Party, Pluck & Pins to Prop Me Up

by Saralee Perel

I didn't know what to wear to the first publication party I'd ever been invited to. It was in honor of the very beginnings of Cape Women Magazine. (Editor's note: This was before CWO went digital, when Cape Women was a print magazine.)

I don't get out much. The straps on the one bra I own are so stretched out family members compare me to my grandma - whose chest eventually ended up around her waist.

I was an anxious wreck. The magazine is very elegant. I write funny articles in it. The editors are mature and sophisticated, but somehow they let me in.

All week prior, I flailed through my closet. Half the things were Woodstock-fringed and beaded. "What's in style?" I asked my husband, Bob.

He picked up a tie-dyed tunic with the words "Peace, Love and Rock and Roll" on it. "Not this," he said.

I went to Kmart for a new bra. I tried several on over my tee shirt before someone said, "They've invented dressing rooms." Miracle bras, wonder bras, sports, underwires, strapless, push-ups, and 18-hour bras (What? Only six braless hours a day?). Forget it. I safety pinned the straps of my old one so I'd be up where I'm supposed to be when in public.

Click to download Acrobat reader
Click to print article

That night, Bob pushed me out of the car in front of the fancy Hyannis restaurant, which was called Penguins SeaGrille. I opened the restaurant door, changed my mind and headed back. He made "scoot, go on now" motions with his hands. I went in.

Gillian Drake, the publisher of the magazine, greeted me graciously, then asked, "Where's Bob?"


"Your husband."

"Yes, of course. That's right. He is."

She looked baffled. "I was hoping to see him," she said.

"He's at the bank. We have money in there. And… we need some."

I darted out to the phone and put in a dime. Nothing happened. Finally, I put enough money in to work it.

"What's wrong?" Bob asked from the car phone.

"Nothing. Everybody's great. I'm just scared. Could you hurry?"

I hadn't worn earrings in ages. It hurt to poke my gold studs through closed-up holes. My lobes were now swollen and itchy.

"I'm Saralee." I forced myself to say to another writer.

"I'm Joan." She was warm and friendly.

"I'm Saralee," I said - again. I scratched my lobe. It was bleeding.

"I like your columns in the Cape Cod Times," someone else said.

"Thank you. I also write columns in the Cape Cod Times."

"Here's Bob," people said in chorus. He came to stand by me. "I read about you all the time," a woman said to him. I peered from behind his shoulder. He took my hand, which had blood on it.

That's when a safety pin broke, and my right side plummeted. I grabbed someone's full drink glass from the table, snugged my fallen flesh in the crook of my arm, and held myself up, level with my left side.

The woman who had the drink politely motioned to get it back. I shook my head "No!" and backed away, clutching the glass. Bob whispered, "You're acting demented."

When I handed the drink back to her, my right side plopped. I looked down, then up, and explained, "Don't you just hate it when your safety pin breaks and your ear's bleeding?"

She put the glass down and quickly walked away, while glancing back warily over her shoulder.

And so, here is what I learned at the party:

  1. The three people there I admired the most were just as insecure as I was.
  2. It is narrow-minded to assume that sophisticated people are snobs.
  3. I had a better time when I stopped thinking about myself and started asking other people about themselves.
  4. Well-known writers sometimes talk with pieces of green pepper in their teeth.

Nationally syndicated award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, is a winner in both categories of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' annual competition. The NSNC is the largest columnist organization in the US. This is Saralee's fourth win since 2005. It bodes well for her upcoming book: Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance.

She can be reached at or via her website:

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.