No one ever bothered to tell me. I walked around for a solid fifteen minutes exposed; raw.
I was about five years old and I wore a yellow ruffle-tiered skit. It didn’t wrinkle easy and I wore it with a black, blue, and red geometric patterned blouse. I was just old enough to go to the church bathroom by myself.
I hated it in there.
It smelled strongly of over-sprayed perfume and farts. I am not sure if it was the church cookies, the punch, or the coffee, but the stench was so intense it almost fogged the mirrors women attempted to over apply their lipstick in. I would hold my breath as long as I could as I peed forcefully–didn’t want to run out of air.
I climbed up the wooden step stool to dutifully wash my hands. Just like my dad had taught me–scalding hot water and lots of soap.
An older woman tore off a piece of the brown hand-towel paper and handed it to me.
“Here you go honey.” she smiled.
I took the paper, dried my hands and pushed through the swinging door into fresh (er) church hall air. I scanned the room for my mom and dad. They were a few feet away talking with friends. I played with my hands. stared at the people around me. dug in my Sunday-school brown bag and showed my dad what I had made
A Macaroni road to Gethsemane.
And that’s when it happened. Thirty years later and the memory is vivid.
“Oh sweetie. Your skit is stuck in your panties.” my mother’s words seemed slow and dumb. I hear them in slow motion: SSSS TTTT UUUUUU CCCCC KKKKK IIIINNNN YYYOOOOUURRRR PPPPANNNTIES.” as she dug the yellow tiers out of my underwear and tights.
I was traumatized. Even at five I understood the ramifications of flashing everyone my skivvies. Utter mortification in a room of 300+ people. Thirty years later I sit here writing these words, reliving the shame. Yeah, I do wear dresses but never without shorts!