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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Trying To Be Me

June 15, 1996

I spent half of an hour at the Pine Clinic last week.  Except for the little green robe that either covered me down there but exposed my top, or vice versa, and early on, gave up trying to cover both cheeks at the same time, I was naked. And guess what?  It didn't bother me a bit.

Nothing personal, Dr. Densmore, but I must confess that normally, I really hate going to the doctor.  I have to be next door to expiration or sick unto death of listening to Phil nag at me before I'll make an appointment.  And even then, nine times out of ten, I'll be able to come up with at least six good reasons why I can't keep the engagement. 

Not only that, I'm ashamed to tell you that I am not above not going and then pretending I have.  "And what did the doctor say?" demands Phil as I return, ostensibly from the Clinic.

"Oh, not much," I tell him airily.  "She said I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in; that the hitch in my getalong is incipient old age; that the rash on my ankle is a direct result of my immune system running amok; and that my seventh spavined clavicle has intersuscepted and they're going to have to keep an eye on a stangulated tricuspid.  But otherwise, I'm just fine."

Of course, I have no idea what it was I told him and neither does he. But now he's happy in his ignorance and I'm relieved, in mine.  He's off my back for a while and I know that, except for the last bit of nonsense I threw in as a med-tech herring, what I've told him is about what the good doctor would have told me.  Had I gone. 

 But this time, I really did go.  After all, it had been about five years since she'd last had a chance to tut-tut over my excess baggage and I was afraid that she might be getting broody about it, suspecting that I was taking my weight problem and athlete's feet elsewhere.

Besides, after that long, there is alway a chance that the spavined clavicle really could run afoul of a strangulating tricuspid or whatever.

After covering some of my exposed flesh with the thin green cotton, I wandered about the tiny waiting room, reading the notices and looking at the pictures.  They're the same ones that were there last time but then, I looked at them from the safety of a chair, not wanting to be caught up and about with various portions of my anatomy dangling outside my diaphanous draperies.  I hate when that happens.  At least, I used to.

It must be a sign of the times, enured as we are to the full frontals and backals we see in movies and on the telly, that I feel less and less shy about appearing other than fully clothed.  I think it started when we changed our business, at Johnson's Crossing, from a rooms- meals-gas station sort of thing to a campground-bakery-gas station kind of operation. 

One of the facilities we installed to entice hordes of tourists into our campground, was a neat little shower and laundromat trailer set up in full view of the kitchen windows.  From this vantage point I could quite literally keep an eye on the to-ing and fro-ing as I punched and patted and sugared and brushed, keeping a steady stream of breads and pastries flowing to the bake shop.  And let me tell you, by the end of that first summer, these old eyes had seen it all.

It was incredible.  People traipsing about in skinny little robes, skimpier underwear, or barely there towels.  Men showering with men, ladies showering with ladies, men showering with ladies, ladies showering with poodles.  Our kids were delighted and made every effort to keep score of the coming and goings but my middle-aged morality was downright scandalized.

Every little while or so, I'd feel compelled to dash over and pound on the shower doors.  "Cut that out!" I'd shriek.  "Come on now, everyone back to his own shower."  And I'd hide behind the laundry room door and as they'd coming hurrying out, all damp and rosy, I'd harry them into their own cubicles with resounding snaps of a wet towel.

Of course, that was a long time ago and as the years went along, I got pretty blase about the happenings in the wash house, at the movies, and, yes, in the doctor's office.  Within me was born a sense of adventure, the possibility that I, too, could be a part of this rol- licking sociability that was being exhibited by all and sundry. 

There was, however, just one little glitch in my development.  It was the failure, on the part of friends and loved ones, to allow me to be ME.  I'm talking here about the ME that lurks beneath this frumpy, middleaged exterior.  The lithe, sexy young ME that says, "You know, that blouse would look better if you didn't button it up to your chins.  How about a little cleavage, hmmm?"

So I undo two buttons, revealing a chaste hint of bosom, smiling at my daring.  It does look nice, definitely more youthful, just a tad seductive.  My daughter looks disapproving.  "Mom...you're undone.." and tides me up to my bottom chin.

Or I lift my shirt collar at the back, framing my face and winging the points back in a style reminiscent of my '50's teen years.  It was cool then and it looks good now, girlish and yes, sort of classy, as I stand talking to a friend.  "Oops, your collar's crooked," she says and turns it down with a pat.  "There, that's better."

One time I spent three month's allowance on a great pair of real leather boots with fancy stitching and wrinkles at the ankle, very high fashion at the time.  I wore them with a woollen skirt and a gay silk blouse, top button undone, collar winged back, to a house party.

Feeling marvelously dashing and vibrant, I strode into the house.  "Ellen," exclaimed my hostess, as she straightened my collar and did up my buttons, "How wonderful you look!  Come in and take off those boots, I'll find you a pair of Walter's slippers to put on."

And there you are.  Now you know why I wear those dowdy blouses and the Birkenstocks and that awful old jacket.  Those are the only things my friends and family feel comfortable with. 

Do you wonder that I felt kind of good, buck nekkid under my teeny-tiny green gown?

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