Today I was looking at the back of my studio door where a package of Cuffettes hangs. These are plastic sleeves that were created for women to wear to keep their sleeves or lower arms clean while working. The plastic is stamped with a kind of lacy embossing and there are literally holes in the plastic for ventilation purposes.
It is hard for me to imagine the world for which these sleeve protectors were created, a world where women needed to stay clean and crisp, a world where cuffs really wore out and needed to be repaired and replaced, a world where women held onto their clothes long enough for cuffs to wear out. This was the world where plastic was seen as a protector not only for sleeves but for couches and other pieces of furniture to only be removed when company came.
This was the world I was born into. My aunt probably wore Cuffettes at the bank. My mother probably wore them to her secretary work at the import/ export company. They both certainly had plastic all over the furniture in their houses. I don’t remember either of them moving that plastic off, even when company came. It was a permanent fixture.
Occasionally holes and tears would appear in the plastic. My mother would repair them with clear tape. After a while the plastic on the furniture looked pretty beat up and quite raggy. When one sat on these repaired patches, the sharp edges of the torn plastic would dig into your thighs, even with the clear tape on top. This was especially problematic in the summer when we wore shorts (and pools of sweat would gather as an added amusement). I preferred sitting on the floor.
Unbeknownst to my mother, my sister loved to poke holes in the plastic. She would take the barrette out of her hair while we would be watching TV and dig into that plastic with resolve. My brother and I never said anything to her. It was her obsession. It didn’t seem right to disturb her concentration.
One afternoon, my mother oddly noticing for the first time that the plastic tears and holes were deliberate, gathered the three of us up and asked us, “Who ripped the plastic on the couch?”
Almost following a Goldilocks script, the three of us answered, one at a time– “Not me.” “Not me.” “Not me.”
“Now, look. I only want that you can learn to be honest with me. There will be no punishment. It’s important that we learn that honesty is the most important thing. Now, who ripped the plastic on the couch?”
Continuing in Goldilocks fashion– “Not me.” “Not me.” “Not me.”
“Do you understand why it is important to tell the truth? By telling the truth we show we are mature. We show that we can trust one another. There is no punishment here. I just– want– to know.”
This went on for a few more rounds, but finally my sister relinquished and confessed. That was when my mother reeled back and slapped her. We all scattered in different directions with my mother screaming about how expensive form-fitted plastic was.
Well, so much for truth.
Apparently the company, Angler’s, is still alive, creating plastic products like vinyl covers, plastic holders for pencils and pens, diploma and certificate holders. It seems they have moved out of the sleeve protection business. The market seems to have shrunk.
I wonder what my sister would have done with a pair of Cuffettes. Maybe I ought to send her this package and see what she can do.