Done With Dresses
I have a wedding to attend this coming September. To me, what this means, is that I have to “dress up” to go somewhere. This never makes me happy.
I was never a “girly-girl,” not even as a girl. Clothes-wise I have never been drawn to “pretty,” and have always been generally repulsed by “frilly.” I tolerated having to wear a uniform (always a dress-like invention of some sort) for elementary and most of high school simply because I didn’t have a choice.
Transplanted to a public school for my senior year I discovered that, left to my own devices, the skirts and dresses that I still had to wear, could at least be “interesting,” aka more like costumes than everyday clothes… and when miniskirts made the scene just as I hit college, well… I’ll never forget the older guy at the newsstand at the corner of Broad & Spruce in center city Philadelphia who hollered out as me, mid-rush-hour bustle, as I walked by, “Does your mother let you leave the house dressed like that?”
I stopped in my tracks, turned around to face him, and in the sincerest tone I could muster loudly said, “I guess so, but my father dresses me,” spun around and kept walking. I got to like making a spectacle of myself and, perhaps needless to say, I attracted a lot of trouble, but it was, for the most part, fun.
My attire continued in that vein, right up until my 40’s when I contracted a “fatal” disease that crippled my entire body — ironically, also attracting a lot of stares because I looked like a kind of human bug by that point. (The hands are still crazy crippled but the rest of me is as good as could be at 75.) I didn’t give too much of a damn about how I dressed when I was dying, and I think that’s when the whole done with dresses thing started… it was possibly also the death of my seemingly desperate need to attract attention.
Though, when I was so badly bent out of shape — literally — I observed an interesting conundrum happening around me. It’s OK to stare at someone who wants to be stared at… and I’ve obviously never minded it… but you’re literally not supposed to stare at someone who is deformed in some way because that would make them feel like a freak and possibly even unwanted. So, when I had scleroderma, (the aforementioned disease), and my skin got hard and leathery and a very odd color and my fingers curled up into the palms of my hands, people wanted to look… I was unbelievable looking… who could blame them? I, of course, who had spent most of my life literally courting attention, didn’t mind it a bit. I was a freak. Of course, people were going to stare… but I felt so sorry for the children because their parents would get embarrassed by their kids staring at me and I’d hear them — in the line at the grocery store or walking by me on the street — “Don’t stare at that poor woman,” — maybe they’d even give the poor child a little smack.
Poor kids! I’d have been staring too!
So, I went to a thrift shop, and I bought a pair of those old-fashioned white gloves that little girls wore back in the 50’s for dressing up for church. I then painted them with the brightest shades of fabric paint that I could find. I had to cut the fingers off, of course, but that still left two little canvasses on the backs. My hands were right about eye-level for a lot of kids and the gloves made it OK for them to stare right at me and, not only that, but their interest also enabled their parents to strike up conversations with me because we could talk about the gloves which led to the fingers which led to the rest of everything.
Scleroderma grew me up. I ceased needing to be a focus for attention… though I still enjoy it when it happens as it does sometimes. But it killed the whole dress thing. I don’t really know why. I’ve attended events where women wear dresses and I’ve worn one for those occasions and I just do not feel right. Dresses are not me. There were a few in my closet but that’s mostly where they stayed so I packed them off to a consignment shop.
I’ve got this wedding to go to in September and I’m wearing pants… not a damn pants suit; I’d feel ridiculous — I’ll find some kind of dressy (not frilly, not ruffley) top and I will dance like an idiot (because I can still do that) till I drop and I’ll look good doing it.