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My Turn: Remembering Gloria Vanderbilt - and a fanny faux pas

Gloria Vanderbilt in 1964.

Gloria Vanderbilt in 1964. Credit: AP

When I read of Gloria Vanderbilt’s passing this past summer, I felt a sadness of sorts, the kind when a person you don’t personally know but have known of has gone.

I always liked Gloria. She was an icon of her time with a full and interesting life, but it was her smile that I found endearing. Her trademark was the swan. The swan was the graceful figure my mother was drawn to; a wooden one is a favorite that I keep in remembrance with my mother’s photograph. Two very different women — but there was this connection. I, on the other hand, always felt a bit like the ugly duckling.

Back when all the designer jeans were the rage, I found myself drawn to Gloria’s jeans because they fit well and were not as ostentatious as some others. Now that I am in the older-woman crowd, I’ve discovered Gloria’s updated style called the Amanda. The fit is perfect, and, unlike most other brands, the front pockets are deep enough to hold my Droid and shopping list. And since I’d been wearing jeans with holes in them — not purposely bought that way, just worn out — it was time to restock. I purchased a denim pair, then a tan pair, and finally a light-blue pair, and I proceeded to wear them in that order.  

Like a lot of Long Islanders, I juggle many commitments, family, work and personal, so although I try to be “in the moment,” sometimes I am “in the hurry.” This is my excuse for what happened next when I wore the light-blue Amandas.

But, first, let me insert a little background. The jeans are packaged with a wraparound paper band showing the size and style. Also, there is a tiny swan label that is affixed to a belt loop with an even tinier purple ribbon. I successfully de-labeled the jeans, or so I thought. When I put them on for the second wearing, however, I happened to reach behind me and felt something shiny on one of the back pockets. It seems there was a third label adhesively affixed on the posterior of the jeans that in my haste I hadn’t noticed. I carefully peeled it off and to my horrified eyes saw what was written: SOFT TOUCH — MAXIMUM RECOVERY.

So there it was, words that were meant to attest to the superiority of the jeans, but that were probably read by anyone behind me as I went to and fro as an indication of my congeniality and flexibility in myriad situations — not the least of which was presumably the boudoir.

If there were a swan within a 50-yard radius, this duckling would have hid under its feathers. Didn’t my mother always tell me to look beyond labels? In truth, though, she was talking about people, not fabric.

In retrospect, I and my friends found this was funny, knowing how goofy I can be and conjuring up all sorts of strange and varied observer reactions. You can bet somewhere Gloria Vanderbilt is having a chuckle.

But men of this world, you are completely safe as that label doesn’t define me. In the future I just need to be on the lookout for wayward labels of questionable wording. I do wonder to whom I was the butt (literally) of laughter. But alas, I will never know.

Susan Scalone,

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday, 6 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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