(“ The Dress” first appeared in Skirt Magazine))
In the Beginning was the dress. And the dress came up from New Orleans and lived in a closet in Memphis and waited for a party. One day, the husband said, “We have a party.” And the dress came out: the velvet-flocked, spaghetti-strapped, leopard-printed, spandex-induced dress. And the dress slipped on the gold bracelet and the gold necklace and the gold earrings. And the dress picked out the closed-toed pumps because the dress knew that one more inch of skin would be too much. And when the husband saw the dress, the husband said:
“You could stop a clock in that dress.”
And that was good.
Into the party walked the dress, and there the dress saw the men in their black ties. And their black shirts. And their white band collars. Clerical collars. And that was … okay because the party was to honor a Catholic priest and the dress believed that the collars were the friends of the priest. But then the dress saw a man. In flowing white robes tied ‘round his waist with a servant’s rope.
“Friar”, said the dress.
“Monk”, said the husband.
And that was … a little confusing.
So the dress sat down at the table. And there she found a program written on white parchment paper. The program unfolded and inside of the program was revealed … the menu for the evening. So the dress waited for the salad.
But before the salad arrived, a man ascended to the podium and greeted the dress and the collars and the black ties. And the man welcomed the people to the annual fundraiser. For the seminary students. Men who had pledged their lives to God. And celibacy.
Mortification descended upon the dress.
Leaning over to the husband, the dress said, “I didn’t know that this was a Dominican fund raiser. A supper for seminarians,” hissed the dress. And the husband said:
“I told you it was black tie.”
And that was bad.
And the dress eyed the coat rack but it stood across the room, and the dress knew she could never make it. So, the salad was served and the wine was poured and the dinner arrived and the water was drunk and the dessert was served and the coffee was poured.
And so it came to pass that … the dress had to pee.
And the dress knew that the restrooms lay far away – far across the dance floor, far into the lobby. And the dress stood up. And the dress tugged down her hem. And the dress pulled up her bosom. And the dress walked across the dance floor and past the tables and out the door and through the lobby and into the restroom. And there, waiting in front of all the mirrors, the dress stood. With the other dresses. Below-the-knee dresses. Discreet dresses. Sunday School dresses.
And that was very bad.
But, finally, the dress was able to leave. Able to walk into the lobby.
And there, in the lobby, stood a woman. The woman stood against the wall, in a black sheath, with luminescent white pearls and proper blond hair. A woman of refinement, a woman of taste. And the dress had to walk past the woman to get out of the lobby.
But when the dress walked past the woman, the woman smiled and stepped away from the wall. The woman walked up to the dress and said:
“I have to tell you, you were the most elegant woman here tonight.”
And the rush to confess her mortification swept over the dress, but the dress was stopped by the woman’s wavering smile. For in that wavering smile, the dress recognized the courage it takes to give a stranger a complement. So the dress said to her new friend, “No, you were the elegant one. So beautiful.”
And the woman smiled and said, “Not me, I’m too fat.”
And the dress left the party with a song in her heart, a song that could’ve only been placed there by a black-sheathed, pearl-bedecked angel of God.
And that was good.