sometimes it's said of a kid that "they're in a hurry to grow up." i think i was kind of like that, except i wanted to skip the journey and zing straight to adulthood. i wanted to zoom from 7 to 20 in no time flat. i longed to hang out with the adults and listen to the things they said. i wanted to hear the gossip and absorb all the information that i thought i was old enough to understand.
when i was about twelve, i started being allowed to shop around the mall with a trustworthy friend while one of our parents wandered around the mall apart from us. i thought that was about the coolest thing ever. i had a little bit of money because i always babysat, pet sat, raked yards, cleaned the house, washed the car. anything to get some moolah into my pink, pleather wallet.
i liked to buy my own clothes when i was with my friends because then i didn't have to listen to my parents' opinions about them. of course i thought i was a mature woman with my own income, so surely i was old enough to pick out my own attire. however, my parents, being conservative, had other ideas. they didn't mind if i bought my own stuff, but they didn't hesitate to shuttle me right back to the mall to return my purchases if they didn't fall in line with the standards that had been set for me.
it didn't take me long to learn how to get things that were acceptable to both my parents and myself so as to avoid the embarrassment of having to return things. it was awful to be asked by the associate doing the return, "reason you're returning this today?" and having to answer with my eyes averted, "my dad said it looked slutty."
there was one time though, where i decided that i didn't care what they thought. i was going to buy any old thing i pleased that was within my budget. i loved silky, lacy things, and underwear in particular. i was browsing through a department store's lingerie department. i meandered out of the bras and through the girdle region. before i knew it, i found myself in the land of sexy teddies. the things surrounding me were so beautiful and elegant. they were pleasing to the eyes and the fingertips and i longed to own one of my very own. i wanted to put it on and wear it under my clothes. i wasn't entirely sure what the intended purpose of such clothing items was, but i knew i had to have one.
i couldn't afford most of the lacy pretties, but i found a sale rack with some lovely little things. there was one pale pink, fake silk number with a scalloped lace neckline and skinny little straps. i held it there in the j.c. penny's and debated with myself. what would i ever do with this? did i really want to spend all the money i had allotted for clothes on something that i could never show to anyone? i put it back and started to walk away, but it called out to me in a gentle, whispery voice. it promised that i'd feel beautiful when i wore it. it assured me that no child had ever owned an item of such elegance.
i hesitated for only a moment longer before i snatched it up, hugged it to myself and rushed to the counter to pay. an elderly saleswoman waited at the desk to ring up the next customer. i tried to control the trembling in my hands as i set it down. she raised an eyebrow in clear disapproval. her look plainly stated that in her book, i wasn't even old enough to wear makeup, let alone buy a sexy nightie that would no doubt be put to shameful and unladylike uses.
in response to her disdain, i determined to be as womanly as possible. i puffed out my chest to show off my new breasts. i raised an eyebrow of my own and looked her right in the eye, just daring her to question my morals or maturity. i knew of no laws forbidding twelve year olds to purchase underwear and i was ready to state that for all to hear if she dared to so much as cluck her tongue in criticism.
when the transaction was complete, i walked sedately away, shoulders back, head held high, not letting on that my heart was pounding in terror and excitement. my friend was giggling and elbowing me in the ribs, but i held onto my mature facade until we were out of sight of the store.
we immediately raced into a bathroom where i threw away the bag and receipt and stuffed the beautiful silk treasure into the bottom of my purse. i couldn't risk getting spotted by my parent while carrying a bag that i wasn't willing to explain.
when i got home with my negligee, i held it up and twirled around in front of my mirror. i imagined wearing it to sleep or to church under my conservative dress. but somehow, i could never get up the nerve to put it on. i held it and petted it, i even ripped off the tags, but after each time that i admired it, i tucked it away in the bottom of my toy box full of stuffed animals to prevent it from being discovered.
after a few months of keeping the nightie in hiding, my guilt was becoming unbearable. i had figured out the reason that women bought such things and i knew i wasn't ready for sex. it no longer pleased me to look at it and now i sort of understood that the snap-crotch wasn't there to make going to the bathroom easier. i couldn't even think of it without feeling a twist in my gut, knowing that i shouldn't own it. i thought about throwing it away, but couldn't bear the idea of letting something so pretty go in the garbage. i had no friends who were old enough or slutty enough to be wearing such a thing for a boy or man, so i couldn't give it to any of them.
that left me with only one option that i could think of. i had to give it to my mom. i knew that if she'd caught me with it, she would immediately think that i was trashier than i was. at that point, i hadn't even kissed a boy, so i didn't want her to think that i was that kind of girl.
mother's day was approaching, so i decided to give it to my mom as a gift. i would act like it was a recent purchase and always intended for her.
i called her into my room that afternoon and handed her a plastic bag containing the slinky garment. i told her that i didn't give it to her in front of the rest of the family because i didn't want to embarrass her. i tried to play it cool. woman to woman. as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a child to give her mother a piece of sexy lingerie for mother's day.
she looked at the nightie. she looked at me. she narrowed her eyes, but i maintained what i perceived to be my air of mature innocence.
i suspect it was badly wrinkled from being crammed into my toy box for months and maybe even a little dirty or frayed from being petted by my childish fingers so many times.
i told this story to my mom the other day, hoping to hear her end of it. she didn't really remember at first, but then she ran up to her room and dug around in the bottom drawer of her dresser. she pulled an old plastic bag out and slipped the very negligee in question out of the bag and into my hand.
my eyes widened. i couldn't believe it still existed. i petted the cheap silk for a moment and then dropped it like i'd been shocked. i looked at her with a horrified expression and asked if she'd ever worn it for its intended purpose. she laughed and assured me that it had never been worn and she gave it back to me.
that night, i took it home. i told my husband of 14 years the story and pulled the little nightie out of my purse...
let's just say that even after 25 years, this little number is still hot.