“We couldn’t ignore their siren song!” my son insisted.
My husband sheepishly lowered his head. “You carried these through the mall, in public?!” I was aghast observing the ghostly white, curvy, naked form, absent of any gender identification, complete with attached high-heeled boots.
“Two of my students saw us and took pictures,” my spouse continued. “They laughed at me,” he ended in a whisper. My son snorted as he draped leftover Christmas lights from the slender calves to the fork in the legs. “That’s not why they were laughing,” he muttered under his breath. “Mom, they were a bargain at five bucks!”
“What is that?” my daughter shrieked, coming around the corner as the lights sprang to life. Grabbing a kitchen towel, she covered her face and raced back to her room. Automatonophobia is a real thing. Look it up.
The legs became a permanent fixture, welcoming all those who dared enter my son’s room. When we shipped him off to college the next fall in our crowded Nissan Altima, they proudly rode in the back seat. Imagine our parental pride when the supple limbs were prominently featured in a local newspaper welcoming the freshman class to town. The snapshot showed a vibrant young woman carrying them into our son’s dorm. It turns out that mannequin legs are a great way to meet the ladies.
Upon my own inaugural visit to my firstborn’s pad I noticed the legs were newly adorned with loose-fitting, cropped, cargo khakis. “We don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable,” was my son’s explanation. “Pop-Tart?” and he pulled a brown-sugar pastry from the politically correct pocket.
Receiving the occasional text from him was such a mood brightener. “We’re trying to decide on a name for the legs. What do you think? So far, we have Celeste, but we are also considering Sylvia, Vera, Stacey, Verona, Chloe, Blanche and Jude.” “We?” I responded. “Yea, also, the team… um, the guys bought another mannequin. They’re filming a movie. The mannequin plays an emotionally unavailable love interest.” I turned to my husband, “He’s found his people.”
Another Christmas came. My husband and I walked the length of the mall, trolling a bankrupt department store floor for another fix. “Would he like these?” I asked again and again as we turned and posed legs, torsos and arms of all shapes and sizes. “We should have bought another pair last year,” was my husband’s despondent response, noticing the price tags on full-body pieces. “These are $50!” Ultimately, we walked away empty handed, feeling our loss keenly.
“So, mom, how well does spackle work?” the text came late one night. “Spackle? What did you do?” I waited anxiously, watching the three dots bounce before me. How much was this going to cost? Finally, sentences emerged. “I got some great photos for my photography class. The guys did awesome stunts with the legs, but there was some damage.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m sure we can figure something out,” I responded, wondering how long this innocence could last.
Ultimately, his first year at college passed quickly. The subsequent summer found us moving our son out of the dorm and into an apartment with some teammates. The emotionally unavailable mannequin hovered in a bay window one room over from Celeste. Our son had become a two-mannequin kind of guy.
The next week he texted an update. “Apartment life is great! Well, the fire alarm did go off at midnight. It was the girl downstairs. She was using a straightener on her mannequin’s hair.” I turned to my husband. “Should we be worried?”
— Vicki Austin
Vicki Austin, faculty and dorm parent at Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, lives with her husband, two children and 80 or so other teenage boys in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Vicki has more than 20 years of experience in many facets of education and is currently shifting her writing focus from persuasive to creative. Vicki’s most recent work has been included in the online journals Projected Letters and Wraparound South as well as The Walls Between Us: Essays in Search of Truth, a Juncture publication. You can find Vicki on Twitter @VickiAustin02.