A toast to my Aunt Dotty on her 80th (and 90th) birthday

Beth Mende Conny shares an essay by her mom, Judy Korotkin, who wrote a birthday toast to her sister Dorothy Marks in celebration of Dotty's 80th birthday.

My mom, Judy Korotkin (left), and birthday girl Aunt Dotty Marks. Happy 90th!

My mom wrote this piece for her sister Dorothy and read it to our extended family as we toasted Aunt Dotty on her 80th birthday. Dotty recently celebrated her 90th B-Day. And while Dotty has slowed a bit in the intervening years, she still subscribes to Vogue

(Note from Beth: May we all love our sisters the way these two love each other. Truly touching.)

By Judy Korotkin

One of my earliest memories is warming my toes on cold winter nights in the double bed Dorothy (Dotty) and I shared. Ethel, being the eldest, had the single bed in the “girls’ room” we occupied growing up in the Bronx. The other rooms were shared by my mother and father, with the third small room going to my kid brother, Kenneth.

Being the younger of the three girls, and closer to Dotty in age, she was the one I went to when I was in trouble.  Dorothy was always in the middle. Ethel would complain to her about me, and I would cry to Dotty about how Ethel teased me. Even today, Dorothy is still the glue between Ethel and me. We still complain about each other to Dorothy.

Ethel and I talk, of course — as sisters, we’re close. And sometimes we talk about Dorothy and tutt, tutt about about her “problem.”

You see, Dorothy has a shopping problem. She is a born shopper, a knowledgeable shopper, a passionate shopper, a dedicated shopper.  As a matter of fact, if there was a degree conferred for looking for bargains, for knowing the name of a designer, for checking seams, for knowing how to find someone cheap to shorten skirts and slacks, for keeping track of which store is having a sale, Dorothy would have a Ph.D. 

She knows more about clothes than the fashion editor on the New York Times. Believe me, she could tell you what’s hot for the spring, what’s wrong with the fall line, why you’re better off going to Saks during their sale than shopping wholesale. And she should know. For years she wouldn’t buy anything unless it was wholesale.

Even now in her so-called “senior years,” Dorothy still pours through Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and has gone to so many trunk fashion shows at Saks and Bergdorf’s that the designers know her by face. She was once standing in front of Saks when the designer Versache came out. He smiled and waved. He’d seen her at the show.

Dorothy’s been in love with clothes ever since I can remember.  When we lived in the Bronx and came into the city as teenagers, she’d get off at 59th and Fifth Avenue and work her way downtown so she could look in department store windows.

Over the years I’ve found that I have to be careful around her because if I simply mention that I’m thinking of, say, getting a dress, she’s off and running, checking out the sales at Macy’s and Talbot’s. She, of course, finds a dress that she insists would look great on me and tries to pressure me into going to see it. If I say I have no time or I’m not really sure I actually need a new dress, or that last year’s will do me just fine, she’ll ignore me and bring it back anyway.

She’ll make me try it on, and smooth the shoulders, tell me to turn around so she can see how it fits in the back. And then she’ll say the words that have become a running gag in our family: “That dress could be any price! It’s a classic! You’ll have it in your closet for 100 years! It’s perfect for you!”

And if I still resist, she’ll buy it for me and tell me to pay her back later.

Here is one of my favorite Dorothy and clothes memories:

I was 32, separated from my husband, and with two children, and had temporarily moved into my mother’s small apartment while I tried to figure out how I was going to live my new life. Dorothy looked at me, not knowing, uncertain, upset, wondering how she could help me get through this period. “You know what you need?” she said. “You need some new clothes.”

She spent the next few weeks buying me a wardrobe. It didn’t really change anything; only time could. But I have to admit, when I looked in the mirror, armed with new  clothes for the battles ahead, I  felt better!

So here’s to my sister Dotty on her 80th. It may be her birthday, but she’s my present.


2 replies
  1. Judy Stup
    Judy Stup says:

    You’re terrific, Aunt Dotty! And your sister Judy made me smile the whole time I’ve been getting to know you. Thanks, Beth, for including this very touching toast.

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