Well, Jean's got some bad news for you: Lady is no more! Longtime readers of my column need not ask who Lady is, but for the benefit of you newcomers, Lady is my 1981 Plymouth Sundance coupe. For nearly a decade, Lady took me to work, carried my groceries and, most recently, accompanied me to RomantiCon '96 in Milwaukee.

Lady was no Dodge Viper (heck, she was no Dodge Dart!), but she saw to my transportation needs as reliably as any other vehicle. (You'll notice how I refer to her as a person, because to me, she really was a good friend!)

Three weeks ago, I finally had to give her up because both her transmission and alignment were shot, and the repairs would have cost several hundred dollars. I was willing to spend it, but leave it to that old killjoy, hubby Rick, to put his foot down! "The old deathtrap isn't even worth the sales tax on the repairs!" he yelled. (Deathtrap? His Chevy pickup drips more oil than a supertanker!) I sure felt like a heel when I left Lady behind at the mechanic's. Please forgive me, Lady! I'll always treasure all the good times we had, like when we'd be cruising on the highway, and I'd sing along to the oldies station. (I think I'm gonna bawl!)

Anyway, my new car is a 1989 Pontiac Sunfire, which Rick and I bought from one of his co-workers at the tire center for $1,700. I only had $700 in my account, so Rick agreed to cover the rest, and I could pay him back. And if you're thinking that hubby Rick has turned over a new leaf, guess again. Turns out Rick did it only because he decided to retire his pickup for the winter and neglected to tell me! So now he thinks that just because he paid for my new car he has as much right to drive it as I do!

Then Rick had the gall to dictate to me what the vanity license plates were going to say! I had made up my mind a long time ago that when I got a new car, I would get vanity plates that read, "CHCLIT," after my favorite pastime... chocolate! But I made the fatal mistake of telling Rick about my plans. "No way is our new car going to say 'chiclet'!" he hollered.

Now, Rick had never given vanity plates one minute of thought in his life, but once I brought it up, he suddenly was ready with a million (bad) ideas!

The first one he came up with was "STUDDD," with three Ds. Can you see me driving a car with "STUDDD" on the license plates? Imagine the catcalls I'd get! Besides, the only thing studly about Rick is the rivets on his Levi's!

Rick's next suggestion was even worse. He wouldn't tell me what "BBFOXX" meant, but I figured it out right away. Ever since high school he's had the biggest crush on that bimbo "actress," Barbi Benton. Never mind that she's probably 50 years old by now with boobs that hang down to her belly button, but to hubby Rick she'll always be that foxy Playboy centerfold!

So just for fun, I came up with "SWAYZE," and of course Rick started fuming about what I saw in "that transvestite fag from that Wu Wang Foo flick." Geez, lighten up, Rick... it was only a movie!

We continued this charade for the entire afternoon. Rick "thought" up "BEEEER," "COLT45," "METALL" and "FUNYCR"—all completely ridiculous! I almost liked his "CLSF77" (short for "Class of '77") but I decided I didn't want people guessing my age from my license plates. And, naturally, Rick hated my "PRECMO" (for Precious Moments); "MAXNCL" (Max and Clementine, my two kitties); and "BOLTON."

I was just about ready to throw in the towel and get the normal, boring plates when we finally agreed on "TESDLE," for Teasdale. It was far from what either of us wanted, but I figured it was worth it to preserve marital harmony. Only now I have to contend with people always asking me what my plates mean! I swear, every time I go to the supermarket or park my car at work, someone makes a comment. At first it was cute, but now it's annoying! Is it really anyone's business?

Just yesterday, as I was driving to the Pamida on Monroe Boulevard, a bunch of teenagers cruising the strip pulled up next to me and yelled, "Your plates suck, you stupid fat cow!" Then they squealed off, making obscene gestures.

I was on the verge of tears. I can't believe how cruel people can be sometimes! America is a free country and you can have anything you want on your vanity plates as long as it's six characters or less! I wish I had copied down their own plates, but I was too stunned. I bet if Rick had let me use "CHCLIT," I wouldn't have had all this trouble.