For some time she'd been an oddity among her friends, a holdout, the last in the crowd who categorically refused to wear labels all over her body.
Already cursed with Admiral on her refrigerator and Timex on her watch and Underwood on her typewriter, she balked at having Cardin on her sleeve.
The problem was that having once rejected the I.D. bracelet of the boy she made brownies for in the seventh grade, she wasn't about to go around now with Calvin Klein on her blue jeans. He was, for heaven's sake, a perfect stranger.
She understood that people bought these "names" to prove that they'd spent three times more than the item was worth. This, however, was the sort of information that she thought best hidden.
So she had let everyone else wear their designer shirts as if they were letter sweaters, their Halstons on their handbags and Diors on their collars and Yves on their neckties, Anne Kleins on their scarves and Von Furstenbergs on their eyeglasses.
She, however, remained a part of the nameless, faceless minority. She even learned to pick the "C" from a sweater and to fold the scarf in such a way that the Oscar was hidden.
The ultimate obsenity of Advertising Chic was, after all, department store names on underwear. When faced with a pair of "bloomies," she could only remember her grandmother's dire warning: Always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident. She envisioned dozens of people being wheeled into emergency rooms all over the East as commercials for Bloomingdale's.
Then one day she had a change of mind. She saw an ad in a magazine for a jogging suit emblazoned with the tag line of a deodorant commercial: "I can skip a day." Was it possible that people would actually pay to carry deodorant? She asked herself. Yes, she answered.
At that moment, the woman began to rethink her hard-line attitude toward couture ads. How different was a human body from the side of a house or the chassis of a Volkwagen?
Wasn't every available piece of property in the country potenial advertising space?
The irony was that people now were paying the manufacturers and designers to wear ads when they ought to be paid. That was it. People should go into the business of selling their body space. Clothing, after all, was nothing more than wash-and-wear sandwich boards.
Clothing was the answer to outdoor signs. Even environmentalists couldn't object to a T-shirt.
In the wake of anti-billboard legislation, the advertisers were already thinking of renting giant trucks to cruise the highways bearing words from their sponsors. Why not fully sponsored people bearing all-cotton messages to each other?
Persons who are not especially greedy might be able to rent out their sleeve to Geoffrey Beene for a mere dollar a day. They could rent the shirt space on their backs at $1.29 a rib, and their ankles and arches for a paltry 75 cents a mile.
That would not only cut down on unemployment, but would, she was sure, enable large numbers of Americans to fulfill their largest ambition in life: to live off residuals.
The social ramifications were enormous. People who stood about street corners at noon on weekdays would no longer be bums: They'd be advertising agents who could deduct lunch as a business expense.
Selling your body could become chic Jogging families could sign on as Burma Shave ads. Schools could offer group rates. Communities could become fully sponsored human mobile units.
Her plan was admittedly a bit grandiose. But if baseball star and gold-medal winners could sell their opinions, why couldn't the rest of us sell our inches? She would begin small and have a sign printed with the words. This Space Available For Rent. If she was careful, the sign would just about fit on one of those old identity bracelets.