Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Dress

“I don’t think I can wear this,” I said to Julie’s reflection in the mirror.

“You look beautiful in it,” she reassured.

“It’s – too revealing,” I countered, running my hands from waist to thighs. The smoky-gray dress was a smooth and feather-light blend of cotton and spandex. A wide cowl neckline draped off-shoulder. The remainder of the dress from long sleeves to mini-skirt was a sheath, ala Sharon Stone. I felt naked.

“Wear it with leggings,” Julie said. “Let me get some leggings and a belt.”

Legged and belted, I stood before the mirror once again. “It is beautiful,” I agreed.

“You look incredible,” she echoed. “Who woulda thunk that body was under those clothes.”

“I just don’t think I could ever wear this.” My heart fluttered, the first sign of anxiety rising in me. I put the dress on-hold and promised to return with friends.

“So thank you for being the safe space for me to wear something like that,” I addressed the Wisdom City Team from the stage. “You know, during my Partnership Course I assessed my wardrobe and said, ‘It’s all scrubs and sports bras.’”

A collective laugh rose from my audience; they knew me as a jock.

“I made a decision and said it out loud,” I gestured pulling words from my mouth, “If clothing isn’t sexy or feminine, I’m not buying it.”

“One of the things I’ve done since Partnership is periodically go into an upscale boutique and let the ladies dress me.” And that is how I came to stand before a mirror, dressed in a sheath.

“You know, I am all about control. And that serves me in my work; right? You want me managing your diabetes or your care after open-heart surgery. But in other areas of life – it can be problematic. In letting others dress me, I have to give up control. They put me in that dress; I woulda never picked that dress. It was mentally and emotionally uncomfortable to wear and it’s daring and provocative and fun.”

I paused to regroup. I had not intended for my sharing to be a Partnership Course commercial but the opportunity dangled like low hanging fruit. “So thank you for who you are that I could wear that. Today you’ll have an opportunity to register for the Partnership Course. I LOVED my Partnership Course. I encourage you to register and maybe you too, can wear a dress like that.” They laughed as I left the stage.

My friend Kara caught me in the bathroom. Kara is my size, a pint-sized, athletic female with olive skin and dark, doe-like eyes. Everything about Kara attracts me: her soft voice, compassionate nature, neatly tailored clothes, big smile over straight, white teeth, her dark, doey eyes.

“Thank you for sharing that,” she said. “I am going out on a first date next week and I can see that I could really play with it. I could get all femmied-up. Giving up control is a big one,” she nodded, grinning. “ And I would have to let someone dress me because I don’t know how to pick out a dress.”

“Cool,” I said. “Let me know how it goes.”

“I will,” she beamed.

Something about the dress tugged incessantly, it swirled annoyingly in my head.

“Well isn’t the fun of it in the agreement that you have a great body?” Mickey asked.

“I suppose.” I was unconvinced. The approval of others is not a great motivator for me.

Wade dug deeper, “Something around it being unsafe; look there.”

It simmered on the back burner for a week and I stirred the pot in retelling, revisiting and remembering. Fully baked, it popped up abruptly like a Pop Tart from a toaster.

See no touch. See no touch is a phrase that has followed me through life. Did it come by way of instruction from mother to daughter when shopping? Was it passed like unalterable genetic code that informs who we are? It lives in both out-loud conversations and internal dialogue. It suffuses me, is me, I am see – no touch. I love being wanted and – I am unavailable. You can’t have me. I let you think you can touch me but you never will – ever! See – no touch.

So while the dress seemed like such a departure, and was to some degree, it is more of the same. See – no touch.

I am unclear what is next to do, perhaps nothing but recognize the ubiquitous layers of protection that surround me. For when I can distinguish that, a life beyond protection is available if for just one moment.

Last night, at the Wisdom Course Completion Evening, Kara reported off. A boutique-angel dressed her in “A strappy, frilly, and femmie dress. I felt so exposed,” she touched her chest and brushed her clavicles, “But it was so beautiful. My date loved it. Thank you for inspiring me to do that.”

“Thank you,” I said, “For letting my words inspire.” We hugged, and not for the last time, before departing.

Interesting are the things we employ to insulate ourselves from others: bands of body fat or covers of cloth, cigarette stench or societal stratum, an air of aloofness or chockablock calendar. Clothing was originally designed as protection from the elements. I often use it as armor and camouflage.

While I am not advocating nudity, when I feel naked I am out of my already-always, automatic and unconscious walkabout. Life is edgy and unpredictable there. It feels unsafe. And in my very protected circle, unsafe is the scenic lookout over a brave new world.

Naked good.


  1. I love this piece. I love how authentic it is and how it makes me think about how I use clothes. I love the Pop-Tart image.

  2. Mahalo for starting the dialogue Allison! And t/u for allowing my writing to provoke thought.