Tis the season, and all that fancy, shiny, sparkly stuff. Or almost, anyway. So far, I am ignoring all the difficult parts of the season, which include traveling, making plans, buying presents and trying to not explode. Instead, I am concentrating on the exciting part of the season, which includes parties, which include, if they are proper holiday parties, egg nog, figgy pudding, and Santa hats. Additionally, fancy dresses. It’s the fancy dresses part that I am most interested in, because fancy dress! It’s like prom, only with less losing my virginity in an ‘89 Camry.
This year there are many parties, ranging in size from our annual holiday gift exchange evening to the giant enormo-parties given by both my company and E.’s company. Mine, they do not allow dates. Rumor has it that this is because the wife of an employee tried to sue, vis a vis the debauchery that occurred, and ruined everyone else’s good time. Therefore, we are only allowed to bring ourselves and our senses of adventures, dressed to the absolute nines, full-on, full-out. Shiny!
The other party, I am the date and as such, have certain obligations in
regards to embarrassment and the avoidance of, and a sense of pride. It
is, additionally, full-bore and totally gonzo super cocktail totally
Therefore, you see—and I credit you with coming to this conclusion at
least three paragraphs ago—I need an incredible dress to carry me
through both occasions, and also to wear while scrubbing the toilet,
taking out the trash and reading Proust. Obviously.
Formalish/cocktailish dress shopping sounds a little terrifying,
though. Department stores full of racks and scariness and also there are
wildly varying price points and a dizzying amount of high ceiling and
wide floor space. I get both claustrophobic and agoraphobic, and then I
sweat, pass out and die, in department stores. However—I walk past
Banana Republic every day, and they’ve got several dresses of varying
levels of cuteness, hanging out in their window and looking satiny, and
I am a magpie, and the Republic, it is not so intimidating a place to
shop, so I ducked in on my lunch break, yesterday. Boom in, yank things
off hangers, try on, get out. An operation that is military in
precision, and possibly wrought with failure, but a way to get my feet
all wet and my loins all girded.
Of course, as soon as I started plucking through racks, looking for my
size, a sales person bounded over and offered himself up for help and
introduced himself as a stylist. Ordinarily, I say “No, I’m just
browsing. Thanks!” But for some reason, my mouth opened, and out yarfed
“I have fancy parties to go to! Make me gorgeous!” or idiot words to
that effect, and I was trapped, hustled to a dressing room, and things
began to be hurled at my head. “This!” he’d scream, and a pile of
taffeta would land on my head. “SO YOU!” he’d howl, crawling under the
door with a silk shift clenched between his teeth. “WE ARE GOING TO BE
BEST FRIENDS!” he shrieked, taking me by the shoulders and spinning me
around until I fell to my knees and begged for mercy.
He crammed my feet into shoes, ran for accessories, swore I looked
fabulous in a baby doll halter (I do not), insisted I try pants after I
explained patiently that these were not really pants occasions, and
talked so much about me slicking back my hair and wearing a lot of eye
makeup that I started to wonder if maybe there was something I should
know about my general, everyday personal appearance and why my friends
hadn’t told me.
I was standing there in tuxedo pants that were a full six inches too
long for me, and another sparkly black babydoll halter with a ribbon
tie that somehow both managed to make my boobs look low and tragic, my
waist look tree trunk-ish and my hips look triplet-bearing, when I
realized that my lunch break was over, I was no where near finding a
dress (surprise!) and that I really wished he would have contradicted
me when I said “No more sheath dresses—I’m lumpy.”
No! he was supposed to gasp. You’re not lumpy at all! You are a
delicate, willowy flower, a model of modern womanhood! I am lumpy; I
did not want more skinny dresses because of it, but a protest, that
might have been nice. Yes, I have shame in that.
He was manic, and kept flinging things at me, regardless of my body
type, and I know he was focused on selling something, but I felt
simultaneously exposed, ridiculous, fat, flabby and completely
invisible. He wasn’t really seeing me, when he insisted that I was
absolutely a size 6 or an 8 (what? Thank you?); he wasn’t paying
attention to me when I insisted I was lumpy—what salesperson lets a
customer think “lump” when he’s trying to sell gorgeous? And I was
relieved when I realized I was so late, that I had to apologize, run up
the stairs, folding his card in my pocket and wondering how fast I
could lose it.