An Eye for Beauty (part one)

One Friday, about eight weeks ago I went grumblingly with my friend Paula while she went clothes shopping. She’s not my girlfriend, at least not yet, but if being dragged into a women’s clothing store is the price I pay for being able to spend a couple more hours with her, then so be it.

As we went in, she made a beeline for one particular display, stopping in front of a mannequin in a strapless body-hugging minidress and matching tights. The mannequin was positioned on a small platform near the cash register that would have given a person a good vantage point to see everything and everyone in the store. The colors of the outfit were like an explosion in a paint factory, meant to draw attention to its wearer. I imagine the designer figured any woman would be proud to have her figure highlighted the way this outfit was drawing attention to the mannequin.

I looked at the mannequin, wishing it was Paula looking so good in that outfit. So did she. “One day I’m gonna wear that,” she said.

I decided to be gallant. “What do you mean, ‘one day?’ Why not today?”

She turned her cute, shapely self toward me and smiled. “Now you know I can’t wear that just yet, but mark my words, I will.” Then she went on with her shopping.

Evidently there had been a “fine woman” convention in the area, because the store was full of them, and I am genetically wired to notice all beauty within my field of vision. Fortunately for me, Paula does not seem to be threatened by this. It was a wonder I didn’t get whiplash from all the whipping my head back and forth.

Paula found what she wanted, paid for it, and we turned to leave. When we got to the front door, Paula turned, looked longingly at the outfit one last time, and left the store.

Paula is not a clothes horse, but she is a sharp dresser, and usually buys something from Finelli’s every week (usually on Friday). And every week, we both stop and stare at the outfit on the mannequin, and while she shopped I’d get an eyeful from the other shoppers. And every week, the mannequin was in that same spot.

* * * * *

Finally, eight weeks after she told me she would wear that suit, she asked a salesclerk if there were any more in stock, since none were on the display racks.
“Wait a minute!” I said. “You told me you needed to go on a diet! What changed?”

She fixed me with a you-can’t-be-serious look. “You don’t notice anything different about me?”

I knew I had to tread lightly; one wrong remark and all my plans would go down the drain. “Um, well, I can see you’ve lost some weight, but you made it seem like you had to do something drastic.”

Her smile lit up the whole store. “So you did notice! I’ve lost 25 pounds.”

“Twenty-five pounds? Since when!?”

“Since I first told you that I would wear that outfit. It snuck up on you because I did it right. Two or three pounds a week. If I had done something drastic, I would just turn around and gain it all back.” While she spoke, all kinds of female fineness swirled around us. I almost hurt myself trying not to look.

The salesclerk came back and told Paula that the display dress was the last one in the store and that if she wanted it she could have it for one-third off. She jumped at the offer before the woman could change her mind. It was very interesting to watch the salespeople removing the dress from the mannequin. They had to take great care not to rip it; it was *that* tight on the mannequin. I wondered if it had stretched, but I was just about to find out that it had not.

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