I was here again in Colorado, staying in my stepsister’s depressing bedroom with the same intention as I had in 1968 when I returned to my parent’s home in an attempt to heal the never-ending rift between us. 

Dad worked as a pharmaceutical representative, and all of his friends outside of the Knights of Columbus were doctors. If the Country Club was Dad’s church, doctors were his pantheon. Dad had made plans for the two of us to go to lunch with some of his doctor friends at “The Club.”

The day before, Dad had come into the house with a sack in his hand and a highly self-satisfied look on his face. “You won’t believe this. I brought you some new pantsuits. I got them from a doctor friend. They are really nice, and you can wear one to the Country Club for lunch tomorrow. Here you go. Try these on.”

“Dad, I brought nice clothes for going out.”

”No, no. I want you to wear one of these beautiful pantsuits. One of them will be just the thing for lunch tomorrow. More appropriate for The Club.”

I reached into the bag and pulled out three “pantsuits:” one pink, one white, and one aqua. 

Nurses’ uniforms! Blocky, elastic-waisted abominations of petrochemical fabric.

“Go ahead. Try them on.” I was mortified as I gazed upon the disgusting items, fully aware of the depth of the insult from a person who would rather see me dressed like a 55-year-old waitress than wear my own clothing. 

“I will go along to get along. I will go along to get along,” I chanted to myself. Dad left the room, and I tried on the aqua-blue two-piece uniform, the least nasty of the three. Of course, it fitted perfectly. I walked into the room where Dad was. “That’s incredible! It looks like it was custom-made. You look really sharp.”

I did not look “sharp.” I looked ridiculous. I had a well-toned, trim but curvy body that was totally obscured by the garment. How fascinating that Dad’s idea of me looking appropriate was to essentially neuter me.

I didn’t want to wear the uniform, but I knew that any other choice would result in a screaming match, so I wore the odious ensemble to the Greeley Country Club, the place that symbolized everything I hated. The place where I had suffered countless humiliations. So what was one more? I was unlikely to see anybody I knew and it was just easier to wear the damned thing and not fight about it. 

Riding west of Greeley, past countless cornfields, we rolled into the parking lot that flanked the big, recently rebuilt Club. The manmade pond with its spurting fountain and Olympic-sized swimming pool arose defiantly out of semi-arid land.

The two of us walked into the Country Club’s dimly lit dining room. Very few people were seated at fussy tables with their tablecloths, cloth napkins, and oh so many pieces of flatware.

What a contrast the two of us made as we walked into the dining room of the Club. Dad was decked out in fine 70s fashion, with a burgundy leisure suit, a burgundy polka-dotted shirt, white shoes, and a matching white belt around his protruding belly.

One of the docs looked up from his menu and said, “Joe, you look a lot prettier than she does.” I snorted, but the humor was lost on leisure-suited Big Daddy. The luncheon passed in a haze, as I was so filled with shame and loathing, I could hardly keep my soul in my body. Although I was of age and a married woman, nobody offered me any booze to numb the pain.

Of course, this became a great story to tell my friends when I got back to our farm in Minnesota. As was my pattern, I would turn all this pain into a joke. I had a good friend who was a dental assistant and my same size, so the offending clothing was put to good use. But the damage done to my spirit was profound.

In a year, Mr. Leisure Suit was dead of a barbiturate and alcohol overdose. I had lost both of my parents by the time I was 26. The rift between us never healed.


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