I bought a little black dress for my 40th birthday. My daughter was 10, my son, 7. When you have children that age, especially if you have been home full-time for a while, and gotten involved in your kids’ school, you will probably find yourself in a large community. Who may want to have a party. Small children will do that to you.
We held mine in the backyard. My family paid to have it catered, and for a new lawn. As a present, not random extravagance. I bought pink lawn flamingos as decor. We set up a full bar in the French doors that led from bedroom to patio. All us parents had a wild time. 70 people’s worth of a what counts as a wild time in the suburban world in which I live.
I didn’t know Mrs. Montana. I still don’t. But on the day I bought this dress, she and Joe had been shopping. She stood in the store as I modeled my potential purchase. She was remarkably beautiful, and completely unassuming. Amused. I worried the dress was too short. “”Oh,” she said, “No. Shorter.” “But it’s my 40th birthday, ” I said. “Then even shorter,” said Jennifer. By this point Joe had joined her. He stood, tall, quiet, and shy, by the rack of dresses. I don’t remember whether he agreed on the hemline. But the party was wild fun. And I loved this dress and its little pearl “B” until threads began to pop out of the little black boucle.
8 years later, my daughter was in the senior fashion show at her high school. This is the same high school where I did battle with trophy wives over my son’s graduation. A secret battle that I am sure no one but me noticed. The fashion show was a similar situation. I had nothing to wear. Nothing appropriate.
The morning of the event I went shopping in a rush. That was the year I traveled to China 7 or 8 times and I had no time for shopping. Mistake #1. I went to Wilkes Bashford, a bastion of too-cool-for-school. Mistake #2. I listened to the fabulous salesman tell me I looked fabulous in a fabulous Monique Lhullier when I knew I didn’t. Mistake #3. The most pernicious. Never let anyone convince you of something you know to be untrue.
Oh, I dressed up and wore a pair of excruciatingly painful, beautifully beaded, Rene Caovilla pumps, along with some inherited diamonds, but I had wasted my not-inconsequential amount of money. I was too uncomfortable to win that particular private battle. Battles, even when fought on foreign soil, have to be won on one’s own terms.
I do better in structured clothing. I like darts. I’m sturdy that way. The dress didn’t suit me. What a crime. To buy an expensive little black dress I rarely wear. And shoes that hurt so much I have given them to my 22-year old daughter.
If only Jennifer had been there. I’m sure she would have told me the truth. All I know now is that I do, in fact, need a new little black dress. Need being, of course, broadly defined. After all, navy blue has its appeal.