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You Never Know What’s Behind You

By Mary Lynn Caldwell Morrill

What is he looking at?

              Dan, our two daughters and I were on the way to Myrtle Beach on Highway number 9 in S. C. in 1978.  There were a good many little towns on this route that had Family Dollar Stores.  I’ve always liked stores of this type due to a wide variety of items at reasonable prices.   Riding in a car down highways never has been one of my favorite things to do, but Dan, my husband, has found over the years that my disposition is better on journeys if he stops at stores so I can go look at merchandise. 

To this day Dan sits in the car, listens to the radio and looks at maps while I am inside stores.  Shopping never has brought him the joy it does me.  When we had our children with us I can’t really remember what they did while I shopped.  I never was very good at supervising their activities, discipline or making suggestions, especially when I was involved in doing what took my full attention.  Fortunately the children were creative, had learned to be “street smart” about money, manners and safety and never seemed to have any trouble making decisions about what to do that worked for them.

        Stores please me most that don’t have merchandise out of my price range.  I do look for quality, but the cost has to be sensible.  Stores I like best also seem to have a type of clientele that really doesn’t care how your figure looks or what you are wearing as long as your privates are covered up.   I was taught early on that keeping the privates covered is essential in getting along well in public.   This time I am going to tell more about, is a time I found myself very uncomfortable in a normally comfortable, enjoyable environment. 

     On this 1978 trip to Myrtle Beach the unpleasantness occurred.   It happened in one of the Family Dollar stores that I liked so much.   I always wore skirts in this time span – it was just what I felt comfortable in, what I thought was appropriate.  I considered pants, jeans and slacks too masculine for me.   I never wore anything but skirts to school, which began in 1945 for me at Charlotte’s Dilworth Elementary.  It was ingrained in my mind that skirts were the right thing for girls to wear.  Since I got plump at age 9, and never had thin hips after age 13, I wore big skirts.  The more on the bias they were cut, the more “A line,” the better for me.

In my home economics course I had learned how to camouflage nature with cloth and color.  There are certain clothing tricks that women learn in dealing with problems such as large waists, long waists, large busts, small busts, narrow shoulders, wide shoulders, etc.     Polyester was the miracle fabric in the 1970s.  Men wore polyester leisure suits, their hair was long and they often had beards.  The hippie look which evolved in the mid to late 60s seemed to last about 15 years.  Even now there are a few people who seem to prefer that look. The hats which every stylish man wore in the 40s and 50s were seldom seen after 1965.   

       Cotton, silk and linen clothes were out of style in the 1970s as they wrinkled and had to be ironed or dry cleaned.  A big drawback to polyester is the fact that it cannot handle heat or fire, its big enemy.  A woman friend of mine was severely burned when her polyester bathrobe sleeve barely touched the flames on her gas stove.  A cotton robe would never have acted like the “big P” did.  Polyester has a way of quickly flaming up and melting into the skin.  Even a slightly hot iron quickly melts it.  Beware of candles if the “big P” is near.  Pure polyester is hot to wear and hot to sleep on.  The return to the natural fibers has been a blessing.  A little polyester blend can sometimes work out ok.  Fewer wrinkles and quicker drying are the benefit. 

We are medically warned that long hippie fingernails and long beards can harbor many germs.  Ideas come and ideas go as to what is good and as to what is bad, as to what to endorse and what to avoid in life, but even in the best of times and the worst of times, we know to keep the privates covered.  Even Eve was aware of this.   

Mary Lynn on one of her countless shopping sprees.

       Happily going into the S. C. Family Dollar I got my rolling basket when I walked in the door.  Then I decided it wouldn’t hurt to go to the bathroom first before the shopping began.  The bathroom was clean, there was toilet paper, there was soap, paper towels were in their dispensing machine and everything seemed to be in good shape.  In retrospect I can see that I was in too much of a hurry to get out of the bathroom so I could go look at the wares.  Coming out the door I got my basket and started rolling around the store.  More people were in the store than usual.  At least it seemed that way, and I noticed that they kept looking at me.  I was not quite forty years old yet, was thinner than I am now, had my make-up on, my hair combed, etc. and thought people must be thinking I looked very good for that type of store and added a lot to the place.  Usually I don’t notice people that much, and they never had seemed to notice me much, but when they obviously are noticing you a lot you begin to take note.  A gray haired older woman, probably about the age I am now, came over to me and whispered to me “Honey, I don’t mean to upset you, but do you know that your dress is caught up in the back?”  I said “No, I had no idea and thank you so very much.” 

At that point I reached behind and realized that the whole back of my A-line chocolate brown polyester dress was caught up in my underpants.    No wonder people had been looking.  One old man had looked so hard at me that when I turned around to look back at him he was still looking and smiled at me.  Being mortified is not something that I allow myself to take on easily as I don’t think feeling stressed out ever helps me, but mortified is what I was at this point.  I pulled down the skirt on my dress and got out of the store immediately.  The skirt was not just slightly up in the back, it was all the way up.   

       When I got back to the car, Dan asked why I didn’t stay in the store as long as usual and why I had nothing in a bag.  I told him what had happened and he laughed and laughed.  The children, almost 9 and 13, said they thought the happening in the store was embarrassing and that I might need to think about wearing different clothes.  They told me I wore the same kind of thing too much, that I looked old fashioned and that women don’t need to wear “church clothes” all the time anymore.    Wise Dan never gets too upset over anything and advised everyone in the car that day to wear what they wanted to and not to criticize other people or to give them advice.   I felt much better and that sort of ended all the ramifications associated with the great embarrassment.  As we rode on down the highway Dan offered to stop me at some more stores, but I said I thought I didn’t need to go in another store that day.  We drove straight to the beach.  I learned that day in June 1978 that it never pays to get in a hurry, and I learned that I should never be too sure I am looking good.



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