Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Tale of the Cumbersome Corset

"Beauty must suffer," Mom always said whenever we complained about having our hair brushed, braided, or otherwise wrangled. Compared to what many women had to use to beautify themselves "back in the day," today's eyelash curlers, bras, and Spanx seem pretty minor. Grandma 4444 (Pat) has a great story that goes back to the days of corsets, and I knew this was the perfect place to share it, so here goes.

Back in the mid-1950's, corsets were a thing of the past; the "Roaring 20's" had put an end to that torture device, but not for some grandmas who had grown up considering them a necessary evil. Pat was just 19 the time she was invited for a night of partying at Grandma Lark's house. Being a relatively young girl, newly-engaged, in a family she was still trying to make an impression on, she didn't "tie one on" as much as some of the older family members did that night. Before long, old Grandma Lark was ready for bed. By virtue of her status, Pat was designated the tucker-inner, so she dutifully followed wobbly Grandma to her bedroom. Helping her remove her clothing, Pat was stymied by the corset, and tipsy Grandma Lark was no help. How to get it off? Several minutes and plenty of sweat later, Pat finally finished the chore to the sound of those downstairs calling to her, "Patsy! What the hell is taking you so long?!" (They were a "voistrous" bunch, those Larks!) She carefully set the corset on a chair and headed downstairs.

"Did you fall asleep with her?! Where have you been all this time?" inquired the remaining partiers.

Pat explained that it had taken her a while to get the corset off; it had taken forever to get the laces undone!

A chorus of laughter erupted before she had barely gotten the words out. Pat had no idea why they were laughing so hard. Chalking it up to the alcohol, she dismissed it. The next day, when she returned to Grandma Lark's house, the reason for the laughter became clear.

"What in the world did you do with my corset?!" Grandma Lark asked, with a tone of puzzled (yet gentle) annoyance. "It's taken me years to get those laces just right. Why didn't you just unhook it?!

Unhook it?

Who knew that removing the contraption would have been quick work, had Pat only noticed the row of hooks and eyes along the side seam, rather than tackling the stubborn laces?! Fortunately, Grandma Lark was a loving person and didn't hold it against Pat. However, that didn't keep her and the rest of the family from telling the story again and again for years to come.

Today, Grandma Pat shares the memory with a smile, and the rest of us smile with her, because we know that she doesn't wear a corset (and Spanx need only be rolled down!!)

P.S. It must run in the blood, for Grandma Lark's daughter, Grandma Florence 4444, was also involved in a famous undergarment story, which will be passed down for generations. Click on Are There Are Panty Hose in Heaven? to read more.

P.P.S. And I challenge you to say "Cumbersome Corset" three times, fast. Good luck!

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