The Things We Do for Love
by Sher Bailey
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 an army post as well as old enough to drink as long as it was only beer or wine. I was all set to go to the NCO (non-commissioned officers) club 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 that 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 they used to lift Volkswagens over that man’s head in the commercials. If it was tough enough to suspend automobiles in midair, surely it could keep my nails in place.
I twisted open a brand-new tube of Coppertone QT and covered my entire body. I knew that nothing attracts a man like a 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 underside of my hair.
When I could touch my hair without having my fingers or various bugs 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 colossal mass of chewing gum. A veritable Roach Motel.
I almost forgot to mention the stunning white and gold headband I was wearing across my forehead, circa “Let’s Get Physical.” Olivia Newton-John had nothing on me. I was simply fabulous and totally ready for the world to hear my body talk.
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 tan-from-a-bottle.
When we arrived at the club, I was reminding myself that, above all else, I needed to appear 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, and smoking and drinking would seal the deal. Screw the surgeon general. He probably didn’t own a Crock-Pot, I doubt he was even remotely domestic, and if he had done any decent research, he would have discovered that Final Net was much more deadly to the lungs than Virginia Slims Menthol Lights.
I went to a cigarette machine (they still had such things in 1982) and picked the pack that I thought most reflected my femininity. The 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 night.
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 scorchingly 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 a word like “gig”! It was going to be so much fun being married to a drummer who drank beer backs and had gigs.
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 that the only times I had smoked and actually inhaled prior to this moment brought on spontaneous puking that lasted 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 me.
Trying to open the pack with my nails was like handing it to Edward Scissorhands, but I finally managed to pry it apart and extract one long, thin cigarette. Now I just had to get it in my mouth and light it and I was home free.
I picked up the Bic and noticed that the cigarette felt a little sticky in my hands. Apparently, I had not completely gotten all the hair spray off my fingers.
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!
Warmth spread across my hands. Two of my beautiful red nails were fully engulfed. I was literally on fire.
Had I been at home and 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 her body is on fire: I held my hand close to my face and gently blew as if my fingers were nothing more than birthday candles. What I failed to take into consideration was that the very same hair spray that was coating my artificial nails and 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.
While I sat there smoldering and smelling of burnt hair and fake nails, with my hand soaking in my drink glass, I asked my super-hot drummer with his gigs and beer backs, “So, what time do you think you’ll be done here?”
Sher Bailey is a nationally recognized and highly sought-after marriage and relationship expert licensed through the Universal Life School of One-Hour Online Experts. In her spare time, she is a professional theoretical tap dancer and fire-baton twirler who strings together various and assorted sentences that delight her tens of readers the world over, both in prison and out.
Sher has been the recipient of many prestigious and coveted awards for her essays, such as The Daughters of the American Revolution’s writing contest in sixth grade for her piece on Thomas Jefferson, in which she had the good sense not to mention Sally Hemings—mainly because she did not yet know about her.
You can read words Sher writes on www.SherBailey.com and www.Momcaster.com. What she lacks in talent she makes up for in mentions of keeping her ex-husband’s testicles in Mod Podge-covered mason jars.