Yesterday, I was out looking for a nice new shirt and tie for The Rev for Easter Sunday. The weather was nice; the shops weren't crowded; no shopkeepers were too pushy; and for once, I didn't mind the experience too much. In fact, I was so much enjoying myself that I thought, "Maybe I'll just take a look at some dresses." Although I hate to shop, I do so love a beautiful dress.
I shop so rarely that I had no idea which stores sell what, so I made the mistake of walking into a store that was quite obviously meant for women twice my size who think, "Can't have enough ugly stretch polyester." What a horrible place. I mean, shouldn't women who are twice my size get to have beautiful clothes from which to choose? Then I walked into the store meant for girls half my age who must think, "Brightly-sequined gold halter tops and skirts that reach just below my pubic bone are so classy." Finally, I found a store that was selling dresses.
Most of them weren't all that great. What is this infatuation with muted, ugly colors like browns and grays? I didn't think it was possible to turn some of my favorite colors like green and purple into what looks like a dress with ink and puke splotches on it, but it is. Finally, just as I was about to give up, though, I found it: the perfect dress. I can pair it with a flowered, three-quarter sleeve sweater for Easter morning (because it's Easter, which means it's going to be 30 degrees), and I'll be able to wear it all summer long. I chose to ignore the hideous little voice in the back of my head saying, "Don't buy this. You know you should never buy such a dress. You will ruin it Easter morning. You can't afford to be wasting money like that these days."
You see, the dress is white. All white (well, it does have a black belt, but the rest is pure white). I LOVE white as much as I love dresses. In fact, I could probably go from loathing to loving clothes shopping if there were such shops as "All White All the Time." I love the crispness of it, the cleanliness of it, the way it has always seemed to suggest endless possibilities to me. I think of backyards covered in snow with nothing more than maybe a few light bird tracks on an early winter morning. I think of cakes covered in glistening white icing, disguising what flavor lies beneath its tiers. I think of blank pages open to the imagination. Is there any other color that so begs both to be left alone and to be disturbed?
However, I want to know: who can wear white? I'm not talking here about wearing white in a 1980s-color-me-beautiful sort of way, no one advising others that "white just does nothing for those peach undertones in your cheeks." What I'm talking about is the woman who is capable of putting on a white blouse without discovering, a few hours later, two impenetrable orange spots gracing the left breast pocket. Or the guy who can put on a pair of white jeans and not have some kindly youngster stop him in the street to say, "Hey, dude, I think you sat on a blueberry bush or something."
Certainly not I. And yet every single year, I am drawn to buy myself some new article of white clothing. Every single year, I promise myself while in the dressing room, thinking I've never looked so perfect in something, that I am going to be extra, extra careful while wearing it. I won't sit down. I won't lean against anything. I won't eat. I will avoid all modes of public transportation. I will don this article of clothing and spend my day doing nothing more than standing around in a room that has been thoroughly swept, vacuumed, mopped, and white-glove tested. What will I do in this room? I don't know. Perhaps learn to meditate in the mountain pose or something.
As soon as I get this article of clothing home, though, I forget all such promises to keep it in pristine condition. I mean, it's so pretty, and I want others to see it. No one will see us if we're only doing mountain poses in bare, spic-and-span rooms. That's when catastrophe strikes.
I know. You don't believe me, so let me tell you about last summer's purchase, which I actually bought on sale at the end of the summer season the previous year. It happened to be a beautiful white skirt. Those of you who know such things would be able to describe its cut and style. All I know is that it sits just at the right spot between by stomach and hips, falls at the right point on my legs, and flairs a little at the bottom in just the right way. It has flowers embroidered in white and what I think is called eyelet lace. It's light and airy and flippy, and it's the sort of thing that, as long as you don't study all your flaws in a mirror, can make you feel very pretty while you're wearing it.
This skirt knew before I'd even gotten it home that I would not treat it as promised, and it began to loathe me for it. When I had promised to treat it with such care and respect, it had been envisioning all the ways in which it would teach me to worship it while it stood upright in my mountain pose with me. Hymns would be sung. White (non-smoke, non-drip) candles would be lit. Prayers would be offered up to it.
But I brought it home, wore it a few times, and then put it in plastic up in the attic for the winter. It stayed up there seething and inventing invisible stain magnets, which it very cleverly sewed into its lining. Thus, when I brought it back down, early in the summer, thrilled to have it back, it smiled smugly to itself.
I discovered the skirt's hidden magnets one evening when I sat in our library, lap desk on my lap, composing a ghost story. I had been wearing the skirt all day, careful to keep it covered while eating and avoiding getting it anywhere near dust or dirt (not an easy feat in my house). I got up from the chair and walked out to the kitchen to refill my water glass. While in the kitchen, I looked down to find two sizable green ink splotches just above the skirt's hem.
Yes, I'd been writing with green ink. Yes, I was using a fountain pen that has been known to leak. Yet it hadn't. My hands were completely ink free. My notebook pages had no green splotches on them, nor did the chair, nor did the lap desk. No, it seems the ink had just been mysteriously drawn from the pen to the bottom of my skirt with no first stops on hands or paper or desks.
Miraculously, because I am no good at removing stains from clothing, the ink washed off the skirt without much trouble on my part. I patted myself on the back for having the foresight never to touch the bottle of indelible ink Bob bought (or at least not touch it unless I happen to be wearing all black). The tomato stains the magnets drew out of the fridge on the day I wore the skirt and ate not a single tomato were not quite so easy to remove. And now that skirt's been up in the attic for another winter. Do you think I'll manage to get at least one more wear out of it before the magnet pulls some black tar off the street?
Meanwhile, it's a good thing it's too early in the season for me to have swapped winter clothes for summer clothes, and it's safely stored one floor above the new dress. I certainly don't want the skirt teaching the dress any of its tricks. I'd like to get through Easter morning, at least, without looking down to find egg yolk stains weaving in and out of the buttons on its front.