In Praise Of Pantyhose
Erma Bombeck, graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949, lived with her husband and family in Centerville, Ohio, and inspired people worldwide with her columns and books about life’s trials and tribulations. Her memory lives on with the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition hosted every two years by the Washington-Centerville Public Library and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop hosted by the University of Dayton. (Washington-Centerville Public Library)
The Erma Bombeck Writing Competition judges short essays in the categories of Humor and Human Interest, with separate competitions for local and “global” writers.
Essays are limited to 450 words. For me, who can take 450 words to meander through an opening paragraph, that is short-short-SHORT. But I edited and cut, cut and edited. And chopped, chopped, chopped. And I got down down to 445 words. And sent it in.
And it was worth it.
I’m delighted to report that my essay earned an Honorable Mention in the Humor category.
Erma is my idol, and I am thrilled just to see my name written next to hers.
Here’s my winning story:
IN PRAISE OF PANTYHOSE
It seems that Kate Middleton has singlehandedly brought pantyhose back in fashion.
I’m so glad. Pantyhose are marvelous. They are the airbrush of legs.
When I was twelve, my mother allowed me to wear nylon stockings to Church on Sunday. It was 1963. Nylons, though sheer, were inflexible. They only fit because they were shaped like legs. If you were lucky enough to have leg-shaped legs.
I did not.
I was skinny. Very skinny. I like to write that twice. I don’t get very many opportunities these days to describe myself that way.
My nylons bagged around the knees and drooped around the ankles. It was sort of like wearing my own shadow.
And holding them up was tricky. Garter belts are such sexy little costumes. But there’s a catch. If you are skinny – very skinny – (I got to write that again!) your garter belt will not stay up. You have to have hips.
I did not.
With my first pair of nylons I tried my sister’s garter belt. Three steps and the belt and stockings were at my ankles. That could be embarrassing in the line for Communion.
So my mother bought me a girdle – the smallest one she could find. It was a tiny rubber tube. Today I could use it as a waterproof case for my smartphone.
The girdle had garters on the lower seam – snap-hooks that you fastened your stockings to. When you sat down, you had the joy of sitting on the back pair of metal hooks. Ouchy. Often one of the little suckers would let go, and give you a surprise slap on the thigh. And you’d have to surreptitiously reach under your skirt and try to refasten the stocking, where the gap between stocking top and girdle bottom had now become seventeen inches.
And I didn’t even need a girdle. I needed to hold up my stockings.
Pantyhose arrived in Connecticut my first year of high school. It was a miracle.
Pantyhose then were a long way from the stretchy perfection they are now, so they still left me with baggy knees and ankles. But better. No girdle, no garters, no ouchy.
But pantyhose were expensive. So if I got a runner, I just cut off the damaged leg. And waited till I got a run in another pair, which never took long (Thank you, high school desk). I’d cut off that ruined leg. Put both pair on – each had a leg – (one might have to be inside out) – and Voila!
Of course, two pairs of pantyhose were a lot like a girdle after all.
And I could use one now.