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Erma Bombeck

J'Accuse! Finding the Culprit in the Size A Pantyhose Caper

September 17, 1985

It was rather ironic that on my 36th wedding anniversary, I flipped open the glove compartment and out fell a pair of pantyhose, still in the package.

They were Size A. (Translation: They wouldn't have fit under my diaper at three months.)

I casually mentioned this to my husband. "I hope this means you rob supermarkets in your spare time."

He acted surprised, of course, and said, "I have no idea who they belong to or how they got there."

It was the stuff of which a million movies have been made. The first stage is shock. Why would a man who hates to shop suddenly go on the prowl? And how many women would you find who could stand the smell of cinnamon-apple spray every time he gets the car washed?

The second stage was anger. I gave that man the best year of my life. It was the year he fell apart. His back went out, his eyes went bad, his hair receded, and he couldn't finish a sentence without me, but I hung in there with him. Now that we were at the good times of our lives, where we didn't have to do anything but show up, he decided to trade up.

The third stage is usually retaliation, but frankly I didn't have the underwear or the body for anything extramarital, so I proceeded right on to retribution. If he couldn't give me a reasonable explanation for this one-size-fits-all apparition, then he would have to pay.

I could either play it like Jill Clayburgh and split, or June Allyson who hung around looking pained. I decided on June. I'd hold my head up high with just a quiver in my chin as I announced I had decided to ride out the storm and give him another chance to make a fool out of himself. In the meantime he had custody of the dog, the cars, the kids' problems and the creditors. Could my affection and self-respect be bought? You bet your sweet Saks Fifth Avenue it could. I would embark on a new career: shopping. If a Size A Barely Nude Seamless was what he wanted, that's what he'd get, but it would cost him.

I'd have to go to a spa, have pedicures, manicures, facials and skin treatments to replace all the oils in my body that had burnt off during the years of marriage and child rearing.

The exhausting part was keeping the guilt alive. At church when my husband didn't go to communion, I leaned over and said, "Has this anything to do with the Size A pantyhose?" When he was ill one day and had no appetite, I casually mentioned, "Feed a tramp. Starve a fever."

All of it came to an end last week when our daughter came in and saw the pantyhose package that I had worked into a centerpiece at the table. "So this is where I left them," she said.

My husband's head shot up.

"Remember the day I borrowed your car, Dad? I sprung a run and bought an extra pair."

For the first time since the discovery, I cried. "Why don't you want your mother to have a fur coat!"

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