Therefore, I am still astonished that yesterday afternoon, I found myself talked into trying on a dress that could only be described as Morticia Addamsesque...or perhaps Drag Queen Fabulous.
It happened at the Harriman Army-Navy, where I had popped in to look at the evening wear for an ultra-Orthodox wedding next week. That's right, Harriman Army-Navy. I was as surprised as you no doubt are but over breakfast at the Monroe Diner last week, my friends Mary Ann and Judy raved about the unexpected collection of gowns and dresses they carried, alongside the jeans, army boots, hunting knives and other staples of any good army-navy store.
Possessed of a few free hours while Little Babe took his pre-certification Driver's Ed class, I figured what the heck.
I shoulda been thinking more along the lines of WTF.
Spying me flipping through the clothing racks in my Champion workout gear, unwashed hair tucked beneath my black Zabar's baseball cap, sports bra holding my assets tightly -- in advance of my upcoming workout at Straub's -- the saleslady swooped in, determined to transform this tomboy into a princess.
She lectured and opined, pointing out form-fitting polyester numbers with sequining and mesh. Perhaps she thought I said I was a Vegas performer? Politely, I explained that my style was typically a 50's style dress, cinched at the waist, full-skirted, sleeveless and several inches above my knees.
But the Army-Navy saleslady knew better. Enough with that look! So nineteen fifties! What I needed was something "edgy."
My eyebrows went up to the rim of my Zabar's cap. Really? Okay, I was decked out in workout gear but everything -- shorts, tank-top and hoodie around my waist-- was BLACK...and kinda faded. My bangs practically hid my eyes. I have many piercings and am contemplating a tattoo. I am dangerously tanned, which enhances my muscle-tone, giving me anything but a suburban look. Did she notice my edgy yellow Nikes, perchance? Did she note my Forever 21 canvas bag??? The five o'clock shadow on my legs? The copy of The New Yorker peeking out over the top of my bag? Excuse me but here in Orange County, New York, I own the "edgy" label, hands-down.
She pulled out a truly heinous number from the rack. I thought Cher, Liza Minelli, Lola Falana and Charo. I restrained my Columbia J School self from chastising her for abusing the English language because what she meant by the use of the word "edgy" was clearly "tacky."
I smiled and said I knew what fit me. And this wouldn't.
But she held her ground and gave a secret superior smile. Everyone loves this dress, she said. It's magic. Everyone cannot believe how good they look in it.
The gauntlet was thrown. Okay, I said, shrugging my bag to the ground, untying my hoodie from my waist. I will try it on.
But even before I zipped the monstrous creation up, I wanted to escape through the back of the dressing room, find a "Chronicles of Narnia"-kind of escapeway.
I looked worse than ridiculous, worse than tacky.
In the magical dress I looked fat and middle-aged.
Okay! I called to her from inside my cubicle. It's horrible, but I'm coming out!
I watched the saleswoman's face go from smug to shocked.
It's a disaster, I said, gesturing to my reflection in the mirror, stating the obvious.
I kind of see what you mean, she kind of admitted, playing around with the fabric, showing me how it might work better, telling me that I had a "cute" figure.
But I had reached my limit.
Listen, I said, turning to her, hand on hip. You don't know me at all. I am a writer and a publicist. I live in Manhattan. I go to lots of parties. I'm 50 years old and I know what looks good on me.
Meekly, she nodded.
And, I added, heading back inside the cubicle where I planned to tear the monstrosity off my "cute" figure, you obviously cannot tell but I'm pretty edgy. I am known and admired for my edgy fashion sensibility. And this...this dress...is the complete opposite. Just saying.