Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Still Playing Dress-Up

I recently sat at a table, in a gaggle of women, sipping Cristal as
a limo waited for us outside a hot L.A. nightclub. It was Keren's
birthday. We were celebrating in style. But all I could think about was
“The Love Boat.”

It wasn't just the
Julie-the-cruise-director short-shorts that all the women at the club
were sporting. (Apparently, camp counselor gear passes for evening wear
these days. Who knew?) I had “The Love Boat” sailing around my brain
because I wasn't entirely comfortable in my outfit

I was 6, Sarah's mom set up a “dress-up box” for her – and by
transitive property, me. Boas, hats, high heels, anything that Sarah's
mom didn't want anymore, she'd toss in the box for us to play with. I
never understood exactly how she chose which clothes to toss in the box
for us, but they almost always seemed to be evening wear.

dress-up box was a powerful thing, capable of transforming and
transporting us. Donning our mysterious, grown-up garb, we'd go from
being giggly 6-year-olds to embodying our ideal of sophistication,
glamour and sexiness. Which, at the time, meant that we'd pretend we
were guests on the “Love Boat.”

Ah, Capt. Stubing and his
lucky crew! To young Sarah and me, there was not a more enchanting,
romantic, sartorially significant existence than that of the women who
graced the Pacific Princess.

The way they'd sweep into the
ship's dining room in floor-length evening gowns, dripping in diamonds,
poised to fall madly in love – I still swoon just thinking about it.
Sarah and I wanted nothing more than to turn “older,” and take to the
open seas with our consorts and our fabulous clothing.

In the meantime, we'd have to make do with the dress-up box.

loved playing make-believe, but I was always acutely aware that it was
a game. I was swimming in those clothes, after all. Half the time, we
probably looked like participants in a very strange potato sack race.
Eventually, though, we just knew we'd grow into those clothes – and
into the mature women we saw at the Captain's table.

I'm finally “older,” but those clothes aren't any more natural on me
now. At the club the other night, I fretted that my skirt was too
dated. For one thing, it covered my butt, which meant it was by far one
of the longest skirts in the bar. I also doubted my choice of earrings.
And my Spanx struggled to suck in that enormous dinner we all wolfed
down earlier.

Too self-conscious to get up from the table,
I watched some of the other women walk by – the ones who looked dressed
to kill, and the ones who looked as though they had killed their own
dress. It struck me that many of us – maybe most of us – still feel
like we're playing dress-up when we wiggle into formal gowns and
nightclub wear.

No matter how good they looked, women
tugged at their hems and applied coat after coat of lip gloss. They
shifted their weight in a silent complaint about their high heels.

this really all there is to adulthood? I think the reptilian part of my
brain still believed that truly “grown-up” women dress in formal wear
at all times and always look perfectly put together. But reality caught
up with me that night: The women on “The Love Boat” probably slipped
into sweatpants at the end of the evening.

I got home after
2 a.m., peeled off my heels and snuck as quietly in the house as I
could so as not to wake up Hubby and Zev. When I woke up the next
morning, I found my clothes piled on the floor. They reeked of
cigarette smoke and sweat, and they looked more like they'd been thrown
away than removed.

Looking at them, I smiled. All these
years later I figured out how Sarah's mom chose which clothes to toss
in the dress-up box. It probably had nothing to do with fashion or how
worn out the clothes were. It was probably much more psychological than

At the end of a night on the town, she probably
tossed the outfits that made her feel as though she was wearing
somebody else's clothes.

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