Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hair, Bible Study and A Drag Queen

Yeah, you read that right.

I'll explain,
just give me a minute. 

My 13 year-old daughter goes to a wonderful girls bible study lead by an awesome, energetic, hip, on-fire-for-the Lord gal named Jennifer. The girls love her.

So do I.

Jennifer is in her 20s and just graduated from the Aveda Institute. She was given the honor of doing hair at the institute's fashion show which donated all the proceeds to the Ohio Sierra Club to clean up our rivers.

Which is lovely.

The graduates were put into groups and given a color that they had to depict through a theme doing the hair and makeup of models to support that theme.

Are you still with me?

Well, Jennifer was kind enough to give us tickets so I could take my daughter and a friend from the bible study to go to the fashion show.

I have been to maybe three fashion shows in my entire life. I was in two of them.

(Feel free to laugh here.)

I was in high school and it was some kind of honor to be asked by this women's clothing store called Paris Style to model their clothes each fall to introduce their new line of clothes.

I am not sure how I got on their radar.

Beautiful girls from the entire county were asked.

I was a tomboy with big 80s hair. I lived an hour away from a decent mall and I drove the family's 1978 Buick station wagon with wooden panels on the side.

I am not sure which one qualified me for the fashion show.

Each model had to go get their picture taken for a head shot that would be blown up and hung in the store in promotion of the fashion show. I remember wearing my white Peter Pan collar blouse with a floppy black scarf tied in a bow at the neck.

And corduroy Bermuda shorts.

It was the 80s and for some reason that made me feel grown up.

I looked like a bank teller.

The photographer asked me to give him a sexy look.

Honestly, can you believe that?! 

What a pervert!

I should look up who that was just to give him a piece of my mind…!

I was a teenager!

I didn't have a sexy look.

(Let's be honest, I don't have one now either.) 

And I resented being asked to produce one. 

So for an entire season a poster size picture of me hung up on the wall of Paris Style with my bottom lip stuck out in defiance.

This was no come-hither pout.

This was an,

"I DARE you to ask me again to give you a sexy look.



No hint of a smile.

Eyebrows scrunched in focused disdain.

I was hot.

(And not in the way the photographer wanted me to be). 


Good thing I never shopped at Paris Style (nor did any of my friends) so there wasn't too much public humiliation.

Paris Style was one of those stores that, for some reason unknown to any teenage girl I knew in the 80s, was still open. It had its hey day in the 50s and 60s carrying the latest dresses and hats and gloves and shoes.

The store was enormous.

It housed two stories with a microphone that the clerk would use to let the customers know if their size, color, style had been found or purchases wrapped. Everything was wrapped up in boxes with tissue paper and put into nice sacks.

I had to get fitted for my outfit for the fashion show. The sweet old man of an owner--very old actually, called my name out in the microphone intercom to let me know my dress was ready.

I was standing right beside him.

Right where I had been the entire time he meticulously wrapped the dress in a garment sack.

I raised my hand to let him know I was still there and had indeed heard him broadcast my name over every square foot of the store.

I guess old habits are hard to break.

The store had a smell. Not exciting like a dusty old library but, well, tired. 

Yes, it actually smelled exhausted. 

Like it was sighing. 

Maybe even moaning.

I am a very sentimental person but I didn't grow up remembering my grandmother shopping at this store. Or my mom. I moved to my hometown when I was 7.

I imagine Paris Style was already wreaking sleepy even then.

I was not comfortable on the runway and didn't enjoy

FOR ONE SECOND having to be in the fashion show. But it was an honor (they kept telling me). And my pout-faced lip was all huge in the store, so I did it.

Classical music played while older ladies clinked their forks on china at the country club as they watched me walk out in a black and white tweed smart suit appropriate for a job interview

(I'm sure that's what the lady read into the microphone from the note cards she was holding).

This fashion show, this Aveda Institute fashion show, was different.

Very different.

It took place in a concert hall with a bar (gasp!).

We had to stand at tall bistro tables with nary a piece of china in sight.

It was dark.

The music was loud with lots of heart beat altering bass.

There were cool videos introducing each group's color and their theme.

The models were way more comfortable on the runway than I was, but I did recognize my pout.

I think maybe one model smiled. 

The rest alternated between looks of nonchalance,

"Oh, there is a crowd out there? I was just walking around wearing moss on my shoulder." (for the color blue:  ocean)


"That's right. I'm here. I'm not wearing a shirt. I'm awesome."


"Don't even THINK about looking at me. Or looking away. Don't look at me! Why did you look away?!"

It was confusing.

And amazing. 

All at once.

The hair was just flat out works of art. In the beginning these characters came out with all the colors that would be used for the evening piled on their head. One looked like a rainbow Marie Antoinette with a rainbow cotton candy wig. One looked like her hair formed a Dr. Seuss-like tree. She had to hold onto the "tree trunk" sprouting out from her head while she walked. I can't imagine how heavy they were.

Each of the colors did an amazing job.

Green did an Adam and Eve theme where a seemingly honked-off Eve angrily shoved an apple into an arrogantly nonchalant Adam's mouth.

It made me laugh out loud.

Red (the color Jennifer worked on) had the most beautiful hair. Intricate twists and Adele/Amy Winehouse-like teasing in the most beautiful rich red you've ever seen. The work that went into it was admirable.

The people watching was a combination of the institute's graduates, their families and friends. It was a wealth of humanity worth watching.

Then I remembered I had two 13-year-old girls with me.

I started watching them watching others. 

Their mouths fell open at some of the short dresses, high, high heels and tattoos on display.

We all became fascinated with a very large man wearing a jazzy hat and a sweater vest with no shirt underneath. Judging by the size of his tree trunk arms, a shirt was not an option. He had on linen pants and the most awesome crocodile shoes. His whole presence demanded respect but in a gentle giant kind of way.

Then Jennifer casually pointed out a man dressed as a woman.

[Sound of front door shutting.]

The girls gasped.

They giggled. 

They gasped again. 

They asked questions but they never took their eyes off of him.

My daughter pointed out the size of his shoes--huge. The heels were mirrored.

Her friend focused on the false eyelashes--l  o  n  g. Actually flattering in the best way it could be considering the circumstances. 

They noticed his smooth, albeit very muscular, legs.

Then came the discovery:

"He has man hands! EEEWWWW!"


Why wasn't that a duh to them?

Oh…They were starting to buy it.

We talked on the way home about being real. I tried to explain that all the extreme colors and hair heights and twists were meant to be just that:  extreme.

Challenges for the students and pretty amazing feasts for our eyes.

They weren't meant for every day. Although I'd love to plop that rainbow cotton candy wig on my head and grocery shop. 

Just once. 

I think my daughter's perceptions of modeling and the reality of the evening collided.

Like Sweater-Vest-With-No-Shirt and the Drag Queen.

Like my Peter Pan collared shirt with the black floppy bow and looking sexy.

(I am getting mad all over again…!)

When I relayed this story to my girlfriend the next day, she immediately asked if the Drag Queen was prettier than us. 


Doesn't it always come down to that?

He wasn't.

But he did wear that form-fitting dress in a way that me and my girlfriend 


That isn't me being harsh. 

That is me being real. 

(which is weird since we are talking about a man wearing a dress).

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Damsel in This Dress

I rarely wear dresses. My lifestyle of carpool and making dinner and doing laundry doesn't require it.

I have an event coming up that is dress worthy so shopping was necessary.

I am not much of a shopper. 

A thrifter:  yes. 
Taking items from my neighbor's curb on trash day:  yes
Going to the mall:  no. 
BIG no. 
Don't love it.

I find shopping easier when there is a clear mission. I am easily distracted so I am most successful when I know exactly what to look for. In this case the mission was a dress so I was good to go.

For many reasons I decided to avoid the mall (mostly because of the aforementioned lack of love) and go to TJMaxx. I guess it has been awhile since I have dressed shopped because I was shocked by all I found. The dresses were either extremely short or floor length. Nothing in between. They were strapless or off one shouldered. There were several that I didn't understand on first glance. I decided that if it took me more than 5 seconds to "figure out" the dress, I should move on. You know, questions like:

Where is the front? 
Is this a belt or a scarf? 
Is there a neck hole somewhere? 
And:  What is all this elastic here? 

If I ever asked (usually out loud) "Are you kidding me?" when looking at a dress, I moved on immediately.

I realized that sizes are arbitrary. There was such a range of sizes in my cart (yes, cart, remember I am at TJMaxx) that you would've thought I was buying for 3 different women.

The fitting room is where it all gets real REAL fast. Some dresses are so big that you think to yourself that a huge sandwich is in order for dinner and maybe even a mini Blizzard from Dairy Queen for dessert because, my goodness, you are looking somewhat scrawny. Then you put on a dress so tight that you can see the shape of the mole on your rib cage and you beat yourself up for the sandwich and Blizzard that you
didn't even eat 
ON TOP of the fact that you haven't had that mole on your rib cage checked out yet.

I got stuck in one dress. It was a red wraparound with more complicated layers than I first observed. When I slid it over my head (unknowingly on the south side of some of the inner layers) the slit went dangerously close to my bra line--in the FRONT.

In awe, I fired off a barrage of questions at my reflection,

Is this a joke? 
Am I on Dancing With the Stars?" 

Then I realized my operator error and tried to fix it.

I got stuck in between layers.

The layers enveloped my head and constricted my arms.

I panicked instantly 
(I am no good in emergencies). 

I writhed and tugged and pulled and convinced myself that I'd have to scream for help and 9-1-1 would be called and strange men would have to see me in my underwear half in and half out of a Dancing With the Stars dress that was clearly too tight and too young for me. And they would ask if I had gotten the mole on my rib cage checked out yet. 

Through prayer and violent wriggling, I was delivered from the red mess, thankfully, and albeit breathless and slightly sweaty, still free and able to move on to the business of finding a dress.

It's so funny what I found cart worthy on the store racks that just looked hideous hanging on the dressing room hook.
Shoulder pads? 
Gold zippers? 
ALL over the dress? 
Was I with me 10 minutes ago 
when these decisions were made? 

But then compromise is the name of the game when the dresses go on:

Maybe purple doesn't wash me out because call me crazy 
if this floral print isn't slimming! 
Who needs to wear a bra? This is just adorable! 
So what if I look like an Aztecan rug? This drapey neckline is flattering! 

But something jars me, waking me up. What am I doing? These dresses are:


I just want something appropriate. I don't want to be a focal point. I don't want a hush to come over the room when I walk in because I am wearing something so, well, so room hushing.
No way. 

I just want something situationally suitable that makes everything on my person look like it has held up (or being held up--I found the shape wear section of TJMaxx) the test of time.

And I want it to be cheap.

Is that too much to ask?



Because I bought something purple.

And floral. 

With shoulder pads. 

Don't you DARE hush if you see a woman walk in a room wearing a purple floral dress with shoulder pads anytime in the near future!

You don't know the 
wars that have been waged, 
battles fought, 
injuries nearly sustained, 
compromises made. 

No, do the woman a favor and when she walks in the room. Keep right on talking, stopping only to give her a wave and a quick thumbs up to her


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