On the very day I received in the mail my first invitation to join AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), a varicose vein popped out on my leg. It crept its way up my leg from ankle to calf to thigh like a mole working its way across a manicured lawn, even more noticeable because I was overdue for a shave. In spite of AARP’s depressing greetings, I wasn’t retired. I was still employed as a secretary of at a local high school.

“Am I too old to be hip?” I asked the girl who served as my student aide. “I used to be groovy.”

“Mrs. Thiery, if you even use the words hip and groovy, you aren’t.”

She was right. I loved working around young people. I found their energy and enthusiasm infectious. But I wasn’t one of them. I didn’t look like them, I didn’t talk like them, and I didn’t “get” their music. Still, I thought, there must be something I could do to better fit in. If I could get a laugh with the attempt, even better.

“Why don’t you get a tattoo”? suggested the student.

A tattoo? I wasn’t sure about that. Tattooing requires multiple needle punctures. That sounds really painful. I once backed into a cactus, which is probably similar. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Hmm, how about a fake tattoo as a joke, I wondered. I’ll bet I could make my own. Looking through a few magazines, I found a cartoon of a half-peeled banana with goofy rolling eyes and a crooked grin. Perfect! I cut it out and slid it between my leg and my pantyhose (you know you’re old when you still wear pantyhose), but it refused to stay in place. This wouldn’t do. If it kept drifting around, no one would believe it was real, not even long enough to get a laugh.

I know! I’d glue it to my leg. Have I mentioned before that I’ll go to any length for a joke? I found a bottle of Elmer’s glue and laid banana man face down on the kitchen counter. The glue wouldn’t come out. There was a dried glob of glue stuck in the tip of the bottle. I shook the bottle vigorously, jabbed at the tip with a pin, and squeezed the bottle firmly. Drat! Nothing! I was going to be late for work. Peering into the bottle’s tip, I squeezed the bottle once more and …Pow! The tip flew off and thick white glue burst from the bottle like a geiser. It shot straight up my nose, into my hair and eyes, and sprayed my face like a firehose.

I dashed to the bathroom to check out the damage in the mirror. A large glob of white glue hung from my bangs. I don’t want to say what it looked like, but now my bangs stood straight up like the blade of a snowplow. One eye was stuck shut. I dug furiously at my nostrils, where the glue already was starting to dry and set like concrete. I was breathing like an ear-nose-and-throat doctor’s asthmatic hyper-allergenic patient. I cleaned up the best I could, then hurriedly spread some glue onto the back of the banana man tattoo. On my way out the door, I stuck it to my leg under my pantyhose, where its goofy, rolling eyes appeared to be leering up my skirt. Too late to fix that now.

On the way to work, I blew my nose repeatedly into a tissue in an attempt to force out the glue. Each attempt caused my nose to pinch shut and I had to pry it open with whatever was within reach in the car. Pieces of tissue stuck to the light sheen of glue across my face. Whenever I blinked, one eye refused to reopen and I appeared to be winking at the crossing guard, who winked back.

There was a brisk breeze blowing when I exited the car at the school. My sticky face collected dust, lint, and bugs like a human fly strip.

Stepping into the ladies’ room, I discovered I had another problem. The glue had oozed out from under banana man and he was now firmly stuck to my pantyhose, which were stuck firmly to my leg. I had to slash my pantyhose with a nail file to get the pantyhose off. Too late it occurred to me that I should’ve shaved my leg before I stuck banana man to it. Ouch! I’d better get a good laugh from that aide.

There’s no beauty without pain, right? The important thing is that I be judged hip and groovy (and also hilarious) when I showed it to the aide who’d suggested a tattoo. When I finally showed my banana man tattoo to her, I expected howls of laughter. What I got was a quick glance and, “Uh-huh, cute,” before she turned back to her textbook.

Sigh. Sometimes the outcome isn’t just isn’t worth the effort.


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