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Work It, Jean!

You know, not to sound like a sour Sally, but I've just about given up on the male gender. It seems like when they aren't planted in a La-Z-Boy, glued to a football game on TV and knocking back beers, they're bossing us women around or boasting about how wonderful and masculine they are. Shortly before I was fired from my temp job at SouthCentral Insurance (by a man, by the way!), I told this to my pal Fulgencio, who worked in the data-processing department with me. I vowed to him that I wasn't going to take any more guff from men, period. And you know what? Instead of getting a stupid smirk or a big lecture, he let out a great, big, "Whooooo!" and slapped me five. "You go, girl!" he said. "You show them bitches. Those men are nothing but bitches, anyway!"

Can you believe that? I had to press my hand tightly over my mouth to keep from laughing up my lungs! I swear, Fulgencio is such a gas! I mean, who would have thought to call men a derogatory name ordinarily reserved for women? Other people might think it's weird, but I thought it was soooo appropriate! But that's Fulgencio for you!

Fulgencio is the first guy I've ever met who I could ever relate to totally. Even though he's Mexican and male, I don't think I've ever had a better time with a person. Now, Jeanketeers, don't you get any dirty thoughts! Fulgencio and I are just friends. It's just that he and I have soooo much in common—we both love soaps and shopping, and sometimes we just talk for hours and hours on the phone. And get this: He goes to night classes at the local community college because he wants to become a clothing designer! How many men do that for a living? I'm telling you, Fulgencio is one in a million!

In fact, he was the first person to come to my rescue after I was fired from my job. No, he didn't give me a new job or money. He did something for me that meant more to me than either of those things. He restored my self-esteem!

The Monday after I was fired, I was feeling pretty bummed out. But instead of giving me a shoulder to cry on, the only thing hubby Rick gave me was the silent treatment! (Geez, from the way everyone was acting, you'd think bidding on a Miss Beasley doll on eBay on the supervisor's computer during work hours was a capital offense!)

I felt like a great big failure. So for solace, your old pal Jean resorted to her old standby... yep, you guessed it, chocolate! I was polishing off my second pint of Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk when the phone rang. It was Fulgencio.

"What, did I leave something behind in my desk?" I grumbled. (As you can see, I was really down in the dumps—I couldn't even muster a pleasantry for my pal Fulgencio!)

But Fulgencio would have none of that. "Girlfriend, I'm not gonna listen to that feeling-sorry-for-yourself junk, because listen up: my class is holding a big end-of-summer-semester fashion show at the school auditorium next weekend, and you're going to be my model!"

I just about died. "Fulgencio, you can't be serious!" I gasped. "Me, a model? Puh-lease! That's like asking Rosie O'Donnell to buy a handgun!"

"Honey, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you," Fulgencio replied. "You're always complaining about how they never make nice clothes for plus-sizes. Well, Jeanie, I'm gonna change all that, and you're going to help me. And you'll look fabulous, I guarantee. So you'd better get that fine booty of yours in gear, 'cause you're gonna work it on the runway!"

Well, I guess I wasn't in my right mind at the time, because I actually agreed to model Fulgencio's clothes! I'm deathly afraid of being in front of crowds and, what's more, fashion and I have never really gotten along too well! But Fulgencio's confidence was so infectious, I couldn't resist!

Our time was limited, because Fulgencio had to design and make an outfit for me in less than a week. At first, I thought I could save him time by just giving him my measurements over the phone, but Fulgencio said he needed to measure me in person! "Jean Louis used to sew Marilyn Monroe into her gowns," he told me. (Just what did he have in mind, I was wondering!)

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous standing there in my skivvies as Fulgencio was going to town with his tape measure. (I sure hoped hubby Rick wouldn't catch wind of this!) I tried to suck in my stomach a little, but Fulgencio caught me and made me stop. "You just let it all hang out, babe," he said. "This dress is going to work for you, not the other way around."

When the day of the fashion show finally came, it was Chaos with a capital "C"! Fulgencio was still making alterations, and insisted on completely redoing my hairdo and make-up job! "Jean, I promised you'd look fabulous, but this pale-blue eyeshadow and bright-red blusher thing have got to go! Leave that look in 1975 where it belongs!"

Well, I don't know how we did it, but we managed to get to the school scant minutes before the show was scheduled to begin! Fulgencio is a true miracle worker! He just happened to have some make-up at home (he said a girlfriend had left it there and never bothered to pick it up) and completely redid my make-up job in less than 10 minutes! He also put my hair up in hot rollers, hair-sprayed the heck out of it, and when he was done, it was amazing: My hair was so big, I could be the envy of any mall rat! Finally, I tried on the outfit he'd made for me: a sleeveless, fire-engine-red evening gown and matching wrap! I put on a pair of black platform sandals and a faux-diamond tiara and necklace Fulgencio shoved into my hand. When I emerged from the dressing room, the other student designers and their models gasped, then cheered!

Fulgencio shrieked and ran up to embrace me. "Jean, you look so amazing!" he said. "If I don't get an A for this, I'm firebombing the school!" I laughed so hard, my tiara almost fell off my head! I don't know where Fulgencio comes up with these things! But that wasn't the only thing that knocked me for a loop: Fulgencio's instructor was so impressed, she insisted I go next-to-last, right before the big bridal-gown finale!

I was soooo delighted, my nervousness just melted away. I never felt more glamorous, not even when I got an $89 makeover at a day spa once. I was ready to strut my stuff in front of that awaiting crowd in the auditorium! Yes, sir, I was going full-tilt Jean and taking no prisoners!

Finally, my turn on the catwalk came, and wild horses couldn't have kept me back! To the tune of RuPaul's "Supermodel," I walked down the runway just like Fulgencio showed me, back straight, chest out, shoulders rolling. As the applause sounded, I never felt more confident in my life!

Then, I made the mistake no model should ever make: I looked at the crowd. To my horror, my eyes fell upon the one person I'd been trying to avoid for a week... hubby Rick! And the look on his face was chilling. His mouth was agape, and he wasn't clapping with the audience. I was so flustered, I forgot to twirl around as I reached the end of the runway. Instead, I sharply turned and hastily hustled back behind the curtain.

I felt like I was about to bawl. The whole week leading up to the show, I'd been telling Rick that I was looking for a job, not practicing for a glamorous fashion extravaganza! The only way Rick could have known about it was if Fulgencio had told him about it. Boy, did I have a bone to pick with him. "Fulgencio, how could you?" I wailed. "I'll never, ever hear the end of it from Rick! Why did you tell him?"

"Because I wanted that hubby of yours to realize what a glamour queen you really are," Fulgencio said. "And honey, if he doesn't realize it after getting a look at you tonight, you should dump his sorry ass once and for all!"

Well, I was kind of irked with Fulgencio's nerve, and after the show I changed out of my dress and wiped off all the makeup, then drove home by myself without stopping by the post-show party. After all, I know Rick better than Fulgencio does, and it's just not his way to react to things all lovey-dovey and exuberant. And after this fiasco, I'm sure it wouldn't be me to do the ass-dumping!

To my chagrin, when I got home, Rick was there, watching his dumb football, of course. But when he saw me come home, he got up and followed me to the bedroom. I braced myself for the all-time donnybrook of our marriage.

But Rick just stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. "I gotta admit, for a homo, Fulgencio is a pretty decent guy," Rick said. "You looked kind of like Anna Nicole Smith before she lost all that weight."

Speaking of weight, it felt like about a ton was lifted off me! This, of course, was Rick-ese for, "I'm not mad, Jean, and you looked real good"! And that wasn't all. He asked me if I wanted to accompany him to Outback Steakhouse and a movie! (I think the last time the Teasdales went out for a night on the town, Air Supply was all the rage!)

So I guess I have Fulgencio to thank for patching up my marriage and for indirectly giving me the first night out with the hubby in ages. Unfortunately, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Rick wouldn't stop referring to Fulgencio as "Tinkerbell," and that really made me mad. Rick kept insisting that Fulgencio is gay, and I told him that was ridiculous, but he wouldn't let up! (Rick says his "gaydar" has never failed him, but judging from what happened later that night, I'd say something else of his sure did!)

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