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The Things We Do for Love

By Sherri 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 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 tan-from-a-bottle.

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 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 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 me.

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 free.

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 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!

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


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