The Urban Erma by Leighann Lord: Dressed Up Community Service
Two friends were shopping in the JCPenney women’s department. Well, one woman was just browsing. The other was staging an intervention. I did not know these women personally and I never had the pleasure of ever learning their names but for the purposes of this story I could call them Lucy and Ethel, or even Laverne & Shirley. But as a casual fan of the TV show Living Single, I’ll call them Regine and Sinclaire.
Regine was trying to convince Sinclaire that she needed to buy herself some new clothes.
“But there’s nothing wrong with my clothes.” Sinclaire said.
“They’re too big and baggy,” said Regine.
“I like them baggy. I want to be comfortable.”
“Comfortable? Have you seen yourself? You look homeless.”
Inaudible grumbling from Sinclaire.
“It’s time you let the girl back out,” Regine said. “Wear something sexy that actually fits you.”
“But I don’t care how I look.”
“It’s not about you!” said Regine. “It’s about the rest of us who have to look at you. You’re a Christian, right? Well, think of this as community service.”
At this point, I felt like I owed these ladies a cover charge because I, and everyone else in the JCPenney women’s department, was thoroughly enjoying the Regine & Sinclaire Show. Rest assured none of us were eavesdropping on a private conversation. These two ladies were using their outside, Broadway, belt-it-to-the-back-of-the-house voices. “Can you hear me now?” Who couldn’t? The only thing I didn’t hear was someone yelling, “Action!” Why aren’t the cameras rolling when you need them?
Sinclaire roamed the racks picking out clothes that would have been too big on Precious. And no, Sinclaire was not a big woman. Sure she may have visited a Dunkin Donuts from time to time but not enough to claim it on her taxes as a second residence. Regine was finding outfits so nice I thought, “Damn, I’ve been all through these racks and I didn’t see anything that cute.”
Regine said, “No” to everything Sinclaire brought over for her to see. Finally she didn’t even bother looking and just said, “No” to whatever Sinclaire even touched.
“But what about these?” Sinclaire pleaded, holding out a pair of shapeless, elastic waist band khakis. “Seriously?” Regine said. “They look exactly like the ones you’re already wearing.” At that moment, every woman there who was pretending not to be listening turned and looked at Sinclaire’s pants. And yes, they looked exactly the same as the ones she was holding. Sinclaire clutched the pants tighter. Regine stared harder and eventually Sinclaire slunk off to return the pants to the ugly rack.
When Regine had a respectable array of garments in arms she hustled Sinclaire off to the fitting room, Sinclaire grumbling all the way. “But I don’t need new clothes,” she said.
“Girl, shut up and try this on.” Regine handed over a pair of skinny jeans that looked promising but none of us got to see what Sinclaire looked like in them. We could only hear her complaining from behind the locked dressing room door that the jeans were too tight around her thighs. “I can’t breathe,” she wheezed. In all the acting, voice, and yoga classes I’ve ever had I remember being told to breathe from my diaphragm, but never from my thighs. With backup lung capacity like that I could sing like Patti Labelle instead of Janet Jackson with a head cold.
I have no idea how this drama ended. I had to leave before the second act, grateful that I’d had the good sense to shop alone. It was clear that these two women had been friends for a very long time. How long they’d stay friends after this shopping trip remains to be seen. But such is the hierarchy of relationships: A good friend will tell you your wardrobe needs work. A great friend will tell you and everyone else in the JCPenney women’s department.
By that criterion I’m not a very good friend. If we’re friends (and honestly I don’t have that many, but that’s another story) I’m in it for the pleasure of your company. I don’t care what you wear. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m bringing my “A” game even on “Casual Friday” so carry yourself accordingly. If you wanna frump it up and dress like a downtrodden house frau, knock yourself out. Do you, Boo. Quite frankly, the worse you look the better I look by comparison and isn’t that what friends are for?
© 2012 Leighann Lord
A very funny lady on the stage and on the page, stand-up comedian Leighann Lord pens a weekly humor column with topics ranging from the personal to the political, from the silly to the sophisticated. Reminiscent of a modern day Erma Bombeck (famed nationally syndicated humor columnist), a fan dubbed Leighann, “The Urban Erma” and the name stuck. It’s a fun, fast read that leaves you laughing, or at least wondering why we don’t have a comprehensive mental health care plan. Follow Leighann on Twitter and be a fan on Facebook.