Do you remember the very popular weekly sitcom “The Golden Girls”? The series surrounded four seasoned women, retired, living under the same roof and who’s life experiences on the show ranged from marriage and divorce, raising children and empty-nesting, sexual and dating issues, singlehood, widow-hood (is that a word?) and yes, even house repair problems. We watched them get one another in and out of trouble every week. Probably like you, I loved each character, her unique personality quirks and antics. As I watched each week or each day when the series went into syndication I could identify with Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia and I felt the joy, respect, and admiration that they had for one another because of their individual life experiences. Well, ladies, I feel like a Golden Girl of a different kind and you all are my roommates. No, we don’t live together and not so much with age and grey hair; not yet anyway, (although some of us might be stylishly rockin’ the grey and are in our golden years), its more about the dilemmas and mishaps we find ourselves in as women and I share mine each week when you tune into my column.
On Friday, in the midst of my “girly-girl” routine, you know by now that means either hair, nails or both. I was sitting next to a friend in the salon who was talking to her ex-husband of a recent divorce. The conversation was not heated at all, but I couldn’t help but see and feel her frustration after she ended the call. The conversation didn’t revolve around the tough topics of money or kids; it was simply about a home repair issue. I say “simple” issue, but for a woman who has never had to deal with home repair issues and always depended on her husband to fix things, this was anything but simple. Exasperated and fearful she explained that she had heard crackling and had seen blue sparks coming from the electrical socket in her den. She was afraid that this was a prelude to a possible fire in the wires buried in her wall. Compassion and my “Shellie to the rescue attitude” made me want to leap in a single bound out of the stylist’s chair, dart into the ladies room of the hair salon and slip into my proverbial “At Home Girl” cape, spandex tights and my wonder-woman go-go boots and solve her electrical issues for her. Instead, I sat reassuringly beside her, gave her some tips on what to do and then I thought of you. It also made me think of a similar sad, confusing and frustrating day … the day I cried in Wal-Mart.
Many of you did not know that when I began this column quite a few years ago I was sixteen years happily married, or so I thought, and then life happened. Circumstances altered my personal At Home life forever and I suddenly found myself in foreign territory, a new place; in a new category or personhood. I was single for the first time in twenty-four years and having to do things that were not germane to my “girly-girl-ness” or my scope of expertise. In short, I was no longer just doing the soft nurturing stuff like being a wife, mom, laundry, cleaning, cooking etc. I was forced to do the tough, dirty tasks like going up on ladders and under surfaces to fix, clean and retrieve items. I couldn’t depend on the brawn and machismo of a man. And probably because of pride and the possibility of stirring up strife and conflict with other women, I refrained from asking any neighboring husbands for help.
This Friday evening was similar to the day I sat with my friend in the hair salon, but Wal-Mart was the setting for my personal drama; a saga and a sitcom all rolled into one. This episode, however, was more traumatic than funny. The air was broken in my house. Fed up with the scorching heat bearing down on the window in my bedroom I jumped in my car and confidently drove to Wal-Mart in a quest to find an air conditioner to provide some immediate relief from the heat. My house (at that time) was very large and unfortunately even with two units my bedroom only received a whisper of air.
I slid the car careening on two wheels (maybe it just felt like it) into a parking space that seemed to be waiting just for me at the store. I sauntered into Wal-Mart determined and confident that this experience would be a breeze; it would be quick and painless. I anticipated victory and although I had never had to do this before, I believed that I would emerge a victor, unscathed and having accomplished my mission. I peeked at the signs above for direction and then walked briskly through the store like a detective on the path to solving a case, or a hound dog sniffing out a scent. I found the hardware section and proceeded to choose an air conditioner. I took a deep breath and exhaled… I was aghast at the overwhelming selection, the multitude of name brands, the gizmos, and gadgets that each unit possessed. It was at that moment that fear began to creep in like Freddie Krugger in a Friday The 13th movie. Well, after all, it was a Friday and this was the beginning of a horror story. I had no clue about the square footage of my room, nor did I understand amps, voltage, BTUs or any other words or phrases that glared out on the exterior front and side of the box. This air conditioning jargon might as well have been written in another language (in some cases it was) because I could not comprehend how any of it would relate to my At Home space. I stood in the isle of Wal-Mart, frozen like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. I felt fear, amazement, pending danger and a sense of tremendous helplessness. I felt the need to run back home and not just crawl under the covers, but crawl under the bed and hide. But I couldn’t…
Tune in next week for the next chapter in A Series of Tearful Episodes.