All along my husband said the dress for the holiday work party at his new job was pretty casual, slacks and a blouse. Two days before the party he learned women would be wearing cocktail dresses.
“What? Cocktail dresses? That’s not casual,” I said. Panic set in big time. The outfit I had planned wouldn’t cut it. I don’t own anything that resembles a cocktail dress. That all went to Goodwill ages ago when my whole body shifted after having kids. Not to mention the fact that half the clothes in my closet have rotted on the hangers and shoes have literally busted on my feet. I still can’t escape the embarrassment of leaving a trail of one-inch rubber crumbs at my son’s first-grade play when my heel exploded the minute we got there. What’s a girl to do? I hoped the last big chunk would just hang on until we got outside.
“You can wear the dress you have. It will be fine,” my husband said. I’m no fashionista, but even I know that you cannot wear a sweater dress to a fancy shindig.
“You don’t want people to think you have a frumpy wife,” I said.
“But you’re my frumpy wife.” Uuugh!
I emailed my neighbor about my fashion crisis. Could I wear a skirt? Did I have to buy a cocktail dress? She said she would kill him. I raced to the nearest department store because I knew the ladies there would know what to do.
There I was, skirt and sweater in hand. No, no. That would not do, the lady told me. She walked me to the dresses. It had to be a dress. They all had flowers and ruffles. Things that are not me. Price tags that are not me. Where was a bargain rack when I needed one?
I grabbed some dresses, picking the saleslady’s brain about hose and boots and heels. I didn’t have time to look for accessories. Women spend weeks on this stuff. I had only an hour to shop. And nothing ever fits me. But something did and it looked pretty good. It was on sale, and by golly, I had a coupon!
When the big night arrived and we walked in the room, I saw a mix of all kinds of fashion, everything from fancy and festive to khaki and preppy. Apparently, not everyone got the same message. I could have worn any damn thing I wanted and played dumb.
But for the first time ever, my family was cleaned up and we planned to make an evening out of it. Though I prefer jeans and sneaks to hose and heels, and hiking trails to ballrooms, it was fun playing dress-up with the kids. And after a little wine, nothing much bothered me at all.
My son will be nine soon and seeing what lies under that layer of dirt with hair neatly parted and nice duds, it made me proud. He’s a handsome little man and I couldn’t help but sneak peeks at him, in wonder of the handsome fellow he’ll one day become. You don’t see it every day when your kid fusses at you, rolls in the dirt with a football, or tells a dozen fart jokes, but there’s a handsome, calm being in there and it’s a sight to behold.
My husband took my daughter to the dance floor and for many reasons, it makes you love the man you married a million times more and cherish your baby girl who will one day do the same with her daddy in a big white dress. I tried to drag my son out, but I think he feared I’d perform some of the same spastic dance moves I’m known for in the kitchen.
When most of the good songs were over and it was about time to go, we finally got both of the kids out for the Twist, and then my daughter and I did the YMCA song. I think I even had my C backward. A vision of elegance, I’m sure. No dignified foxtrots for us. But I can’t think of three dates I’d rather have, and it was all done in true Karen fashion.