Buying a dress is not the most important event in the world. To someone like me whose priorities revolve around vital stuff like my sons and my husband, breastfeeding mothers and babies, healthy eating, avoiding toxins in the home and elsewhere, along with maintaining meaningful friendships and spiritual connections, it is a frivolous event. I have been told that I run deep, take things too seriously and am intense. So, dress shopping feels like fluff that is more suited to others. But, and here’s the big but – I still love and adore fashion and try with all my heart to “still look good” or at least “look okay” at my “advancing age.” I am self conscious and insecure which is yet another burden.
A friend of mine who I’ve known since kindergarten invited us to her daughter’s wedding on Valentine’s Day weekend in Florida. Two other old classmates would also be attending. I looked forward to this event and since North Carolina has had one of its coldest and snowiest winters in the 21 years since I’ve lived here, it was especially appealing. Shep convinced me we should drive rather than fly so we could relish the wind and warm air in his cherished BMW convertible. I was in.
What is it about old friends gathering that makes us fret so much over what to wear? Short hair/long hair, fair hair/dark hair/grey hair, flat shoes you can walk in or high heel torture shoes, which jewelry, what makeup etc? I can’t decide if this worsens as we age, but I suspect it does. And yet, I can remember keenly, the high school angst of a similar perspective. As I participate in what feels like “the competition,” I question my motives. Is it “I hope they think I look young or thin or just not fat?” or is it “I don’t want them to think I have not taken care of myself?” or “I want them to notice how up to date I am in my style and my fashion choices?” I have had no cosmetic surgeries, recently let my hair color go to its natural grey that was fighting to victory and always need to lose another 10 pounds or so. I try to stay fashion current but know that I am limited in my choices by age and budget appropriateness. When I check on my motives and question my intentions and honesty, I am just not sure if I am in a good place. But, one thing I am sure about is that the feelings are real and nagging.
Looking for “Florida” apparel in January is a little challenging even though I live in the south. I had this thought that I did not want to wear NYC black since that is always my go-to. I once met a couple that tickled me with a story about this. She was large and tall and very southern from the depths of Georgia. He was short and squat and very Italian from Staten Island, NY. Through the wonders of match.com they met and married. When he first took her to NYC to meet his family she immediately noticed that everyone was wearing black. “George,” she said, “are all these people going to the same funeral?”
So, I got it in my head that I wanted something “peach” colored as that seemed Florida-ish. And, I assumed I would need two dresses – one for the dinner before the wedding and one for the outdoor/country club actual wedding. After multiple trips to all the local Raleigh stores, I spotted the dress from across the floor in Marshall’s. It was silk and it was a peach and almond print. It was love at first sight and when I tried it on, it felt great. As is typical of stores like Marshall’s there were three dresses, one each of size 6, 12, and 14. My painful “frozen shoulder” makes trying on dresses difficult. I held the size 12 up, took it home and put it on. It felt big and loose. I have lost weight but still see myself as big and floppy with breasts and belly that belong in a large size. That twin pregnancy and birth, late in my life wrecked my body in for eternity. But, the bigness of this dress really bothered me. I began the search, going from one Marshalls’s to the other in quest of the size 10 or even a size 8. I thought it would be easy. Nada. I started calling one North Carolina Marshalls’ after another. Half the time, no one knew what I was looking for in spite of me having the SKU, manufacturer’s name, etc. I became more and more determined but made less and less progress. And, I was becoming obsessed with finding this dress!
It was time to begin our journey to Florida. I packed the oversized dress and continued my search. Smart phones make stupid obsessions possible to sustain. As we drove south, I called from one state to another thinking we could just stop along the way if I found a store that had THE dress. No one had this dress in the size I needed and it was becoming more hopeless. This is one of the oddest and somewhat concerning parts of me. My drive is relentless and I am convinced I can find something or make things work no matter what it takes. Choosing schools for my kids is a prime example. If there was a great school in an area we lived in, then by gosh my kid was going to attend that school. It might have been way out of our reach financially or in every other way, but I would push and research and beg and steal to get my kid into that particular school. I garnered financial aid when there was none and found a way every single time so that each one got to attend some darned good schools. I have been the same way with housing, food, furniture, churches, activities and everything important to my family, but who knew I could also be this way about a silly dress?
By the time we got to Florida, I was out of ideas. I had called most of the stores that ran along I-95 and had no luck. This creepy feeling was running up my spine suggesting that I might be acting like someone I knew but did not want to emulate. My mother was relentless to a point of insanity, and that was before the internet! I had a dress to wear for the wedding and would conjure up something from my suitcase that would work for any other dinner together. We were getting close to our destination and I wanted to read my book rather than keep calling Marshall’s stores. Suddenly, I noticed this big shopping center as we drove through Daytona Beach with a huge TJ Maxx sign. For some unknown reason I got the brilliant idea that often TJ Maxx carries the same merchandise at Marshalls and so I asked Shep to make a U-turn and stop at this center. Of course he thought I was crazy at this point and nearly refused. “C’mon” I said, “we need a break anyway.” I never did go into the TJ Maxx because across from it was a big Marshall’s. I knew my dress was in there. I just knew it. I went in and headed to the back of the store where I was disappointed to find only one puny rack of dresses. My hopes were shrinking until the moment when I spotted that pattern of peach and almond. THERE IT WAS! Like a scene from a movie in slo-mo I nearly knocked the woman next to me over and reached out for it across the rack. Drat—it was a size 12!! I turned to leave but there having fallen on the floor was another and it was a size 10!!! I grabbed it as if I had found the Holy Grail and held onto it tight. I began texting Shep who was still in the car, “I found it, I found it!” but he had his phone turned off which is so often the case. I needed to share the thrill so I started telling the women around me who of course could not have cared less.
I was so excited that after I waited on the long line and paid for the dress, I actually ran out leaving my straw hat and my jacket behind! Much to Shep’s chagrin, we had to turn back after 15 minutes into our resumed trip to retrieve those as well. But, nothing really mattered then since I had the satisfaction of knowing I’d found the dress and proved to myself once again that determination and force can win.
I bet you’re waiting to find out how it looked, if anyone liked it, how I felt in it with my new almond colored sandals and my matching peach and gold earrings. I’m afraid I have nothing to report. The restaurant for dinner was a very casual, jeans sort of affair and it was a chilly night. The wedding was the next day and I had my more formal dress for that. So, the peach and almond dress hangs in my closet waiting for an event which I am sure will come, but in fact, it never got worn!!