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Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

What Do You Want For Your Birthday?
Or, It Won't Be What You Asked For

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
I'm sick and tired of people not listening when you answer their question, "What do you want for your birthday?" I suppose my kids are getting even for me giving them things they hated when they were little, like instead of the toys they wanted, they got underwear and socks. Well, revenge may be sweet, but not to the revengee.

I asked my son for an inexpensive knee-length white terry cloth robe just like the 20-year-old one I had worn through. I used the worn one as a sample so he'd know exacly what to get. I even told him where to get it. What did he give me? A navy blue velour floor-length robe. I already had three just like it and never wore them. Motherlove never does so harmful a thing as hurting the feelings of their children, so I hung his gift on a hook on the back of my bathroom door and dusted it off every month or two. After awhile when I knew he had seen it, I gave it to Goodwill. If he asks where it is now, I'll say, "It's in the wash." Men. They never do catch on.

Women do.

My daughter knew I had gained weight, subsequently failing at a few halfhearted diet attempts. "What do you want for your birthday, Mom?" "I'd like to eat my cake and have my thin body back," I replied. It was a joke. What did she get me? It's referred to affectionately as a "torsette,"or "shapeware," and professionally referred to as "Instant Slimmer." The subtitle on the label is "Firm Control: Strapless Unitard." It must have seemed a good idea at the time but what she could not have known is that the thing is so firm, it can stand up all by itself. It doesn't even need a woman inside it to look like there's one in there.

Ever hear that old song "Dry Bones"? ?

The foot bone connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bone connected to the shin bone, The shin bone connected to the knee bone, The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, The thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone, The back bone connected to the shoulder bone, The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, The neck bone connected to the head bone, Them bones got up and walked around.


In my new and seemingly impenetrable flesh-colored undergarment, the bra piece connected to the back piece, the back piece connected to the stomach piece, the stomach piece connected to the side piece, the side piece connected to the butt piece, the butt piece connected to the thigh piece, them pieces got up and walked around.

I decided that, rather than stand it up in the closet (you can't bend it without it instantly springing back into shape) or try to squeeze into it by bulldozing the blubber above and below its edges, making me look less fat but more like the Michelin Man, I'd just stand the thing by itself in the window at night with a light behind it. That way, potential robbers would think it was the silhouette of a short person standing there watching them, possibly with a gun.

When I go, I might even use it instead of a shroud. This will allow me to threaten my kids with, "If you don't listen to what I say, I'll come back and haunt you." That will be easy since I'll still be alive, preserved inside the torsette for all time in suffocating thinness, wearing a long blue velour bathrobe.

©
Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
May 20, 2011 column
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