Put Your Shirt On! Singing Telegrams, Balloons and Triggers.

I wrote this story last summer and never posted it. The recent heat reminded me of it and I dug it out of my drafts- hope you enjoy!

It may be the heat that is getting to me (It has been relentless in Northwest Pennsylvania), so I want to prepare you! I am a little off topic today and this may not be your cup of iced tea! I am attempting to relay a potentially life threatening and sketchy story in a humorous way. That might sound strange, but with very close friends I naturally present situations that cause me fear and anger with a side of humor. It is how I process some things.  But I understand this material may be a trigger for some readers which is why I am adding this disclaimer.

On to the story…

I had an epiphany today! I realized that guys who don’t wear shirts in public creep me out! Whenever I would  see a man  without a shirt on this summer, I would say out loud; “put your shirt on”!! My family has been perplexed, asking me, “why does this socially acceptable,  lack of clothing bother you so much?”!

It hit me today. I drove past one of those boxy type vehicles like a Kia, Soul, and there was a man driving it who appeared to be naked because all I could see was bare skin from the window up.  Double take!! Ok, Julia, breathe, it’s ok, I said to myself. He is probably really warm….it is 90 plus degrees out and further more, he is probably fully dressed where it matters! Again, I ask myself why this bothers me so. And then it came to me.

I was about 19 years old and my full time job was working for a Singing Telegram Company as a character singer. Funny, huh?! It was a really fun and harmless job. Well, while I thought it was great, my mom on the other hand worried about me constantly. (Just for the record, I would NEVER LET MY DAUGHTER DO THIS JOB!!!) At the time, I was just so excited that I had a full-time job getting paid for singing, danger  never really occurred to me! Every day I got to use my singing abilities, be creative and brighten people’s day with a gargantuan bouquet of over sized balloons and I actually made a very good living at it! It was the late 90’s, before the invention of the cell phone!

Every day, I had a list of addresses to go to, costumes to wear and balloons to deliver. On my list that day was a residential party during the afternoon, dressed as a Modest French Maid.  The middle of the afternoon dressed as a French Maid was a little peculiar, first alarm.   Usually, The Maid, was requested for large weekend parties thrown by wives for their aging husbands!

So, I found the street I was looking for and pulled my car up a little past the house address where this “party” is. I did notice there were not very many cars parked on the street at all. Even for a surprise party, you notice some amount of cars parked down the street. That was the second alarm that I blew through.

I gather my balloons and feather duster, and head off to the front door of the house. I quietly knock on the door because I do not know if this is a surprise party or not. The door opens and there is a very large man filling the screened door. This screen door had aluminum that went up to the chest of this man so I could see his; you guessed it, bare chest and his head, but could not see anything from his chest down.  Again, that was odd, but gosh darnit, I proceeded! (I am shaking my head and rolling my eyes as I write this…just can’t believe I actually continued with this telegram!)

In my French character, I spoke my scripted salutation and the man proceeded to let me in. He opened his door for me in such a way that he hid himself behind it until I walked into the room and he shut the door and was standing behind me at this point blocking the door.

I know this story is going from humorous to scary and I understand if you need to leave. These are traumatic memories, but this one ends on good note for me. 

So, when I get into the house, I am in a living room with two large couches, a few chairs, a TV and NO OTHER PEOPLE. Nothing that says, there’s a party goin’ on right here! There was a surprise and that is for sure, but the surprise was for me! So, that man that let me in… he is still behind me. Still naïve and hoping for the best, I turn around to see why the guy didn’t enter the room. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a 6’2”, 350 pound man and ….reign deer?…no, they would have been great! No, no Reign Deer…just a diaper. That big naked man was wearing, a diaper!

OH, my mother was so right. This will be the day that I die! This is what she was talking about; I totally get her right now! Seriously, my life started to flash before my eyes…that life flashing before your eyes stuff really happens! My throat started to close and my heart started to pound and I was like, I am going to freakin’ (we didn’t say “freakin’ back then, but if we did, that is what I would have been saying!!) pass out and no one is going to ever find my body.

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW, because someone who I choose to call THE HOLY SPIRIT slapped me across the face (so to speak) and said; Julia! Think quickly, do not get out of character and arm yourself! My mind quickly started to think of what I had on my 119 pound person that I could harm this 350 pound man with. Back in the 90’s we wore shoes called “spikes” and I had them on my feet and I thought, if I need to, I will take this shoe off and stick this heal in the temple of your scum bag head! As I was plotting his demise, I kept on with my French accent’. Oh monsieur….why don’t you sit down on the couchI would like to sing a song to you! He started to move! He headed for the couch, it was working! I kept up with my nasal oh’s and monsieur’s and my name is Fifi! He was buying it and settling in for some entertainment. No, fast moves were going to work; he would have only had to grab me with one arm to overpower me. After giving him his balloons and waving my feather duster around a few times, I slowly started backing up toward the door. I got right in front of the door and I told him I had a present for him. When I was sure he wasn’t going to get out of that couch quickly, I said, “Oh, monsieur! I left your present right outside!” Before he could move, I opened the door, closed the door, ran down the street, got in to my car and locked the door. Heart pounding, I started the car and sped away, not looking back.

I said; “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” all the way to a Convenience store. After I parked and breathed and thanked God for sparing my life, I called my office on a payphone and told the dispatcher what had happened. The secretary was mortified and concerned for my safety, called the police and told me to go home for the day.

A few weeks later while I was watching the news one evening, I saw a story on that diapered man! He was arrested for inappropriate behavior at a school playground. Do you think?!  When I saw that news story, I reflected on how grateful to God I was that nothing harmful happened to me, that day, while I was at his house.   I was also grateful that no harm came to the  school children and that he eventually got caught and was put in jail.

In regards to Singing Telegrams, I changed how I did things after that day! I no longer went to any residential parties alone. Period.  And even though my costumes were modest ones, I did not wear the French Maid or the Mae West costume anymore!! I stuck to clowns, tuxedos, viking women and 7 foot bananas! I became much more prepared and aware of my surroundings and much more discerning over all. 

I am glad that I have finally made the connection between shirtless men and the traumatic event that happen to me so many years ago. In writing this story out, it seems to me that the connection should have been a no- brainer. But many times a day we can experience things that we strongly react to because they have some kind of tie to a past experience. I believe that we should pause and get curious with God about why we respond the way we do sometimes and what is at the root of it so that we can work through it and experience freedom.

There are always lessons to be learned and ways to grow through every encounter in life. Now that I have worked through the thoughts and feelings that surround shirtless men, I experience less shock and frustration when I see one! I can talk myself through the situation instead of being stuck in the temporary emotions …and maybe even chuckle a bit:)

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