How much did I love the fact that he
used words like "gig"!!! It was going to be so much
fun being married to a drummer.
His break was almost over, when I
realized that I had one bit of ammunition I had not yet used.
I hadn't smoked in front of him! Silly girl! He needed to see
me smoke in order to get the full effect.
I should probably mention here that
the only times I had smoked and actually inhaled prior to this
moment, I had puked for hours. I figured that as long as I
didn't inhale, I'd avoid the never attractive but totally
inevitable vomiting. I was so smart. It's no wonder he wanted
Trying to open the pack with my nails
was like handing it to Edward Scissorhands, but I managed to
finally get it open and extract one long, thin cigarette. Now
I just had to get it in my mouth and get it lit. I was home
I picked up the lighter and I noticed
that the cigarette felt a little sticky in my hands.
Apparently I had not completely gotten all the hair spray off
I clicked the lighter once. Nothing.
I clicked it again. Nothing.
When I clicked it the third time I
heard a sound not unlike the sound you hear when you turn on a
gas stove. WHOOSH!
Two of my beautiful, red nails were
fully engulfed. I was literally on fire.
Had I been at home and had my fingers
burst into flames, I might have considered stop, drop and
roll. But, ever the cool-headed adult, I didn't want to scare
off the love of my life by acting like this was a big deal.
I did what any logical person would
do when a part of their body is on fire. I held my hand close
to my face and gently blew. What I failed to take into
consideration was the very same hair spray that was coating my
artificial nails making them as flammable as a BBQ grill was
all over my head. That dawned on me about the time my bangs
started to smoke.
It was at that moment that cool went
right out the window. (As if it hadn't left the building
already.) I stuck my flaming hand in my 7 & 7 while
frantically beating my forehead with the other one. The fire
was finally extinguished.
So what does one do after having put
out a blaze on one's person in a situation like this?
While I sat their smoldering and
smelling of burnt hair and fake nails with my hand soaking in
my drink glass, I said, "So, what time do you think
you'll be done here?"
Copyright © Sherri Bailey