The Black Dress

by Marinka on May 7, 2012

I am just back from attending the Mom 2.0 Summit in Miami and I am filled with ideas and inspiration and margaritas. One of the many wonderful things that happened was that Laura Mayes, the Mom 2.0 superhero invited me to participate in a reading about black clothes. It was a perfect fit for me, because I love black clothes, dresses especially, so I was thrilled to participate.

Here is the (master)piece I read:

Of course I like to wear black clothes. I am a normal American woman, after all, which means that I aspire to dress like an Italian grandmother.

Besides, I despise color. Probably because I grew up in the pastel-crazy 80s and saw too many Easter-egg wannabees. I didn’t want any part of it. My parents didn’t understand. Black is for funerals, they would tell me. But as with so many other things during my high school years, I knew better than they did. I was a black dress visionary.

I like black dresses and I don’t mean the LBJ dress. Sorry LBD. Why does it have to be little? The bigger the better, the more the merrier, supersize that black dress.

It’s true, I love the black dress of size and I don’t need an acronym to claim it. All I need is to think back to my senior year in high school. Because that’s when we were allowed to come to school in costume for Halloween and unlike some of my classmates who arrived outfitted as nurses and cheerleaders and cats and cat burglars, I wanted to be Hester Prynne.

That’s Demi Moore from The Scarlett Letter, when she was happily married to Bruce Willis.

Much to my parents’ relief, I wanted to be Hester less because I identified with the marginalization of a woman who lived outside of the social mores of patriarchal Puritanical assholes but rather because I really liked the idea of wearing a long black dress without having to go through the inconvenience of becoming a nun.

My poor parents tried to be supportive and took me Huge Black Dress shopping in Greenwich Village since Hester Prynne wasn’t a popular costume at Party City in the 80s and also Party City hadn’t been invented yet.

I found the perfect black dress—it was black and long and I loved it but it cost $40. If you were in utero in the 1980s, by the way, it is now past your bedtime, so Goodnight Moon to you, but also $40 was the price of a mid-sized car back them, so my parents were understandably reluctant to put that amount of cash down.

“It’s a classic black dress,” the saleswoman encouraged us. “She’ll be able to wear it anywhere for years.” I nodded maniacally, indicating that I would devote the rest of my life to wearing the dress.

It was starting to sound like a wise investment and my parents were sold. Well, the dress was sold to my parents. In any case, there was a sale.

Unfortunately for them, it turned out to be less of an investment and more of a “$40 they’d never see again” because after I embroidered the adulterous A on it, it seemed less of a “classic dress that I could wear anywhere” and “more of a stunt dress that I could wear to declare my Adultery, or, perhaps, Alcoholism.” It’s kind of shocking how few occasions there are to wear that kind of dress, especially if you’re as dedicated to clean living as I am.

In other words, I wore that huge black dress once. None of my classmates knew who I was supposed to be (and believe me, if you ever have to explain your Halloween costume, you’ve flunked Halloween) although some English Department teachers chuckled with what I assumed was admiration, but I can’t rule out sympathy.

But I loved it. Because walking to class in a long black dress, I felt more comfortable than I had ever felt in my Sasson jeans and Polo shirts and I knew that one day, black dresses would be my wardrobe staple. Although perhaps without the A on it.

That was a lesson worth learning early on.

One year ago ...

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly - The Culture Mom May 7, 2012 at 12:30 am

I was so glad to hear this IRL. A woman of black myself, I could totally relate.

Reply

Alexandra May 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

Oh, the life of a movie star: I LOVE Blog con Queso.

And anyone lucky enough to hear your writing?

Win Win for everybody.

At least in my universe.

Black is my favorite color for clothes. And even when someone told me it made me look like an old lady shopping at a farmer’s market, I couldn’t disagree…because I am an old lady shopping at the farmer’s market, and I believe in dressing appropriately.

See what you just did here? Win Win twice here for me today.

Going to tweet this out…let others in on the good feeling you get when you come to Marinka’s problem solving blog.

Reply

Awesome Dude May 7, 2012 at 8:47 am

We all have our origin in our childhoods.

Reply

tracy@sellabitmum
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 9:25 am

Oh I wish I could have been there to hear you read this.

Reply

Anna Lefler
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

This is fabulous, Marinka – I love it!!

XOXO

A.

Reply

Wendi
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

Everyone knows it was much cooler to wear a blue cardigan with a huge “L” on the left side of it in high school.

Reply

Jen Anderson
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

If you have to explain your costume, it may be because you’re surrounded by the culturally illiterate. High school seniors who can’t recognize Hester Prynne? They all deserve 10 points off their English grade for that.

I was once at a bar in my old Brooklyn neighborhood on Halloween and there was a woman dressed as Tippy Hedrin from The Birds – grey suit covered in black birds with blood dripping from the “wounds”. And I was the only one who got it. People were like, “um, sexy librarian?” And this is why I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore.

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Marta
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 11:52 am

I am currently wearing all black minus red sandals. I in fact am always wearing black or perhaps shades of gray would be more accurate. Though I do not wear the book on me.

Reply

anna see May 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

i flunked halloween once too– i was a chia pet.

would have loved to have heard you read this!

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Carinn @welcometothemotherhood
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm

It took me FAR too long to appreciate the sophistication of all black. I embraced the neon of my childhood like a lost puppy found on the street corner. Which is to say I nearly smothered myself in color. And not just color. Prints too. Floral, polka dot, plaid, argyle.

I still can’t say no to stripes. But my recovery is coming along well and I have learned to love black. I wish I had heard this when I was in high school. You truly are a visionary.

Reply

deb May 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm

too bad we didn’t go to highschool together. i think we would have been friends. my “A” would have stood for “anonymous!” my son flunked halloween one year by dressing enthusiastically as Louis, the trumpeter swan from E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. i thought it was an awesome costume, but i should have warned him: i’m a halloween drop-out.

Reply

Suzy Q May 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm

And suddenly, your text about “the black thing” makes sense.

Reply

The Flying Chalupa
Twitter:
May 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I’m really jonesing for a black dress. Although it’s 90 degrees outside right now, so I’m going for black pants. MUCH COOLER.

I loved this Marinka – so well written and funny.

Reply

Ann
Twitter:
May 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I wish I could’ve heard you read this Hester.

In fact you didn’t even pray loud enough for me to hear at Erma, and now I feel cheated.

Reply

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