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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2002 / 14 Kislev, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

The new power tie | Consider me a charter member of the newest AA: Aprons Anonymous - or maybe ApronAnon. I can't get through the day without one.

Apron is Prozac spelled backward, more or less.

Though for many, the kitchen coverup calls to mind June Cleaver at her kitschiest, or French maids at their kinkiest, or, on the masculine side, doofus dads incinerating dinner while insisting, "Kiss the cook," aprons are much more than tacky tie-ons.

Often, they are the repository of our deepest memories.

Not to mention gravy stains.

"My mother wore one when I was growing up. My grandmother made me one when I was young, and somehow, when I tie my apron around my waist, I smell everything delicious that ever came from those kitchens," says Rachel Goldberg, a 25-year-old Texan now living in New York.

Ladies lucky enough to own the very aprons their loved ones wore have a hotline to happy times that death cannot disconnect.

"In the early '90s, after my mother died, my father came across a box of vintage aprons," recalls Joan Cear, a 40-ish Long Island stepmom. "Because he felt guilty about unloading yet another box of my mother's things on my sister and I, he gave it to one of my cousins. She lovingly washed and ironed each one and showed up at the next family gathering with a box of aprons. She handed these to each of her sisters and sisters-in-law working in the kitchen."

As if this wasn't enough, "At the end of the night another one of the cousins took the box of aprons home and brought them to the next family gathering." And so on. Thus, for another generation, at least, Aunt Marie lives on - in their hearts and in the kitchen.

The fact that so many ladies have abandoned that particular room means that many aprons have migrated from kitchen hooks to vintage shops. The Triple Pier Antiques Show in Manhattan is selling 700 of them as bona fide collectibles. (For more info, call 212.255.0020.) Bearing messages like, "To hell with housework!" or featuring poinsettias on parade, these smocks are sheer delights. But even so, admits apron dealer Bob Genicker, they were sitting in his garage for years. It's only recently the wraps have acquired any chic.

"Aprons went out of style when jeans came in," he says. Once women could wipe their hands on denim, who needed a taffeta reminder of servitude and sexism?

Ah, but to some of us, the apron, like the high heel, is a newly reclaimed symbol of feminine power.

"My apron is a statement that says, 'I know what I'm doing!'" declares Carla McClanahan.

For Carmella Walker, aprons echo the splendor of grandma approaching the Thanksgiving table, regal in her wrap with turkey-shaped pockets. "There was silence," Walker recalls, "because she was the matriarch."

Me, I sit down to dinner with my apron defiantly tied on because to me it says, "I'm in charge here!"

I am Al Haig in ruffles.

In short, many women are starting to feel as proud of their aprons again as men always felt about theirs. Blacksmiths, bakers, butchers - they knew their aprons exuded power.

Bruce Bobbins, so addicted to grilling that he once organized a neighborhood cookout wherein he ran slow-motion down the street to the strains of "Chariots of Fire" - in an apron - says this item warns onlookers, "Let he or she who dares enter my domain risk a whack with the spatula, a poke with the shish-kebab skewer or an undercooked burger."

Clearly, the apron was - and is anew - an item of awe and power.

Plus, it cuts down on your cleaning bills.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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