Only When I Laugh
by Elouise Bell

Call Me Indian Summer

 [p.97]It happened in my local discount drugstore. I was prowling the aisles searching for some industrial-strength Porcelana, when I overheard two conspicuously well-groomed women talking by the cosmetics counter.

“Well,” said one, “I used to think I was an Autumn, but then I found out that I was really Spring.”

“Isn’t that funny?” replied the other. “I’ve always been a Summer.”

Of course I knew what they were talking about. I may be out of the mainstream as far as high fashion and new-tech makeup are concerned, but I still paddle around the edges of the river, and the ripples reach us all. These two shoppers were referring to a theory of clothes and make-up co-ordination that assigns each person a “seasonal” designation, depending, I assume, on one’s basic skin tones, hair and eye color, and, for all I know, blood type and urine analysis. If you are an “Autumn,” you look best in certain shades and textures, if a “Spring,” you look better in others, and so forth.

Now my own method of wardrobe selection has nothing in common with matching up Nature’s seasons and my own. My [p.98]categories are not Winter, Summer, Autumn, Spring, but Passable, Shabby, Disgraceful, and Don’t-insult-Goodwill-by-making-the-offer. But I certainly don’t pass judgment on those higher up on the gracious-living ladder than I simply because their standards are more esoteric. What I do question is the assumption that seems to accompany this approach to dress and grooming. The implication is that if you’re an Autumn and you mistakenly or, Edith Head forbid, perversely, deck yourself out in the hues of a Spring, you are subverting some master plan laid before the foundations of the world, and nothing will possibly go right in your life until you repent and get on the predestined course. Haven’t we pressures enough in life, without a new creationist theory breathing down our décolletés and checking the colors of our undergarments?

On the other hand, if there is anything at all to this concept, why stop with the four seasons? I mean, let’s extend the metaphor and use what’s available.

For instance, I haven’t the foggiest idea whether, according to the ordained theory, I’m an Autumn, Winter, Spring, or Summer. (And please, don’t tell me; I couldn’t handle the responsibility of knowing.) But I do realize that frequently I am Monday Morning. My face tells me, my body tells me, my mind, whatever segment of it responds to roll call, tells me in no uncertain terms. Now an enterprising entrepreneur might be onto a good thing if she put out a package of cosmetics labeled, “Monday Morning.” Nothing elaborate: a sturdy tube of Erase for the dark circles, a packet of aspirin, high potency mouthwash, and a small sign warning the outside world of your status. My own sign would read, ‘‘Elouise Bell is CLOSED FOR REPAIRS.”

On the other hand, I know a couple of people who are clearly Saturday Night (besides Bette Midler). These women wear false eyelashes, four-inch dangling ear-rings, and see-through hostess skirts to change the Kitty Litter in the cat’s box. They look more dressed up going to bed than I did when dining at Maxim’s in Paris, borrowed fur and all. You can learn a lot about human nature by watching the encounter of a Monday Morning and a Saturday Night when their desks are next to each other in the office.

Very different from Saturday Night is Saturday Morning. We all know a few Saturday Mornings, don’t we? Instead of sleeping-in like other mental-health-conscious folk, these [p.99]people are up arrogantly early, showered and shampooed and decked out in crisp sportswear that announces the morning’s basic training: tennis or hiking, cross-country skiing, or a brisk fifteen-mile jog. And that’s on Monday. You can imagine how unbearable these types are when it actually is Saturday.

Then there’s Sunday Morning and Sunday Afternoon. If you think they’re twins, think again. Sunday Morning is heels and panty-hose, a stylish go-to-meeting dress, and a sprinkling of “A Mighty Fortress” perfume. Sunday Afternoon (late Sunday Afternoon) is, quite simply, Monday Morning slouching in the wings.

And of course we know that some women are Mother’s Day all year around. They wear big, self-advertising corsages at all times; the fact that the corsages are invisible doesn’t keep anyone from seeing them.

I had an aunt once who was clearly Ground Hog’s Day. She carne out of her burrow periodically, but invariably saw a shadow of some sort (it obviously didn’t matter whose) and went right back into seclusion again.

A friend in Logan is the Fourth of July—well, most of the time, anyway. In fact, her whole huge family is Fourth of July, except, I believe, for one of the younger boys, who apparently is Recess.

I needn’t tell you about the people who are April 15. We all have a touch of that in us. I hear there’s a new blusher out called “Livid” that would suit the April 15-ers to a 1040.

Phyllis Diller used to be a Halloween, but apparently she tired of that and changed her chemistry or something.

And then there are my niece and nephews: Hilary, Chris, David, and Timmy—each of them an undisputable Christmas, at least to these biased eyes.

The next time someone asks you what you are, forget about Taurus or Autumn: tell them you’re Friday Afternoon and raring to go!