Let Yourself Go, Part 1

One day I was sitting in the kitchen as my mother arrived from the grocery store and starting unloading groceries, as she had probably done almost once every day for at least 30 years.  But she hummed and there was a joyous zip to her step.  She suddenly turned to me and said in a triumphant tone, “You won’t believe it.  I saw Sally in the grocery store.  I have not seen her in about 10 years, and she has LET HERSELF GO!”  I had only heard of Sallie by reputation as an elegant member of Lake Forest’s social elite, but my mother offered me no further details on this peculiar nugget of information, probably because she did not want to display the cattiness she was secretly enjoying.

Quite likely glamorous Sally was the life of a party, surrounded by a phalanx of sycophantic men only too eager to laugh at her jokes, pour her a drink, or swing her around the dance floor.  Lake Forest was populated by a swell set, who might hire the band Cream to play at their daughter’s debut, rocking out on a dance floor placed at the bottom of an empty swimming pool.  While this might have been Sally’s milieu, it was not something that my parents were part of, I think by mutual agreement.  I never thought of my mother as a beautiful woman.  Several times she confided in me that when she was younger, some people thought that she looked like Ingrid Bergman.  However she always said this with a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head, implying that everyone was crazy to think that she could ever aspire to the cool elegance of this international movie star.  While I could see the vague resemblance to Ingrid Bergman in pictures of her in her twenties, at this point she was deep into the throes of mothering 6 children, and clearly had no time for elegance. 

My mother never had any interest in style, almost to the point of excess.  She could spend the entire day in a one piece bathing suit that looked more like a children’s romper.  She loved playing tennis in her bathing suit, and on the occasions that she was required to wear white, she seemed to delight in producing some rumpled old outfit, and completed the look by wearing black socks. 

She abhorred shopping and had only a couple of outfits for the few formal parties that my parents did attend.  One of her classic outfits was her pink “peek-a-boo” dress.  This dress featured a really rather sedate rectangular cut out centered above her modest cleavage, but she loved pasting things into the cut out.  I remember one evening she sailed off to a party with S&H green stamps decorating her chest.  Collecting green stamps did not carry any social cachet in Lake Forest, and in fact was something that you would only do very discretely, but my mother chose to blatantly wear them on her chest.  Another evening she pasted dark black dog hair in the cut out.  I truly don’t think that this was premeditated and was not designed to send any particular message, she just wanted to cause a stir.  I envision her looking into the mirror, thinking, “How should I enhance this dress tonight,” and glancing around the room, she spotted the lazy dog, grabbed some scissors and thought, “That’s just the ticket.”  My father was so horrified at this performance that he banned the peek-a-boo dress to the back of the closet, never to be seen again.

Clearly from a starting point of Ingrid Bergman, my mother had “let herself go” in terms of elegance, but she did it such a conscious and refreshing style.  Perhaps she knew that she could not compete with the upper echelon, but more likely she simply had no interest and considered this a losing long term strategy anyway.  Certainly, my mother craved being the life of the party, but her strategy centered around playful humor and clever wit.  In addition to her sartorial tweaks at elegant society, she was always ready to entertain with a poem or skit to commemorate birthdays and weddings.   She amassed all these efforts into a bulging blue binder.  Leafing through it I can see the passage of time, with poems written for the same person on his 40th, 50th and 60th birthday.  I can envision party after party where she arrived with a guitar that she discreetly hid in the coat closet, waiting for the right time for her performance.  Leaping up after dinner, she would begin her serenade, which frequently included a chorus that all the celebrants could raucously participate in. 

Sally might have burned brightly, but as my mother so triumphantly realized, Sally’s tenure in the spot light inevitably succumbed to age and disrepair, while my mother could still command the stage and bring the house down well into her 70s.  I remember one time when I was about ten I asked my mother what the word “sexy” meant.  She replied, “It is a woman who is really fun and makes men laugh.”  Even as a 10 year old, I thought that this definition was missing some key ingredient, but it was not one that mattered to my mother.

 The missisng words in the following poem ar anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, stop and post) and the number of asterisks indicate the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with the previous or following lines.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

If you want to live ******* as a society queen,

And epitomize glamour and monopolize the party scene,

You can’t let yourself go, and will need to count each calorie,

And you must amass a wardrobe that looks like a stylish fashion *******.

 If you rely only on looks, you must treat aging like an ******* that must be treated,

 But the ravages of age are a force that is not easily defeated.

 Better have a plan B, because eventually wrinkles will line your face,

 And you might be ******* forgotten as younger women clamor to take your place.








*Answers:  regally, gallery, allergy, largely

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