Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the pink prom dress

okay. do you remember that time when i had a fancy fundraising gala to attend? i don't think i told most of you how that ended... 

background for those who didn't hear it firsthand - the fundraising event was for a muslim non-profit, and DM was basically attending as the face of his organization, so on multiple fronts i figured i should probably err on the side of sartorial caution and keep the cleavage and the legs in check. but mostly i was just stressing because to me, "gala" means long fancy dress and i do not own anything in in my post-baby size that is a) the least bit dressy and b) is not from target or tj maxx. 

i ended up at the BCBG outlet store two days before the shindig and found a dress that i thought was PERFECT. i felt like a princess and all of my parts were appropriately covered (i mean, it would not pass muster as a mormon bridesmaid's dress. but i figured throw on a shrug or a pashmina and i'd be  set.) the zipper stuck a little going up, but the sales lady assured me this sometimes happened with new dresses. she said when i got home, i should rub the zipper with wax paper to basically lube it up, and i should have no problems. but then, as she went to unzip it so i could take it off, it stuck again. after wrastling with the zipper for a few minutes, she called her manager, who in turn called her manager, and all three women (unsuccessfully) manhandled me for a good twenty minutes trying to unstick the zipper. finally, the store manager announced that they would have to cut me out of the dress, and she proceeded to do just that. so sad! meanwhile, the original sales lady went to see if they had another one in the same size, or even a different color. there were no more of the original color, but there was one in my size in the most heinous shade of "multivitamin pee" yellow you could imagine. i politely passed. then the woman offered to sell me the dress that they had just cut me out of, "for a discount," of course... "like 20%." I was like, are you serious lady? Unless you're offering to sell it to me for a dollar with an overnight tailor included, no deal.

the next day, i ran over to macy's on my lunch break and grabbed a coral pink, juniors prom dress on clearance for $40. it was floor length chiffon, one-shouldered with rosettes all up the shoulder and terrible ginormous fake crystals inside each rosette. it wasn't the worst thing ever (except the bedazzles - they were pretty bad). but there was no mistaking it for anything but a prom dress. oh well! it would have to do the trick.

it's saturday. we drive to the "gala". the invite definitely said dinner service starts promptly at 7 and will be finished by 9pm, and they strongly encouraged everyone to show up early to mingle. we show up at 6:30 and okay, first, it is in a conference room at the doubletree. nothin' wrong with the doubletree. just pointing out that the lustre dust on my glorious gala vision was starting to flake off. we walk in to register and i am (a) the only white-looking person. (b) the only person in a prom dress. (c) the only person in pink (or really any other color!) (d) the only female not wearing a hijab. i wrap my sheer pink and orange scarf a little more snugly around my shoulders and try not to hyperventilate while we complete the registration process. there really isn't anyone there who's not working/volunteering, so we decide to go back to the car and wait a little while. DM says let's wait until we see some female guests without their heads covered, so i don't stand out as much. okay. so we wait. and wait. and wait. not ONE non-hijab-wearing woman enters the building. finally we can't put it off any longer so we go in and find our place and sit down. DM's theory is that once i'm sitting, i won't be such a bright shining beacon of neon chiffon (keep in mind that, in heels, i am probably over 6 feet tall, which is a good 4" above the median height in the room. oh yeah also that reminds me - i hadn't worn those heels in ages and apparently the rubber/plastic tips on the heels had dried out and began cracking off in little pieces so by the time we got inside i was click-clacking around on two metal pegs like captain fucking hook). perhaps i was slightly less noticeable once i was sitting down. i don't know. i still felt pretty damn visible but i hope he was right. at least i was quieter. the plan was to get me situated and then he would stake out for reinforecements in the form of alcoholic refreshements. i don't know why it took us this long to realize, but there was NO ALCOHOL. perhaps this should not have come as a surprise. but it did. a terrible, heartbreaking, surprise.

thankfully, there ended up being two other women without head coverings, and they were, accidentially or on purpose, seated at our table. this meant that we had company to chat with while 99% of the room left for evening prayer. this was after an Imam [quite beautifully] sang a "small section" of the Quraan that felt longer than a dr. seuss book at 9:59 on a friday night, but before they played to the hip young portion of the crowd with an open mic performance by an artist/poet about how the mainstream media misrepresents Muslims. he made several valid points. but i couldn't help but feel like the "white media's" proxy in my pink bedazzled prom dress. okay. i realize i'm being a total narcissist. probably nobody even noticed the sparkly 6 foot flamingo in their midst. but OMG. i was DYING. i was furiously texting my friends during this time and rather than provide moral/emotional support, they just LOL'ed their asses off and demanded that i provide photographic evidence. but there was NO WAY i was going to do anything (else) to draw attention to myself. (by the way, i would have looked nearly as ridiculous in my first choice of dresses, and would have spend 4x as much. so thank goodness for small favors. somewhere in the middle of my dress dilemma DM said, "i'm sure it's fine if you just wear a short black dress" and i am SO GLAD i didn't listen to him because the only thing worse than floor length pink chiffon would have been an LBD.)

then, two of the people at our table - a couple- had come to the US as refugees from bosnia-herzegovina. during that period in history, the only politics i was involved in was my run for student body president in 8th grade, and i think my platform was centered around longer recess and better hot lunches, set to a soundtrack of nirvana and RHCP and boyz II men. thank GOD/ALLAH/YAHWEH that my super brilliant husband could carry on an informed conversation re: the bosnian war with this couple and the others at our table, because all i could do was sit there in blushing pink inanity. brutal. i can't think of a time in my recent memory when i have been more uncomfortable.

so, yeah, apparently i am a culturally insensitive cretin. but in my defense - the largest group of muslims with whom i associate on a regular basis are my husband's persian family - and they are not what i would consider "practicing" muslims (i.e., no prayers, no headscarves or chadors (and actually, depending on the event, my bedazzled prom dress might fit right in) and there's usually wine and/or alcohol at gatherings, though there's a chance it's been in the basement for 20 years, and not in a good way... :)) so (clearly) i had not properly girded myself for this event.

a little more context: i can fake it with the best of them but basically at heart i am a total hermit and i get major social anxiety. i hate schmoozy lawyer things (or schmoozy any-things), fundraisers, or any event with large crowds and small talk. normally you couldn't pay me to attend something like this. however. DM exploited my irrational love for all things disney, and promised that if i went to the gala as his date, he would take me out for dessert and drinks at downtown disney after. i fell for that hook line and sinker. happily, we did end the night having dessert and (alcoholic) drinks with friends in downtown disney. and apparently, it was senior ball or something at one or more of the local high schools because there were bedazzled prom dresses all over the place. aside from being at least 15 years older than the rest of them, i fit right in :)

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