The Hemline

Playwright and author of light prose, ROBERT FONTAINE lives in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In the thirties, which is where I arrived as far as normal mental processes concerning skirts go (I had been concentrating on beads and pasting colored advertisements into my scrapbook up to that time), I noticed that skirts no longer showed the knees but were crawling around down by the ankle. Whether legs had shortened or skirts had lengthened was never clear to me. The whole thing saddened me so I gave up all participation in normal life and got married.

I didn’t give a hang about skirts for a long time, until very recently when I noticed my wife was going around the house all the time with scissors in her hand, a grim look on her face, and a tape measure around her neck. Skirts were going up and, after declaring a hundred times she was no slave to fashion, she was warming up to shear yards and yards off all her skirts and coats.

This brought on the skirt-marking era, the modern skirt-marking era, or “Oh, hell” as it is called in our house. Dinners were late. Beds weren’t made. Eyes were red. The children were neglected even if their skirts weren’t. I was neglected.

For days on end I barely saw my wife. She was down in the sewing room in the basement with the door closed and, for a time, all I could hear was the relentless snip, snip, snippety-snip of the scissors. Now and then she would emerge, pale and listless, and order me in a hollow voice, beset with doubts, to blow chalk from a little red bulb on her skirt. Several times, in desperation, I had to put on the skirt while she blew the chalk. I borrowed a set of bagpipes from a neighbor to hold in my hand just in case the trash men collected while I was standing there having my hem taken up.

Everything is all right now. Hundreds of skirts are up to my wife’s knees. She is tired but happy. A smile plays over her worn face as she lies in bed gaining strength.

Well, to tell the truth, I think she is just about back to normal now. Most people would be content just to be able to say their skirts are at a fashionable length, but my wife is beginning to want to get up and wear them. In fact, and I pale at the thought, only yesterday she looked at me with narrowed eyes and said, “Aren’t your trousers awfully long? They hit your ankles when you walk.”

Well, fellows, when you see an ordinary, decent-looking, law-abiding citizen walking down Main Street with dimpled knees, you will know what happened. A husband has to go along. What’s the use of quibbling when a happy marriage is at stake?