I did see the innocuous little line slipped unobtrusively into the middle of the e-mail invitation for my sister’s “not-quite-40″ birthday gathering a few years ago – the line that read, innocently enough, “After confirmation of your attendance, you will receive further information regarding the event.” Sure, I SAW it, but I guess my eyes skimmed right past it. And why wouldn’t they? After all, the date, time, and place for the party were all provided within the rest of the e-mail’s wording, so what more could I need to know that would be of any real import? Unconcerned, I responded for the two of us with an enthusiastic “Yes!”, added the event to my calendar, and thought nothing more of it.
Until later, when she elaborated on the “further information” bit she’d dropped oh-so-casually into her invitation.
I should have known it would be costumes.
As a bit of background, my sister makes her own costumes – beautiful creations that start from bits of nothing and evolve into something truly, spectacularly, magnificent. She volunteers (and is sometimes even hired) for events where her costumed presence is a feature of the celebrations, posing patiently for countless photos with fascinated onlookers. She sometimes costumes others for local theatre productions.
She is a costume-making, costume-wearing, costume-loving COSTUMER.
Me? Not so much. I love and admire what she does, and have even been known to hang around with her at some of these events (dressed in black from head to toe, of course, and quickly stepping out of the frame when cameras are produced), but for the most part I would sooner die than draw attention to my physical presence by wearing something outlandish or comment-worthy.
I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that she’d want to have a costume party for her birthday… actually, I’m kind of surprised that she hadn’t had one before then! And really, it was a brilliant move on her part, the way she snuck this little detail past her unsuspecting guests – keeping them in the dark (without them even realizing the lights were out) until after they’d committed to attending the party and couldn’t very well back out without looking rather silly.
Oh yes, brilliant.
Never one to leave anyone hanging, though – particularly in a situation brought about by her own wiliness – she sent over a big bag of costumes for us to try which included a pink concoction of satin, frills, and gauze for me, and a velvet-and-gold French courtier-style outfit for Peter.
At first I thought I’d be fine with it – I’d don the princess/goddess dress and head confidently to the party – but as the date drew nearer I started getting more and more uncomfortable with the idea, until the day before the party when I finally tried on the costume. I looked in the mirror, hated what I saw, and started to panic. “I don’t think I can do this. Maybe I just shouldn’t go,” I said tearfully. Peter tried to talk me through it, coaxing me to verbalize why I was so very anxious about dressing up for this party. I tried, but the building pressure of weeks of worry about the whole costume thing finally exploded into a burst of weeping.
Alarmed, and scrambling for something, anything, that would stop me from crying, Peter did what he usually does in situations such as this – he said something funny.
“Would it help if I wore the dress?”
Startled, and distracted from my tears, I let out a sort of giggle-sob… and almost immediately my mood was lifted.
Peter was just getting started, though. Determined to prove that he was willing to do whatever it took – including make himself look ridiculous – for me to feel ok about going to this party in costume, he jumped up and squeezed himself into the pink dress, and the evening dissolved into hysterics… this time, though, of the funny kind.
He would have worn it, too, if it hadn’t been so snug across the chest as to constrict his breathing. But I think at that point it wouldn’t have mattered what he wore – the spell had been broken, and I was on my way to lightening up and getting over myself.
I ended up wearing the courtier outfit, accented by fancy facial hair I drew on with an eyeliner pencil – my sister dubbed me “Puss In Shoes” when she saw me – and you know, it really wasn’t so bad. I’m not going to lie – I still felt rather self-conscious (particularly with the feeling that anyone I chatted to was transfixed by my curly penciled moustache) – but it was a step in the right direction.
Though I would have loved to see him dressed up as a princess, Peter went as a tacky socks-and-sandals-wearing tourist.
And we had a great time.
I’ve loosened up quite a bit over the past couple of years, and I credit my sister’s nudge (push?) in the costume-wearing direction, Peter’s intervention and unique brand of support, and my own decision to attend the party – in costume – for getting me started. I still love black, but have actually started introducing colour (sometimes brights!) and even patterns into my wardrobe. I’ve been brave and posted photos of myself (such as the ones above!) that previously would never have seen the light of day. And I am trying to teach myself that you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
The other day I was at the drugstore and impulsively purchased a pink feather boa from their Halloween display, with the idea that it would be good for an upcoming event with the girls.
And who knows? I might even wear it.
Inspired by NaBloPoMo writing prompt for Thursday, October 3, 2013:
Will you dress up for Halloween? What will you be?