Monday, November 28, 2005

All dressed up - having a ball in wintertime

It is officially cold. The high today is 0C (32F) and the five day forecast from CNN repeats like a skipping song, 32/28 32/28 all week long. Saturday, in the midst of the snow and freezing rain which is making November not the most pleasant month of our year, we went out to a dinner ball at one of the national art galleries. I was excited, because dressing up is fun. I love dancing, meeting people and pretending for a night to be an elegant creature who can swoop about in a dress. But my favorite moment in all the hoopla is not at the ball, but when Caroline first sees me all dressed up and ready to go out. “Niiice dress,“ she says in genuine appreciation, picking up the skirt and ducking beneath it. “Caroline’s!“ She’s not sticky, so I wrap the skirt around her and give her one last kiss before running out the door, trying not to step on my long hem with the high heels I wear once a year.

Those heels might be useful for dancing but they aren’t designed for snow, so Will has to balance an umbrella in one hand and my elbow in the other as we propel ourselves up the orange carpet laid over sidewalk and into the hall, glad that only door guys (short) and security men (tall) can see us as I totter slide up the slope. The ball’s Hollywood theme extended to green lasers slashing rectangles into the sky, and Will says it was their retina burns that bothered him more than my near slips, but we were both glad to get inside and find our friends amongst the teeming masses (over 700 people!) of humanity dressed in various shades of finery.

The dresses ranged from well-cut black cocktail to full ball gowns made of richly colored taffetta that swished side to side when a lady danced or even walked. One of my friends, who is tall and therefore designed for such things, wore a gorgeous ginger colored taffetta dress with full crinolines beneath. I met her halfway through the evening, waiting outside the bathrooms, and asked what she was up to. She said she was walking her dress, and I understood just what she meant.

The art of appreciating ball gowns must be left to girls, as the guys in my life seem supremely underwhelmed by them. Will complains that they package women funny, and that he just doesn’t understand what the little beads are about. When I get him to try to point out a dress he does like, he can’t and I wonder what has gone askew in our fashion world to make a fancy dress so attractive to women and so odd to men. I’ve wondered about this since I was in college, and went to my first semi-formal. I was so impressed by my dressed up self that I kept stealing glances in the mirror of the car we rode in, looking at my for-once-smooth hair and the green dress I’d borrowed for the occasion that I was sure made me look at least 23. My date was supremely unimpressed however, and it wasn’t until the semi-formal was over and we were back in our everyday clothes for a trip to IHOP that he mentioned that he’d noticed my hair and had I switched shampoos?

I couldn’t understand his attitude then, but later thought it had to do with approachability, or that a guy likes to stick with the person he first falls for, not her dressed up self, or maybe just the fact that I look much more natural in an oxford shirt and my ancient v-neck sweater than in a dress that reaches to the floor and creates an urge in me to peer into mirrors, spin in circles and slide across the floor just to see the material come alive.

Hm...maybe anyway, despite being a short person designed for blue jeans and oxford shirts, maybe for my next ball I’ll find a dress that I can take for a walk, just the two of us.

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