The Sweaty Leg Incident

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I’m sure you have heard many people say that the universe has an obnoxious sense of humor, especially when terribly embarrassing things happen.  I don’t view the universe as having a sense of humor; I see it as an elementary school bully that has stalked you into adulthood.  The “universe” and its humor, or lack thereof, is a metaphor for the challenges we face in life. Depending on the challenge, life challenges are rarely humorous, and it can take years (if ever) before you can find them funny.  As you may know from my About page, I’m all for finding the humor in life’s challenges.  Finding humor brings laughter, and it’s that laughter that is cathartic.  

It hasn’t always been easy to do, but I have learned to laugh at some of the most ridiculously embarrassing events in my life.  For instance, I have walked into an important event after exiting the ladies’ room with dirty toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my fancy heeled shoe.  It wasn’t a tiny piece; it was nice and long and looked like a dirty bridal veil trailing behind me.  The universe must have this one on its “frequent use” list because it is pretty common.  Then, my experience of urgently running into a porta-potty while training for a run and urinating all over my legs and shoes.  In my haste to pull my shorts down quickly, I had not noticed that the lid was down.  Urine-soaked, smelly, squishy running shoes—beyond gross! 

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

—Dr. Seuss

The event that always sticks with me the most is what I fondly refer to as “the sweaty leg incident.”  It was the summer of 1989, and I worked for the U.S. Army Headquarters in Germany. Women’s dress suits were almost considered a dress code, as were pantyhose.  If you have traveled or lived in Europe, you know that air conditioning is not the norm in older buildings; they are beautiful but hot in the summer.  Air conditioning is more common now, but that was not the case in the 1980s. 

Miserably hot old buildings, dress suits, and pantyhose are a wretched combination.  When “stay in place” thigh-high stockings hit the market for the first time, I couldn’t get in line fast enough.  So, there I was, wearing beautiful thigh-high stockings that stayed in place without having to wear something to hold them up.  What could go wrong?

I could have heard the universe quietly giggling if I had stopped and listened.  It was hot, but it was the end of the workweek, and I was happy to be going home.  Walking with confidence and purpose, I headed to the Army base entrance two blocks away in my new stay in place thigh-highs. 

Those of you who don’t know, and what those thigh-high manufacturers don’t tell you, is that the stockings won’t stay in place if they get wet.  Well, as I said, it was a hot day, and I was beginning to get clammy—okay, I was perspiring heavily—in my skirt suit (skirt, blouse, and jacket).  That is when I felt the stocking on my right leg begin to separate from my thigh.  I tried to keep it in place by wiggling, jiggling, and rubbing my thighs together while walking.  I’m confident that if you witnessed this, you would have thought that I was having some strange type of seizure that allowed me to stay upright or that I really needed to use the bathroom.  

Then it happened. The stocking separated from my thigh and started its grab and release descent down my leg.  The more steps I took, the further it fell.  It might not have been so bad if it was a nude-colored stocking, but it wasn’t; it was black.  I know, who wears black stockings in the summer, but it was the 80s, what can I say?  It finally dropped to my ankle, and I had to stop walking for fear of tripping.  I stood, one black leg and one nude-colored leg with a silky black shackle.

I stopped, put my bag down, took off my high-heeled shoe, removed the stocking, and put my shoe back on.  Remember, I was out in public, on a sidewalk.  I didn’t mention that cars were lined up down the street, waiting for the traffic light to change at the gate.  I was horrified because, at that moment, I realized that I would have to hike my skirt up high to remove the other black stocking.  It was either that or walk to the bus stop wearing only one black stocking.  This was embarrassing, but what made it so much worse were the wolf whistles, you know, that “wheet-whew” whistle sound.  That was followed by a car honking and someone shouting, “take it off!”  It may not seem like a big deal, and it really isn’t any longer, but at the time, I was very young and struggling to prove my self-worth in a male-dominated work environment.  

Needless to say, I didn’t take it off and instead chose to keep walking with one black leg and one nude-colored leg.  It wasn’t long before the other stocking separated and slid down my leg.  Mercifully, the traffic was moving, and I was no longer the sidewalk entertainment. 

“With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh, I should die.”

—Abraham Lincoln.

Ultimately, I had to decide how to view the embarrassments and challenges life threw at me and what I would do about them.  Whether I choose to take guidance from Dr. Seuss or Abraham Lincoln, I know that when laughter finally comes, all will be well.  If I can’t laugh about it now, I know that in time I will—I will have the last laugh.

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