I interrupt our nation’s continued obsession with bowels, the Kardashians and the latest incarnation of electronic devices that replace last week’s latest electronic devices, to talk about style.
I have none.
Oh, I’ve tried. “Say Yes to the Dress” shows brides-to-be choosing dream gowns, controlling loved ones at their side (spoiler: Grandma backs down); I’ve seen pregnant women in Spandex clothes tight enough to put ultrasounds out of business; and lately, young women sporting mustaches. I could’ve saved a fortune in electrolysis.
Recently, I watched “Project Runway,” as one tearful contender got a thumbs-down on his dress design.
“But it’s our family mascot,” he sobbed. Family mascot? Ladybugs are a family mascot? Um, OK.
Last May, I was notified I’d won a writing award – very surprising, since the last words I’d shouted, very loudly, on the very last day the application was due, were: “Why am I even trying? Stupid computer. Never win anyway. Ever. Waste of time. Coffeeee,” followed by sobs, as my poor husband Ted, who happened to be walking through the room to fetch his Kindle, unfortunately came under a second wave of wrath when he gently suggested that I didn’t really have to enter the contest.
“Get out. Get out with your stupid electronic book written by someone smarter than Me. Get out. And bring me some chocolate. Please.”
So when I heard about the award, I was pretty excited.
The deep South, in June? Sure, I’d attend. I’d be just like a real writer and even take notes in workshops. I was a big girl now. Big girl award.
Big girl outfit?
I checked my closet.
“Say no to the stretch pants,” Ted said.
Hmmm. Looked perfectly good to me. Blue, Walmart, circa 1997.
“Ditto on the incandescent pink chiffon dress you wore to Cassie’s wedding 14 years ago,” he said.
What is he, psychic? I didn’t even know him then.
He cleared his throat.
“How about a new outfit?”
Now, most women would think this is cool, but I hate clothes shopping – see earlier 1997 Walmart reference.
I went to 15 stores. True, some had nothing to do with clothes, but hey, I got hungry. I needed something that felt like PJs, covered my jiggly upper arms, and was within a budget inconveniently instilled by my Depression-era Dad. I found nothing.
I searched my closet again.
Crunched between my late mother’s tiny red size-6 jacket I’d saved to wear someday and my grown son’s high school musical costume, I found my aqua, sleeveless, silk shirt and comfy black traveler’s pants. The aqua top was shimmery, a beautiful color and somehow, its cut detracted from my arms just enough.
I wasn’t concerned about the shirt wrinkling en route, since I couldn’t unwrinkle it anyway, no matter what. Other than that one minor detail, it was perfect. I was sure that once there, I could iron it.
That material was as stubborn as an angry teenager. I ironed it, steamed it, sat on it, finally asking the hotel clerk to send it out for dry cleaning or reform school, whichever came first.
“No problem. Is Monday OK? The last weekend batch just left.”
The big night was tomorrow, Friday.
We tracked down a dry cleaner’s across town, arriving just before closing.
“Our pressing machine shuts down for the weekend,” said the clerk. I noticed the signs behind him about God and blessings. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten down on bended knee. Or rolled around the floor yelling, “Why me? Why?”
“I’ll come in early tomorrow to press it,” he whispered conspiratorially.
Ted said he’d pick up the top while I was at the conference. The instructions and timing were intricate and precise, involving words such as “GPS” and “husband.”
“Call me if you get lost, and give him a big tip,” I anxiously instructed, mentally adding up the 10s and 20s that had evaporated from my hands on this trip. The trip, that is, in which the organization had decided, just this year, to keep awards non-monetary.
At 5 p.m., I raced to our room to get ready.
“Look in the closet,” a beaming Ted said.
And there it was. The beautiful, shiny aqua shirt, inside a plastic protective sheath. Like new.
En route to the banquet, I relaxed and looked over the information about the night’s festivities.
“No air conditioning, but the beauty of this Southern manor will charm you.”
That was, incidentally, the exact minute my body chose to go into full-throttle menopausal hot-flash mode.
Within minutes of arrival, I had two black-on-aqua circles the size of cantaloupes on either side, growing by the minute. Who knew?
But not to worry. It was a bold fashion statement. Because, cantaloupes?
They’re my family mascot.