Whirlygig: 24

Out on the Town

May 2, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Edited by Rebecca Lomax

An Occupational Hazard
Once in a while it feels really good to step outside oneself into another world. I've often said in response to someone lamenting that we can't spend more time together that 24/7 is too much. I get tired of me!

Friday dawned sunny and bright with the opportunity to get away from reality. I had written instructions to be at the Ault Park Pavilion overlooking the Cincinnati Flower Show straight up at 10 a.m. to start the transformation to fashion hat model. Luckily this gig came with a valet V.I.P. parking pass, as the Greyhound and school buses were rolling in about the same time I squealed tires up the hill. I hoped for a low riding, large brimmed hat to cover the dark circles one acquires from unloading horses the previous night at 1 a.m. after a 16-hour day of horse showing. God, I have to slow down this pace soon.

The volunteers of the Cincinnati Horticulture Society were hard at work setting the tables for the expected 300 guests for the Traditional English Afternoon Tea beginning at 1 p.m. Hat designer Marie Glavin, fresh off a plane from Boston, was transforming the back room into a hat paradise. I liked her immediately, as she was sporting tennis shoes, striped socks, leggings and a pouffy skirt that resembled Pippi Long Stockings.

Plus, her hats were a mix of Pucci prints, rhinestone buckles, sherbet colors and feather puffs.

As nine other models filtered in, I had to pinch myself that Danya, one of the chairpersons for the event, had asked me to model for this occasion. We had to pick six hats we liked and then coordinate jewelry and handbags from the other side of the room, where Karen presided over her wares. No kidding? I had to keep my enthusiasm in check and refrain from knocking down the other models grabbing the pink and orange confection to go with the flowered embroidery envelope bag.

Each of us marked our spot and guarded the collection of hats, bags and jewels with smiles on our faces, but underneath the mask was "touch that hat and you' re dead meat!"

The coordinator wanted to run through the paces so the models were paired off. As luck would have it, I drew Lori, who's the coolest chick I've met around these parts in ages. She agreed that she wants to quit her day job and become a fashion hat model too!

See, I sometimes daydream that I can have a completely different life. I might be a hat model or run an art gallery in a posh ski area — of course, only for the season, as I'll be an equestrian tour guide in the Gredos Mountains of Spain the other three months I'm working. One must reserve six months for personal fulfillment and inspiration which I could spend in the countryside of Scotland or the lonely beaches south of Puerto Vallarta. You get the gist of the fantasy.

I usually have to use this technique to coax myself out of bed when the alarm goes off daily at 5:45 a.m., as I'm not much of an early morning person.

Some would say it's an occupational hazard to indulge in these departures from reality, but I promise not to run away from home and life as I know it until the children leave for college, which is no time too soon!

In the meantime, I might suggest Cardio Striptease to the gym. It supposedly is the new, hot thing in NYC and — though I think pole dancing days are behind me, plus I can't bear to bend down for less than a $50 — it could be fun and great exercise. None of us ran off with Ty Bo or challenged Will Smith to a duel, did we?

I'm jolted back to the runway with instructions on spinning and whirling, which bring back memories of bridal fashion shows I did at 17 when I had that virginal glow and breasts so perky the retail executives in suits had a sudden interest in wedding attire. Those were the days I didn't need whiteout to cover the circles under my eyes, but I'll take today.

As the champagne arrived to calm nerves and inspire handbag flair, the burning question in my mind was, "When do the scones appear on the scene?"

The music started during the dessert portion of tea, and I put on my first hat. I forgot who I am and what I do and focused on the task at hand: Strut, spin and look like your life is full of occasions to wear this stuff. Lori admitted to a sudden flutter of nerves, and I shared the secret of the past: "Imagine everyone in the audience is in their underwear, or should we say lingerie?" She laughed, as did Terri and Laurie, who'd follow us on the runway. We grooved to the beat. We improvised by switching purses on stage. We locked arms and blew kisses. We were fashion models.

The crowd responded with flashing cameras, applause and post-show rushes backstage to purchase a bit of life departure for themselves. Maybe their lives were filled with occasions for designer hats and handbags or perhaps the moment had grabbed them too. Lori and I vowed to paint the town red very soon, and I took off to see the flowers after all.

In my car driving away, I imagined more ways to capture the moment and be the crazy, sexy fool I was on stage. I thought I'd start with happy hour sitting outside on Hyde Park Square.

— Wendy Robinson