Just out of the shower on a Saturday morning, I rub lotion on my dry skin. Winter has arrived.
“Pass me some socks, Leigh-Anne.”
My daughter visits on weekends. At 12, she studies my underwear drawer for clues on how to be a woman.
She will get dull information from my bras and panties.
There are no more Wonderbras, the garter belts are gone. The black lace-and-satin teddy I wore for her father was dumped in the garbage when I left him.
“What do you mean ‘any’?” she asks, disbelieving. “Aren’t you even going to try to match?”
All my undies want replacing. The bras have stretched, the socks have holes, there are tiny filaments of elastic waving from the wrinkled edges of my knickers. Everything is slightly grey from 1000 wash cycles. Without custody, there are no maintenance payments. My salary doesn’t stretch to extras. Next birthday, my mother will send me a gift voucher for Woolies, but I will probably use it for groceries.
“Matching? No, I’m wearing boots today.”
She tosses me an apple-green sock ball, saying, “At least these will be out of sight then.”
Like my underwear drawer, my make up tray is disappointing. She unscrews the stubs of lipstick smeared in cracked dispensers, and grimaces. The eye shadow from a long time ago lies cracked in dusty compacts. About twice a year I need mascara, and wave the sticky wand under warm water to loosen it. It suffices for the odd occasion.
“Jayne wears pretty lacy g-strings,” says Leigh-Anne.
I wore them too when I was her father’s plaything. I do not think about what else goes up his new wife’s crack.
“Jayne is pretty,” I say.
I try to be generous to the woman who will offer my daughter a different role model.
“You really think so?” she asks, hopeful.
I do not. I think her cropped blonde hair and thick ankles singularly displeasing to the eye. Her power-dressing wardrobe is the most overbearing example of female chauvinism I’ve ever seen. Her clear blue eyes and fresh complexion look like a mask of vacuous sweetness to me.
Leigh-Anne’s eyes light up. She hugs me tight. The stepmother is good to her. Packs her school lunch with little love letters attached to candy bars. I’m happy in a sad sort of way that there is a woman who will finance my daughter’s first leg wax, will teach her how to select quality stretch-lace undies, and will buy her first Clinique starter kit on her 13th birthday.
“Dad always liked pretty women.”