Be careful what you quote

I’ve always been drawn to the ponderings of philosophical quotes and would argue that some of life’s greatest teachings can be found that way.
I regularly cull as much knowledge as I can from this little passion of mine. Often, I soar much straighter because of something I’ve read by Confucius, Churchill, Lao Tse, or Shakespeare.
And then there are times when all manner of reasoning to incorporate good philosophy into my life escapes through a hole in the old linoleum of my bedroom floor—and pulls my self-esteem in after it.
Take the proverb by the late British writer Leslie Poles Hartley as a case in point: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that’s wise advice more of us should remember when we ponder yesterday, where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.
In my neck of the woods, the proverb also should have been written on a huge flash card in my underwear drawer when I decided to take a trip into the past and try my wedding corset on for size.
It is one of only two items that I have left from the things I wore when I married Pete. The other is the pair of white pantyhose, but by now, we all know they’re on the boycott list (along with the too-small pair of black demon nylons I had a run in with back in November).
There’s no limit to what the female species can accomplish. That’s a fact. However, I have come to the conclusion that some of us have one little flaw. We believe that clothes we wore years ago will still fit even though the bathroom scale says otherwise, despite jumping on it or holding on to the sink with one hand while stepping on it with one foot.
Frankly, all my scale does anymore is flash “Error!” every time I get near it.
But I still figured my figure—now some 20 pounds heavier than on my “I do” date— would fit the corset (a boney, hooked contraption I now believe was invented by a disillusioned man).
I’m still not sure what made me decide to try it on after nearly eight years. I’ve moved six times since 1998 and never once did I even look at the thing, but to pack and unpack it wrapped in tissue paper from one underwear drawer to the next.
All I know is that it was a stupid idea to try it on. And it hurt—a lot.
I was alone in the house that day and glad of it. Pete was home, but visiting Cohort #1 in his garage and helping him empty small dark bottles with black labels while escaping the problems of the world.
Daughter #3, meanwhile, was on leave to the movies and the dogs were outside terrorizing the cat with a large cedar branch they’d ripped off a tree.
Life was good and quiet.
I opened the drawer and took out the corset, white as snow. It was a thing of beauty until I turned it over and saw the 20-plus silver hooks that spelled “teamwork.”
I turned around and faced the mirror at my dresser and held the corset to my upper body, wrapped myself in it, dislocated both arms at the shoulders, and took on the onerous task of doing up the hooks at the back.
The first caution flag flew. Where were my breasts suppose to go? Wasn’t there a spot for my “girls” to sit eight years ago? I looked down at the corset cups—hummingbird nest in size—and a pair of ample 40-D ostrich eggs wanting a place to rest.
Giving my reflection a perfect flat stare in the mirror, I lifted and stuffed, but still having trouble doing up the clips despite being doubled jointed, I was prompted to start over with the hooks in front.
The second caution flag went up after I did up the hooks and began the monumental task of pulling the little number—now on my hit list—back around to the front without breathing.
Turning blue, I straightened everything out, lifted and stuffed both breasts into their tiny slots, and looked in the mirror. It was more than I could bear.
Immediately I pleaded with the “powers that be” to keep everyone away from the house for the next five minutes as I extracted myself from the newest boycotted underwear.
Unable to get my hands up my back to undo the cursed thing, the third and final caution flag broadcast itself across my face as I reversed the corset from front to back, taking the “girls” with it.
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Dead Like Me,” starring Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep, you’ll get the picture of what my upper torso looked like twisted halfway around as I realized there was no turning back—so to speak.
Holding my breath, I pleaded with the “girls” to hold their own as I brought the corset hooks to the front and released all of me from the ordeal. The corset blew off in a heap on the floor and in an extreme instant of ugly, I kicked it under the bed.
I re-dressed as if nothing had happened, retrieved the corset, brushed off the dust bunnies, re-wrapped it in tissue paper, and put it back in my underwear drawer.
Peter De Vries said, “We all learn by experience, but some of us have to go to summer school.”
Yup, that’s me, all right.

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