Friday seems to be a good day for laughter; last week at this time, I confessed the secrets of my supposed silliness by outlining whose funny material I had stolen over the years. It’s a long list and it was difficult to portray some of these characters in depth. Thankfully, my holiday travels include an overnight stop at one such funny girl’s house, so in honor of my visit, I share a few stories about my friend Shelley.
I’m not exactly sure how I met Shelley; she lived in the same all-girl’s dorm I lived in at the University of Maine at Orono. Although she didn’t go to Carcass Beach, she may have tanned on the dorm’s “sun roof.” It was the 80’s, so of course our all-girl’s dorm had a solarium and a sun roof. During our senior year, she joined me as a peer tutor at Harvey Kail’s “writing ranch” and we became great friends on nights when no students came to the ranch for literary lassoing.
Shelley’s life was headed in a different direction than mine; she’d been dating the same boy since high school and he was a ROTC student at UMO. After graduation, she’d be going to military balls and foreign countries. Then out of the blue, her boyfriend dumped her for some cadet and it was a devastating shock. Although I could not identify completely with the scope of her loss, I had had serial boyfriends and serial break ups, so I was able to muster up a few tears of commiseration. In fact, one day we were both having a crying jag and I suggested we take pictures of ourselves. When we were grown up and happy, we would look back and laugh. Ever so dramatic, I said “let’s laugh through the tears.” Luckily for Shelley, my scanner is on the fritz today or I’d have included a great picture of her in a Lanz flannel nightgown with tears and mascara streaming down her face. The one of me isn’t much better; the tears of a clown.
After the ROTC boy dumped Shelley, it seemed like a good idea to move off campus.
Through random conversations, we found an off campus situation. It was an apartment around the corner from “Discount Beverage,” about half a mile from campus. Our roommates were two of the most unlikely women; one was a Food Sciences major and the other was a Forestry major. The Food Sciences roommate, Robyn, was always out running some all-night marathon or training to run some all-night marathon. We never saw her. The Forestry major was a bit of a homebody, knitting and baking granola for her boyfriend when she wasn’t hiking off to campus with her knapsack and chainsaw. She may have even had a pair of farm girl boots, although at the time, such footwear would have been offensive to me. Oddly enough, her name was Mary Kay; or as Shelley would say “I kid you not.”
Shelley and I considered our off-campus move to be haut boheme and we quickly analyzed our roommates’ habits in order to get the necessary time we needed in the bathroom for hair styling and makeup application. Our trademark move was to leave a cloud of perfume behind us just prior to making our own jaunt across the Stillwater River while wearing some inappropriate smooth-soled shoes. I think Shelley may have taken a crash on the sidewalk one day, clinging to the motto “fashionable feet first.” Those Dingo leather slouch ankle boots were good looking, but as deadly as skates on the ice patches of College Avenue.
And speaking of patches, all those fashionable shoes required a lot of foot maintenance. The added mileage to and from campus was no obstacle to Shelley and me; so what if the shoes didn’t quite fit for long haul trekking?
“Hey, Julie-Ann, can you pass me that roll of gauze? I’ve got to make a little blister pack for my left foot.”
Fashion was pain, or so it seemed.
If we weren’t powdering our pompadours or bandaging our heels, we were sometimes smoking cigarettes. Robyn and Mary Kay had clearly outlawed smoking as part of the roommate agreement and we had sheepishly signed on, but there were certain times in college life when a co-ed needed a cigarette and we devised our plans.
We’d roll a towel along the bottom of the bedroom door, open the window just enough to blow out the smoke, and then spray the room with drug-store perfume. We reasoned that if our roommates expected the daily clouds of Chanel, how different would it be for us to blast a little “Love’s Baby Soft” while we enjoyed a Virginia Slims Light? No one would be the wiser. Appropriately enough, we fell into a routine of using the House of Dana classic, Tabu. Our perfumed smoking era coincided perfectly with Sade’s top five smash hit, “The Sweetest Taboo,” and the fraternity brothers who lived in the apartment above us played the song several times per day. It became Pavlovian for me to hear the song, light up a cigarette, and say “Pass me the sweetest Tabu, please, Shel.”
I could go on and on like this with such stories as “Peeping Dexters,” “The Spinners Stole our Bikes,” “No Dumping, Dave”, and “Night at the Bounty.” A little trick I learned from Shelley, though, was to hold up two crossed fingers and say “Remind me to tell you…”
Then she’d smile and say “You’re the tall one.”
We’re all grown up now and we never smoke cigarettes; Shelley has a wonderful husband and two beautiful teenage children. She’s a fantastic cook and every time I talk to her on the phone she’ll tell me “Oh, I just put a roast in the oven.” I have a feeling we’re going to laugh until our sides ache and that’s exactly the tonic everyone needs during this most wonderful time of the year.
Remind me to tell you about it!