Apologies to you, dear reader, for having gone so long without posting. I have been on the road making the annual holiday visit with my man's family, and while on the road came down with bronchitis. I write to you now from my cave of recovery--toast, hot tea, old movies, and knitting projects that should have been completed long ago.
During our visit last week with his mother, she asked if we could help her pick out a dress to wear to a wedding she'll be attending in the spring. The wedding takes place a few hours away from where we live, and she wasn't sure what to expect from weddings in our neck of the country (which is vastly different from hers). My man and I stationed ourselves in her living room, and she brought out a few candidates, nearly all of them intact with yellowing price tags. The first was a sleeveless white tunic with a pattern of pastel flowers in velour. "Maybe something warmer," I said. "It's still a little chilly in ----- during the spring. Plan for weather like what you'd have in March." I didn't even mention the first cardinal rule of dressing for a wedding, which is that NOBODY wears white (or any shade of white) except the bride.
The next was a long black taffeta dress with one shoulder and white ruffles at the top. "It's lovely," I grimaced, "but it sounds like a small country wedding. Perhaps if it was in the city." Her face dropped a little as she said, "Oh--so probably not this one either?" She flourished a hanger with a fire-engine red knee-length dress, also made of taffeta, also one shouldered. I looked at it and thought of little Havana, not an airy northern retreat at the edge of a forest. "No," I answered, "probably not." It would have been funny if she weren't so serious.
She finally pulled out a long black skirt tastefully adorned with tiny white flowers, and a simple long-sleeved white blouse that tied on the side.
"Perfect," said my man.
"Perfect," I said. "That will be great for the weather, and it's not too formal."
"Great," she smiled. "And for shoes, I have these teeny little black strappy sandals!"
The thing that struck me so much about this exchange was what I saw she was trying to prove. Here she was trying to show us she can be beautiful and glamorous, when really she was demonstrating how thoroughly clueless she is when it comes to dressing herself. As I saw from pictures of her in her younger years, she was once a great living pinup herself, but now she wears all the signs of a woman who has let herself go and is now trying desperately to paint over it. You don't have to look too closely to see that she's simply trying too hard, but so many years of personal neglect require more help than what can be purchased in the cosmetics aisle of a drugstore. There is nothing classic in her level of artificiality because it stinks with a lack of confidence and a refusal to look oneself squarely in the mirror. It's one thing to recapture the glamor of yesterday, but quite another to recapture the person you used to be. The first can be done, but the second shouldn't even be attempted.