Once upon a time, a little girl (every little girl) put on a Cinderella dress and suddenly she knew she was Cinderella… the same way you knew you could run faster in new sneakers.
She didn’t look in the mirror and think “Hang on – I don’t look animated AT ALL. It’s still JUST ME inside this magical dress.” No – that’s not what happens.
When you’re four or five, you spread the skirt and twirl in joy at becoming someone beautiful. Any minute now, bluebirds are going to fly in and tie a bow around your suddenly-slender waist. Bliss!
Something happens in the intervening fifty-five years. I’ve acquired demons since then – the most visible being sugar. But the oldest, most clever, most cruel demon never goes away. Call that one “self hate.”
When you look at a photo of yourself and wince, ah – the original demon is grinning.
I went to a gala last night at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. For once, I dressed up in gala clothing. I had a huge, full skirt (with pockets! Forget the demons in your life and hear this: Pockets will never let you down!!) with a train. It was off the shoulder. Navy blue – which looks so nice with diamond-ish accents. It was a Cinderella dress.
Well, I thought it was.
It turned out I required both Mammy AND Prissy to wedge me into this creation. I needed a long-line bra that I couldn’t hook myself – and the corseted back needed at least four hands to secure, and none of them could be mine (which faced the wrong way to be useful).
The long train was stepped on repeatedly.
The boning that held up the strapless-ness was off-the-rack; no nimble tailor nipped and tucked so it actually fit. Instead, the boning in the strapless bra united with the boning in the gown to create a sort of breast plate that hovered in the general proximity of my torso without actually touching me where a gown is supposed to touch the body. The boning did, somehow, manage to repeatedly stab me in the groove between biceps and triceps. By the end of the evening I couldn’t even close the car door once I got in.
As for the pretty diamanté sandals with the thin ankle straps? Torquemada clearly invented them. By the time we sat down for dinner, I had a circlet of red, angry flesh above my ankle bones. Since I wasn’t able to buckle them myself while so heavily boned, I knew that if I took them off, I was doomed to being barefoot all night…
…and the acres and acres of skirt would only not be too long if I stood on those two-inch heels.
I lasted about ten minutes. Then I took the shoes off and spent the rest of the evening barefoot in a tent in November, hauling up great handfuls of overlong skirt so I could move anywhere.
“Look out, Pru,” one of my charming dinner companions said, “someone broke a shot glass over here. I’m worried about your bare feet and the glass.”
So kind, I thought – but I’d rather walk through crushed glass than put those shoes back on again.
And then he kindly took a photo. “That dress is a romance novel in the making – you’re wearing a bodice ripper! Let’s take a photo for the author picture in your first book!”
What a sweetheart. Okay – let’s do it!
He took the photo, beaming at me with love and affection and approval, and handed me the phone back.
OH DAMN. Who is that old fat hag?? Surely I’m not going through the labors of Hercules to look like THAT??
And the original demon chortled happily, feeding off my fierce self-doubt.
A gala is a terrible place for people with body image issues. Everywhere I looked, slim women were effortlessly drifting about in stunning gowns. I was filled with envy and self-loathing. And I thought – ah, but if we had to run a mile, could THEY? I can. If we compared cholesterol levels, who would be doing better? If I was lying on side-by-side gurneys next to that graceful beauty and there was only one liver available and the transplant team had to decide who should get it based purely on evidence of an attempt to live healthfully, wouldn’t my general muscle tone give me an edge over a woman who clearly had no stamina nor determination to improve her health?
It’s not fair that some women are just naturally slim. I’ve been working out all my life – and working out with effectiveness for three years – and I’m still thick and plodding. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.
Next year, a tunic, leggings, and boots. That’s where I look and feel best.
It takes a quarter-hour to get into this rig, and assistants – and cinching really doesn’t help. As Mammy said – you done had a baby, Miss Prudence – you ain’t never going to have no 15-inch waist again. Yeah. Let’s blame it on the kid.