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Do bees have knees? Well, I don’t know. I have never been close enough to one to find out. This is an old expression that most of you probably don’t recognize.

This saying, “the bee’s knees” dates back to the 1920s. During Prohibition there was a drink by that name made from gin, lemon and honey. The expression may have meant “the best.”

In fact, bees do carry pollen back to the hives in sacs on their legs and sometimes nectar can stick to their legs. So bee’s knees are sweet and good as this is where you will find honey. But this column is about human knees, not bees’ knees, and how to make them more attractive by coating them with honey—nylons.

For the last couple of years younger women are wearing shorter skirts and have stopped wearing nylons. Maybe it is a look intended to suggest freedom or “take me as I am.” I admit it is an easier way to present yourself to the world. Women have come a long way from the Scarlet O’Hara corset days. I don’t go back that far, but we have come a long way since then.

Many young woman are rightfully proud of their bodies and themselves. I see them in the gym and jogging on the streets of Napa. They really work hard keeping their bodies in top shape. So the new thinking is no nylons and wearing shorter skirts to show off their great legs and to be more comfortable. More power to them.

Change is good but some of us grew up in different times. We older women have paid our dues and have suffered for the sake of looking good too. Garter belts and girdles were a main part of our clothing accessories. Young women today have no idea what it was like being squeezed and pinched into uncomfortable undergarments. Plus our skirts were always below our knees. Never higher like today unless you were a PSA flight attendant or a pom-pom girl in high school.

In the mid-1960s as a stewardess, I remember being pinched by the chief stewardess of Western Airlines in the Stewardess Lounge at SFO. She would just sneak up behind us and pinch us on the fanny, catching us off guard. This was done routinely to make sure we were following the rules and wearing a girdle.

At American Airlines Stewardess College in Texas we had a three-way mirror. Mirrors don’t lie. We could see our front, back and side views when the New York tailor came to fit us. Checking ourselves out in the mirror became a habit between classes. We were all trying to stay trim. Our instructors were experienced stewardesses and all of them had favorite hints to share with us. One emphasized that we should see ourselves as others see us.

Dolly Parton said it best in one of my favorite lines from her movie, “Steel Magnolia”: “Well, these thighs haven’t gone out of the house without lycra on them since I was 14.” Dolly must think nylons make her legs look better, tighter and tan. And pantyhose do other things for your body and appearance too. They make your tummy flat. They help hide unsightly veins. They keep you warm in the winter and your blouse in place under slacks. I do like them to hide my little bulges and reorganize my body.

I am probably just stuck in a rut, but I will continue to stick to the rules I learned years ago. Hemlines for dresses and skirts stay in the middle of my knees and nylons to smooth out the look. I will wear jeans, tights, slacks and long dresses without the bother of hose. I think that is what most women my age are doing these days. There are no rules and we all do what we find comfortable.

Everyone likes tan legs no matter the length of your skirt, but getting color on your legs is another matter with sun and health issues. Years ago, I tried a tanning booth and didn’t like it. A strong liquid was sprayed right into my face. Even when wearing goggles, it really gave me a start. Yes, I was warned about it but it still was a surprise. After that experience, I tried tanning lotions. My knees, ankles and elbows always turned bright orange. I tried to scrub it off but it was hard on my pale Irish skin.

Good healthy knees are a must for humans and other species that walk the earth. They may look like little square boxes but they do contain necessary parts to keep us standing and walking up right. They give us good balance and a healthy stride. God just wasn’t able to make them beautiful. So be happy, we are stuck with what we got.

I always have remembered my first direct “eye to bare knee” contact. It was at a fashion show at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville many years ago. First, a young lady introduced the chairperson of the event. She wore a short skirt and no nylons. We were sitting in the front row. I remember staring up at those two knees. It didn’t seem like a fashionable way to introduce the show.

All the models followed her example. Knees were showing and no one was wearing hosiery. Lines and little bulges were really obvious that afternoon. This was especially true when form-fitting dresses were made out of clinging materials. Did we want these clothes to look like that on us?

This fashion show started me thinking about short skirts and the no nylon look that day. I think knees are one of the least attractive parts on our female body. Even though this young lady’s knees were perfectly normal, I thought they should have been covered. Perhaps it is just me looking at my own ugly knees in the mirror. I just do not think mine are good looking enough to go bare. Forgive me if you have beautiful knees. If you do, you are one in a million.

A few days ago when I was at the post office, I asked a well known Napa fashion icon, “Who decides this idea of no nylons in fashion shows?” She said it is the trend in the fashion industry. She leaves the decision about wearing nylons or not, up to the models. She does suggest they get a tan before her shows. As a business woman she would like to sell the clothes and would like them to look good.

It is a compliment to be asked to model in a fashion show. Perhaps the models should consider wearing those darn nylons, just for a few hours, to make the clothes and themselves look their best.

My friendly banker told me a story from her youth when I asked her opinion about short skirts. When she was a student at Napa High School the yearbook committee announced they were taking club photos the next day. She picked out a cute short skirt to wear. It was the latest style and she wanted to look like her friends in the front row. Her mother said absolutely not and picked out a dress with a longer hem line. Now, when going through her yearbook, she sees a girl in a pretty dress. Her friends, of different sizes and shapes, all wore their short skirts way above their knees. All she sees in this photo, are lots of legs and knobby knees. My banker is proud of how she looks and gives thanks to her mother. Clothing styles and tastes change. But our high school yearbooks last a lifetime.

And no, I don’t wear nylons under my motorcycle leathers, but my knees don’t show.

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