Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coal Miner's Prom Date

Nothing says "A Wedding on Walton's Mountain" like the dress I wore to someone else's prom. It was a long time ago and I probably should have apologized to my date for looking like an escapee from Warren Jeffs' Yearning For Zion Family Incarceration Facility and General Store, but shopping with my mother always did tend to urge me into regrettable impulse purchases. My dress was a prime example.

Somewhere deep in the many reorganized photo albums my mother has squirreled away in my childhood bedroom closet is a picture of my washed out self posed with my date who was really a nice guy and didn't deserve to have his senior prom immortalized with a girl who had all the pallor of someone who had recently donated blood. Add to the horror the fact that I had no one to counsel me about what a bad idea it was to choose a dress inspired by my lengthy and ill-advised "beige period" when my naturally pale skin had not yet accumulated enough pigment to distinguish me from a tall glass of Cream of Wheat. The dress was long and it covered up all my lady parts and that was good enough for my mom. I'm just fortunate that it didn't come with a matching bonnet.  Because my Southern Baptist mother might have insisted on it. Bless her heart.

This is not my dress, but it is made by the same virginity preserving label and it has many of the same features.

I can't unsee this! Ever!! Damn you, Gunnesax!!

You know how you can get all nostalgic about the past and start daydreaming about certain articles of clothing that you wish you could still wear although they are no longer something you could shoehorn your ass into fashionable? Me too. There's the silvery gray corduroy jumper that I wore in middle school. The mulberry colored jersey top I wore with the matching hip huggers from the 5-7-9 Shop. The oatmeal sweater with the roomy pockets and the black and putty ESPRIT blouse that I wore when I first started teaching. I'm sorry I threw that last item. I could probably still make it work.

It goes without saying that I do not miss that prom dress. At all. Not the way it looked all limp and uninteresting on the hanger or how ghastly and I looked when I was wearing it. Oh sure, it might come in handy if I moved in next door to Loretta Lynn and she needed something to see her through until laundry day. Maybe if I decided to audition for the Grand Old Opry or a starring role in the broadway production of Willa Cather's "O Pioneers!" But not until then.

I really thought that my own prom the following year would have provided the chance to make fashion restitution, but it didn't. I had a new boyfriend by then who was away at college and could not make it back for my big event. He helpfully granted permission for me to ask his friend, Alan to escort me. Alan was a short, gopher-toothed young man of good intentions who wore his bell bottomed jeans "flood style" with hideous man-sandals and wool-ish tunics and who sprinkled his conversation with cringeworthy terms like supposably and pacifically (As in: I never got to wear a decent prom dress that looked as though it was made for me, pacifically).

The lady or the tiger? The memories of my first prom marred by a terrible dress OR my own special night made worse by a date with Samwise Gamgee?? I chose the former. And that, as Robert Frost so wisely said, has made all the difference.

What article of old clothing do you miss??

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Swing and A Miss: Failed Blogposts I Never Actually Wrote Concerning Embarrassing Stuff I'd Rather Forget

One would think that with the wealth of free time I currently have on my hands ---summer vacation from teaching, kids no longer living at home, a clearer mind thanks to a brief respite from stress-induced impulse drinking...and...a laptop at the ready---I'd have written a long novel's worth of carefully crafted posts all published with the appropriate title Magna Carta Holy Grail but Kanye West totally scooped me on that front. However, it must be said that Kanye's reasons for using such a lofty title probably have more to do with the enormity of his ego and mine is just a symbolic accounting for the many, m-a-n-y times a day I thought about writing, said I was going to, and then... did not.

Oh...the promises I made to myself all those times I avoided potential parent contacts by hiding under my desk I was too busy with work related nonsense and now I've let myself down again! I don't think I'm alone when I say that the creative juices really do flow best when you're drunk you're too busy to do anything worthwhile with the ideas they bring forth. And I had some ideas, though upon later examination they seemed mostly to follow an unsettling theme illustrating my majestic lack of common sense at various junctures of my life. Such as:

*The semester I was a "walk on" on the college track team because I was somewhat faster than many of my non-runner friends and because my experience with actual athletes was...how we say...non existent? I thought that I, with my whippet-thin body and "Elmo arms" that had lifted nothing heavier than a dictionary,  would have no problem in being equal to everyone who had been running competitively since the invention of movies with sound. The willingness to have faith in oneself is important, but it is clear that it must also be grounded in some kind of reality. Obviously, I had not learned this yet. Oh, the hubris of youth!

Which is why during the inter-squad meet I didn't know enough to wear shorts under my thin white sweats, which were to be removed before we got into the starting blocks. I had to run in the sweatpants, which looked awkward not only because I looked like a white balloon in motion, but also because my bright pink underwear could be seen through the pants--not by only by those running nearby, but also from any low flying aircraft overhead. Also? I was the last one on my squad to cross the finish line.

*There was the time that I--in a fit of young teenage angst--possibly over dramatized the familial dysfunction that was going on inside my childhood home and wrote a lengthy and detailed letter to the advice columnist at Seventeen Magazine. Cut to a few months later when I get an envelope addressed to me from the magazine and a letter inside advising me and the fellow maniacs in my family to seek professional help posthaste. This was problematic for several reasons: 1) My mother did not allow me to read the magazine because--choosing to believe as she did a literal interpretation of its audience--decided I had to actually BE seventeen in order to be a legal member of its target demographic. Therefore, she could never know that I had written them in the first place, which was difficult since I was not of an age where I got personally addressed mail at my home unless it was my birthday.  2) I couldn't remember exactly what I had said (Had I exaggerated or not??) in the letter that had touched off the clear concern this stranger had for me, and 3) I was confused and afraid that--just perhaps--my family was crazy and now someone outside our family unit knew and would tell everyone.

It is my personal belief that the origins of my perforated gastric ulcer from three years ago can be  traced to the moment immediately after I received that letter.

*There was also the time when, in a fit of good will for my fellow human, I was so moved by a lonely young man's Dear Abby letter that I decided to write him at the address he provided. Because he was lonely and sad. And (You've got mail!!) he wrote back!!!! From his cell at the state penitentiary!! Did I know he was in prison when I wrote to him?? Incredibly, the answer to this question is yes.  Because I had been so chatty about myself in my letters about what I did and where I lived, my new jailbird pen pal began talking about what I might do to help him reacclimate whenever he got out. You know...maybe my dad could get him a job or something!?  This unforseen turn of events would have necessitated having to tell my very strict father (Whom we sometimes referred to as Captain Von Trapp.) that I had helpfully provided an incarcerated man with information about our family. That I had thought writing to a prisoner AT ALL was a good idea would have seemed to them beyond the scope of understanding. Let alone that this idea, apart from all other worthwhile things in my life that I should have followed through on, was the one that took root inside my hormonal mind.

Tragically, there are plenty more stories like this and I suppose they could serve as an embarrassing reminder of how stupid I was and for how long I remained that way. Or I could decide to focus on the fact that I did eventually turn into a relatively normal person with a miraculously amazing family and a decent work ethic and not a walking cautionary tale. People grow up and they get smarter in the process. Most of them, anyway. But they, like me, have a secret list of horrific missteps to remind them of when this wasn't always the case. Even today, and just to be safe, I never wear white pants...with anything.