*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
Dry goods stores were popular in my mother's old neighborhood when she was growing up. My grandmother always sent my mother to the dry goods store for various items, but there was one item in particular that my mother bought for my grandmother often: women's nylon hosiery. Color: beige.
The walls surrounding the dry goods store were covered in little boxes of nylons. These nylons initially had seams running down the backs of the legs. As the years passed, many women started using nylons without seams. Both nylons came in different colors, such as black, beige, and taupe.
My grandmother always ordered beige nylons. One day, she suddenly changed to taupe.
When my mother went to the store to pick up taupe nylons, the woman behind the counter at the dry goods store was shocked. "Older women wear beige nylons not taupe," she said.
"She went on and on about how 'older' women look better in beige hosiery because it helps conceal all their flaws," my mother told me. "She almost seemed angry about it," she added.
"'Taupe is for younger women,' the woman said. She carried on as if she were being personally insulted by my mother changing the color of her pantyhose. I don't know why she cared so much. I was paying the same price for the taupe ones as I had paid her for the beige ones in the past."
Suddenly, my mother realized why my grandmother always sent her to pick up items at this store instead of doing it herself. The shopkeeper was like a dog with a bone. Every time my mother returned to the store to purchase taupe nylons, the woman scolded her all over again.
My poor mother was left to hear the shopkeeper ranting about the virtues of beige nylons versus taupe for months before the woman ran out of steam. Then, just as the woman seemed poised to mind her own business, my mother walked into the shop to buy a pair of men's underwear.
The woman looked my mother up and down. "Who are they for?" she asked.
"They're for my brother," my mother replied. "Our mother asked me to pick them up for him."
"And do you know what size underwear he takes?" the woman asked.
"Yes," my mother said.
"How do you know what size he takes?"
My mother felt exasperated, but she answered politely. She would have gotten in trouble had she come home without new underwear for her brother. "I looked at the size on the tag of his old underwear," she responded, feeling more than a little embarrassed by then.
"At least it took her mind off my mother's taupe nylons," my mother told me.
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