That time I was sexy-broke.

When I dug out this photo, I was surprised the artwork was not how I had remembered it!

When I dug out this photo, I was surprised the artwork was not how I had remembered it!

Presently a trend in make-up towards dramatic lips OR dramatic eyes forces one to make a choice, but in 1983 we women (and Chuck Wollery) enjoyed both! There was no smoky eye, the eye was either blue or green, lids painted like little garage doors, like little Volkswagen convertibles, lashes dark with mascara forming little windshield wipers.

I was facing the back of the room and the “keyhole” opening of my semi-backless jumpsuit was likely the first and last time I attempted such a feat: the black crepe neither loose nor clingy felt wonderful and I gave no thought to what the ladies room would involve once I was belted into this. I loved the look and feel of my outfit and imagined our big night out with childlike enthusiasm. It was our first anniversary, “Married” magazine had just selected one of my stories for publication, and life was good.

We stood in front of the Arthur Skinnner print “Dies Irae” for the photo. I scrimped and saved to buy the etching at $250. It looked fabulous on the stark white wall of my apartment years earlier but it was really too large for this one.

Skinner was an art professor at the college. I didn’t know him but used to attend all the art shows on opening night, a good way to meet people and enjoy free snacks. Humus (called mashed chick peas back then), gently browning around the edges, was a staple at each Elliott Gallery opening, along with the cheapest possible wine spritzer an undergraduate could muster.

I moved several times and that print was always the first thing I hung up and the last thing I took from each place. I mention the cost because rent at the time was only $205. I can’t underscore the comfort and happiness this particular piece granted me. Over the years, people have been unusually generous with their comments regarding how dark, dreary and depressing they find this particular piece of art. It just makes me love it more.

We worked such long hours with conflicting schedules it is a wonder that we found time to notice we liked each other, much less get a dinner out. This particular night, on the occasion of our first anniversary, we stopped and had our picture taken standing in front of the print, shown here. I promise to show you the whole thing one day.

The film had to be sent away to be developed, and before we had children and began chronicling their every move, we used maybe 4 rolls of film a year, and almost all photos were taken while visiting others. A roll of film was perhaps 20 pictures and a 50% success rate was a big win. It cost $8 to develop a roll and the wait was a week. Wait, what?

Yes! The mailman brought the prints or we picked them up at a local drugstore. We didn’t yet have our first VCR and getting the film prints was at least as good as seeing a movie. If this idea is incomprehensible to you, you might want to take your selfie out of here, right now. It is about to get much worse!

The first year or so we were married, we didn’t have a phone. We didn’t miss the phone, or think we needed a phone. As our other friends started feathering their nest with comforters and televisions, we feathered ours with two baby girls one right after the other. When you have babies, people force you to get a phone: all I can say is thank God. Our families supplied everything we needed, and made us promise to get a phone “in case of emergency.” We had that phone when we had to take our baby to the NICU.

Our anniversary day began when our friend Patrick came over and hot-rollered my frizzy, permed tresses. Deeming Hubby an unacceptable match for his new creation, he administered a fast, manly haircut to my mate.

Finally, freshly coiffed, it was time to go! We piled in our 20 year old Ford Falcon (all three of us) and dropped Patrick off on the way. The restaurant was beautiful, and I can still remember my delicious stuffed chicken. We were at the Brown Derby,  St. Petersburg, Florida, but as far as I was concerned, it could have been the Don Cesar. I excused myself after dinner and Hubby stood up, 30-something years later, can still feel his fingers gentle on my near my near backless key-hole crepe black jumpsuit, pointing me to the restroom.

What happened next is a blur. I returned to the table to find him still standing there, looking pale and sheepish, a look reserved for things like VCR’s eating the “rental” movie, or an unexpected  EPT result. My first thought was that he  administered the “new Heimlich maneuver” to a fellow diner in my absence.

Holding the check, he quietly confessed that he didn’t have enough money. After some rummaging around in my purse we scraped up enough to pay for the meal but left our waiter tipless. Our hearts hurt and it put a damper on things, but we rallied by midnight and our coach did not turn into a pumpkin. It wasn’t the first nor the last time I felt like Cinderella close to midnight, my Prince Charming by my side.

Update #1: Married magazine folded after a single issue. In an act unheard of today, they sent me a chocolate 7 layer cake as a consolation prize.

Update #2: After being in the tipless situation I make sure there is enough cash to make a mortgage payment on the restaurant before going in. I am incredibly appreciative of ATMs.


8 thoughts on “That time I was sexy-broke.

  1. Boy, I think that consolation prize is pretty wonderful, just like this post. I love the nostalgia of the newly-wed life. Sometimes it seems like forever-ago and sometimes like last night. This is so tender and beautiful: “…can still feel his fingers gentle on my near backless key-hole crepe black jumpsuit…”


    • Thanks for your kind comment. I really understand the comment, but mostly it DOES feel like forever ago. I also know I glamorize things when I don’t mean to, and when I mean to, it pours out of me like sap from a freshly tapped maple! Hard to strike the balance between memory and fantasy!


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