When I was in high school, bobby socks and saddle oxfords or penny loafers were the acceptable footwear.
Where I went to college, the girls were required to wear long hose. It was supposed to make us behave more like adults.
So we wore the long hose held up by garter belts or girdles, under the bobby socks and saddle oxfords or penny loafers, depending on the occasion.
Since the hose were likely to run and were very expensive, it was not unusual for the girls to wear hose that were so full of runs that they looked like brown thread ladders crawling up their legs.
If you saw a student wearing runless nylons it meant one of three things—she had a date, she was going shopping, or she had to make a major presentation in a class.
One Saturday I went shopping for new nylons because I had a major presentation to make in class that Monday. It was my first speech in my public speaking class. I’d worked hard on that speech and decided to hedge my bet for a good grade by wearing runless nylons.
In the first store I found the nylons, on sale. They were so cheap I decided to splurge on a new garter belt, also on sale.
I returned to the campus, confident my personal appearance would be impeccable for the speech.
Unfortunately, I overslept Monday morning. I dressed quickly and waited until last to fasten the garter belt to the new nylons. Everything was fine until I tried to stand up. Apparently my Saturday purchases were on sale because they were irregulars. Both were much too short for my long legs.
There wasn’t enough time to change. I decided that if I walked just a little bent over the front supporters would hold and hopefully stretch by the time I had to stand up straight and make my speech.
I got to class on time and sat in the front row so I wouldn’t have to walk as far when it was my turn.
My roommates, who hadn’t bothered to wake me up before they went to breakfast, were sitting in the back row.
It was my turn, I took one step forward from my seat and turned to face my grinning classmates. They were happy because I was up there and they weren’t.
As we had been instructed, I took a deep breath and stood tall. Pop! Pop! Pop! All the supporters let loose and the nylons began to slide slowly down my legs. The closer students looked puzzled as I stood there looking horrified as I felt my new nylons descend.
I looked at the professor who was looking at me encouragingly. I did the only thing I could. I stood there and made my speech as my nylons crawled down around my ankles and my classmates dissolved in giggles.
My roommates didn’t laugh. They said they felt sorry for me. I think they just didn’t see what was happening from their back row seats.
As I finished my speech, the professor came forward, trying not to laugh, but failing. Finally she was able to talk. She announced that she was giving me an A for my speech because I had shown “grace under extreme pressure.”
After that experience and since the invention of extra-tall panty hose, speaking before a large group of people doesn’t bother me much at all.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on July 22, 1998.