Laughter filled the dining room of George and Bunny Guttierez’s home. George held his sides as his body shook. His soft spoken Texas accent a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame, a pencil thin black mustache and goatee framing his mouth, he asked, “darling you can’t be serious, that’s how your mother introduced you to the birds and the bees by telling you men fart?”
“It wasn’t just me, Lenora Jane and Eleanor were there too,” I said, my green eyes tearing with laughter.
“Honey, let me get this straight,” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent, her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head crowning her statuesque figure, “your mother and your aunt took you to a beauty parlor to have your first sex talk?”
“It goes downhill from there,” Richard said, laughing so hard his large lean frame shook.
* * *
One parking space remained outside the pink and white building with the gold cursive sign reading Chantilly Manor. Wigs of every description graced the display windows draped with off-white lace. Large white french doors with polished brass knobs crowned the entrance to Gig Harbors’ best kept secret.
The sky blue Mobile Land Yacht pulled into the last space. My mother and Aunt Verla wearing their favorite Suzanne Pleshette wigs and coordinated blue and brown pant suits climbed out of the front while Lenora Jane, two years my senior, Eleanor, three years my junior, and I scooted across the back seat to get out of the car.
The buzz of over two dozen women filled the lobby and salon. The familiar smell of hair spray commingled with perfume.
Ladies its so good to see you,” said Suzy, in her pink and white smock from behind the counter, batting her over sized black lashes at us. She wore a matching pink scarf rolled into a thin tube tied over her head augmenting her blond bouffant. In a conspiratorial tone, she said, “I understand that today is a very important day for you young ladies.”
My mother stepped up to the counter, and said, “Yes, it is, and we thought we’d do it up right.”
Aunt Verla nodded, and said, “We want them to get the full treatment today Suzy.”
Lenora Jane and Eleanor looked thrilled. Me, the tom boy of the family, wasn’t so sure what the full treatment might be.
Suzy ushered us into the heart of the salon. Walking passed a dozen women sitting under pink and white hooded hair dryers reading magazines and several styling stations, we were seated by age in the back of the salon in the last three pink and gold leather styling chairs—across from mirrors framed in ornately carved gold gilded frames.
“Ladies, I’d like to introduce you to the best stylists in the Puget Sound,” Suzy said, waving her hand in a big reveal movement. “These are Vi, Charlotte, and Cynthia, and they will guide you through today’s treatment. Since none of you has ever had more than a trim before,” Suzy said, handing us each a magazine, “we thought you might like to thumb through these and pick out a style that suites you.”
I thumbed through the catalog looking at hair models amazed it was an actual job. Admiring my long, straight brown hair in the mirror, I looked back at the pictures.
“I want this one,” Lenora Jane said, pointing to a picture of a woman looking somewhat like Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels.
My mother leaned over the back of Lenora Jane’s chair and nodded her approval. Eleanor, who was seven at the time, wanted the same hair style.
“I’m sorry Eleanor, you are too young for that hair cut,” my mother said, “how about this one.” She pointed to a woman with a wedge hair cut.
“Oh, mommy, I like that too,” she said, smiling, her bright hazel eyes shining.
“So Fannie, what did you decide?” my mother asked.
“I can’t decide, can I have a trim?” I asked.
“No, you are growing up and need a haircut to reflect that,” she said, flipping through the pages of the magazine.
“Verla, what do you think of this for Fannie?”
“That’s perfect,” Aunt Verla said, “it will frame her face nicely”.
My mother handed me the catalog, the model sported a shag hair cut like Carol Brady. Suzy leaned over to look.
“Oh, I think that will look fantastic on you Fannie,” Suzy said. “Vi, you’re the magician here, I’ll leave it in your capable hands.”
I never got to utter the words of protest before the scissors sniped my hair. A ten-inch lock fell to the floor. It’s just hair, right, it’ll grow back.
Thirty-five minutes later we moved to the manicure stations. Eleanor vacillated between pink and purple. My mother chose pink for her. Lenora Jane chose classic red, and I chose clear. My mother and aunt sitting at the two stations flanking us.
“Well ladies,” my mother said, as we were getting our cuticles cleaned up, “you know this is an important day. We brought you here today to discuss a right of passage into adulthood.”
We looked at my mother, who took the longest pause of her life.
The day before Lenora Jane spilled the beans and let us know we were going to get the birds and the bees talk.
“You know, mom and Aunt Verla are going to tell us about where babies come from,” Lenora Jane said, with authority. Eleanor and I sat in rapt attention. “You know boys are different from girls. Only girls are better because babies come out the mommy’s belly button. Boys can’t do that.” Lenora Jane towered over us, “you have to pinky swear not to tell them I told you.”
My mother looked at Aunt Verla for a moment with an expression we’d never seen before. She took a deep breath, and said, “the most important thing you need to know about men, is that they fart.”
For a moment the the sound of hair dryers filled the void created by the silence spreading over the rest of the salon. The laughter erupted like Mount St. Helens.
“When your father and I were on our honeymoon,” she said, taking a deep breath, “the first night, he fluffed in the bed then pulled the sheet over my head and wouldn’t let me out.”
As a ten-year-old, hearing my mom talking about farting—the highlight of the trip. I laughed hard. Vi redid the nail she worked on.
From that point forward, the code words for the Birds and the Bees talk, Men Fart.
* * *
“Richard, honey, I thought you said it got worse?” Bunny said, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes.
“Fannie’s not to the best part yet,” Richard said, shaking his head. “Go ahead, tell them about the first time.”
“This is so embarrassing,” I said, running my fingers through my short brown hair. “Richard and I had been dating about two weeks.”
George and Bunny looked at me.
A warm afternoon sun sparkled in the waves of Puget Sound. A ferry crossed the water toward Vashon Island. A seagull floated on the breeze. A few fluffy clouds hung over the Olympic Mountains, which crowned the water.
Looking away from the window, Richard said, “You have such an amazing view here.” Stretching, he put his arm around my shoulders pulling me closer. “You know, you could see the view so much better if you were sitting in my lap.”
“In your lap?” I asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Come on Fannie,” Richard said, flashing me his devilish grin. “What could it hurt?”
What am I getting myself into? I said, “I can’t imagine that would be comfortable for you.”
“You won’t know until you try. Come on, I don’t bite,” he said, his blue eyes inviting.
I looked at him for a moment. “I’ve never sat in anyone’s lap before.”
“Not even Santa’s?” he asked.
“Nope, Lenora Jane always got there first.”
“Then this is a good time to try it,” he said, smiling, “what’s the worst that could happen?”
After a few moments of indecision, I climbed into his lap. He radiated warmth and smelled of fougère. I put my arm around his shoulders, my chest bumping his. I could feel the muscles in his legs, and his arm as he put it around my waist.
“See, was that so hard?” he asked, smiling.
I smiled and relaxed, “No, I guess not.”
“See nothing to worry. . .”
My face went white, then bright red. The words of my mother came back to haunt me, “men fart.” Only it wasn’t Richard indiscretion. That I could have handled.
Richard laughed. I leaped from his lap as though set on fire.
“You know, now that you’ve marked your territory, you can’t give me back,” he said, laughing.
* * *
Bunny laughed. “Now that’s funny.”
“Wait, you have to hear the rest of the story,” Richard said, “it gets even better.”
“I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” I said, turning pink. “When Richard and I got engaged, it was time to meet the parents. My parents threw a family party and invited not only my sisters, but my aunt, uncle and cousins.”
Metal folding chairs circled the family room. The usual furniture moved to the garage to accommodate the party. Blue crepe paper and balloons hung from the ceiling with a hand painted sign which read, ‘Congratulations Fannie and Richard.’
My aunt and mother served dessert and beverages as we filed passed the buffet table. The volume in the room increased as everyone enjoyed their desserts.
My mother raised her voice above the general din, and said, “Richard, welcome to the family. We are just so pleased for you and Fannie.”
“Thank you, Velverlorn,” Richard said.
“Now there’s just one thing we need to clear up before you two get married,” my mother said, as the room quieted down. “It’s a good time to have this discussion,” she said, taking a breath, “Women don’t fart, men fart. Fannie, it’s a fact of life you’re just going to have to get used to.”
I stiffened up. I hadn’t told her. Richard stifled a laugh when he realized my mother was serious.
“If you’re anything like my Conrad,” my mother said, looking from my father to Richard with her serious mother look, “I don’t want to hear about you fluffing in the bed on your honeymoon and shoving Fannie under the sheets.”
* * *
George laughed so hard he grabbed the end of the table and gasped for breath. After several deep breaths, he asked, “Darlin’, did you ever tell her?”
“Yeah, about two years after we got married,” I said, laughing.