Life in the United States of America, has posed many challenges, most of which, I would like to think, I have overcome. However, my current challenge comes in two parts. In September, I shall be the very proud, 'Mother of the Groom', which in itself, is not a challenge. I am always very proud of my son (and daughter - never give one without the other!) and I am delighted at the prospect of having such a beautiful, talented, and sweet daughter in law, (and son in law - never give one without the other!) My two-fold challenge is, a) buying a dress for the occasion and, b) obtaining the flat stomach and invisible hips, although not necessarily in that order. My new metaphor is not, what came first, the chicken or the egg'. but more to the point, the dress, or the diet. Do you buy the dress to fit once you have obtained the body beautiful, or do you obtain the physical appearance first?
My recent influx of. 'buy one, get one' complimentary birthday emails, caused us to frequent our local restaurants with more regularity than normal, during the last week of June, and first couple of weeks of July, to take advantage of the special offers. Of course, we didn't actually save any money as we would not have spent it in the first place, had we just eaten at home. The old adage of, 'let's try some place different tonight; how about the kitchen?' became reality. Due to the heat in Texas during the summer months, I do tend to order salads, more often than not, but many places include complimentary muffins, cakes, and worst of all, pies. Marie Callender's, is well known for its pies, and when I ordered a meal that included said pie, I was informed that I would also get an extra piece for my birthday! The question, 'what pie do you want for here, and what do you want to take home', was almost answered by me pointing to the pictures, and saying, 'will my bum look bigger in the cheesecake or the key lime?'
Keeping off the sweet stuff has not really made a great deal of difference, as I have found that as I have grown older, my taste has changed, and I prefer an appetiser to dessert, (although chocolate still reigns supreme!) and my intake of sugar has subsided. This being said, the dresses in the 'posh frock' sections are mostly very hugging, and unless you are built like a piece of planed two-by-four (I would say twig, but they, too, have bumps), the dress is not going to fall as it should. For someone who is slightly vertically challenged, straight is best, but whereas the body is curved, the dresses are not.
All this being said, actually finding a suitable dress, whether it fits to perfection or not, has been an uphill task. I am plagued with the axiom, (as well as full hips) where are all the fabulous dresses I saw when I wasn't looking! The fun doesn't stop there! As I mentioned, the summer has come with a vengeance, and the choice of outfit worn on a weekend is dictated by the heat index. I have several sun dresses in my wardrobe, but they are all without sleeves. The words spoken to me by my doctor, who treated me for a mild skin condition, (thankfully trivial,) are constantly reiterated in my mind; 'The Texas sun, and English Roses do not mix!' Therefore, when I am out and about during the day, I do tend to have my shoulders covered, and wear a wide brimmed hat. My choice of clothing, however, has made me feel slightly like Julia Roberts, in Pretty Woman, ineligible to buy anything in the 'special occasion' category. My white skirt, with capped sleeved blouse, flip flops and sun hat are suitable for buying groceries, but not, it would appear, for designer wear browsing.
Shopping online is all well and good, but due to the aforementioned lack of flexibility in the gown, I needed to make sure of my size. My first trip was to Neiman Marcus, as the Internet browser had suggested this store had a reasonable amount of merchandise to satisfy my need. Surprisingly enough, I was not accosted by a salesperson, the moment I stepped off the escalator. It was not until I was almost within touching distance of the rails did someone approach. A young man, in a very nicely fitted suit, came and wished me a good morning, and inquired as to my reason for visiting (or invading) his exclusive domain. I replied that I was looking for a long evening dress, for a wedding. His immediate response of ushering me away to the 'sales' section of sun dresses, was met with what I can only now refer to as, 'The Look!' I will take a short moment here to digress (of course!) and tell a story of a lady whom I knew, who perfected, 'The Look', and who achieved absolute power by using it on a regular basis. I am unsure if I have mentioned this before, so I apologise for reiteration if it is the case. When I was at primary (elementary) school, the school Secretary, Mrs Scott, was the most terrifying person I had ever seen. Standing probably about 5'10 (although it seemed like 8 feet), with a rather matronly build, ('well-built' I think was the polite term) and her greying black hair pulled back into a French pleat, (minus the, then fashionable, beehive) it was not her strong, yet almost high pitched, voice that scared us but 'The Look', that she achieved, staring at us from over her half mooned glasses, which perched on the end of her nose. Mrs Scott could stop the headmaster (principal) rising from his chair, with 'The Look'. If we were in the vicinity of her office, even the turn of the door handle, from the inside, would cause us to run at full speed, risking the wrath of her bark for breaking school rules, rather than be victim of 'The Look'. I was, on occasion, given the enviable task of taking the register back to the school office, and remember being stared at, by the larger than life being that exited the room leading to the corridor, feeling as if I was literally stuck to the ground. Scared as I was, Mrs Scott taught me that looks really can kill, or at least paralyse!! The young man at Neiman Marcus would probably have fainted had he been the recipient of Mrs Scott's Look, but instead he had the 'cover version', which it would appear, was good enough! Having gained his attention, I repeated that I had come to look for a dress, for a wedding, and was interested in a couple of designs I had seen online. Attitude adjusted, he directed me to the collection he had in my size. Hypnotism could not have worked better, I am sure, as the attention I was given was fit for a queen. I was offered refreshment, and constant assistance. Unfortunately, the gowns were not to my taste, but it did give me an indication as to size and style, as well as how much hip reduction was necessary. I learned new words, such as 'special occasion gowns', which would, I hope, stand me in good stead for the future. I was invited to revisit next month, when the new stock arrived. Mrs Scott was renamed, 'The Immortal Mrs Scott'.
The varying degree of service has depended on the store. Macy's and Dillard's sales staff were very pleasant, despite my unwillingness to participate in their latest, 'save the.....' fund. It is obvious that books are judged by their cover, and I am so tempted to walk into certain stores, laden down with bags, and repeat the line from the above mentioned movie; 'You work on commission, right?....Big mistake!' I do not like to play the same 'judging a book' game, but do think people in glass houses should not throw stones. My second unpleasant experience was when I entered another large department store, beginning with 'N', (I am vaguely protecting the not so innocent) and was ignored by three, not so busy, post middle aged sales ladies. Clearing my throat, and 'excuse me', was considered quite discourteous on my part, and was ignored. In their defense, their conversation may have been very important, and paying attention to a vagrant in a white skirt, capped sleeved shirt, flip flops, and floppy sunhat, would not save the country from financial disaster. In my defense, I doubt that they were talking about fiscal politics, unless 'Summer Taylor', not returning to using her maiden name after her divorce, despite her ex-husband taking out an order to demand she did so, would have made a difference to the national debt! However, hacking as if my lungs were about to collapse and shouting, 'does anyone have a difribulator', caused a slight pause, and they lifted their heads, as if there was an annoying gnat flying around. Finally, the fate of Summer Taylor's last name was put on hold, and I was reluctantly given the opportunity to ask my question, to the lady who had pulled the short straw, which was presumably to match the length, (or not) of her skirt; 'I am looking for the special occasion dresses?' What sort of special occasion was her first comment, followed quickly by the second, 'we have the a lot of day wear on sale'. Giving her 'The Look', I very sternly said that I was the 'Mother of the Groom', and required the special occasion evening wear, not a sundress. 'You want long?' was said with an indication that this would, for me, be a fashion faux pas. 'I do', I replied, without reciprocation, and repeated, 'I am the Mother of the Groom!' Pointing in the general direction of the back wall, where the garments were housed, she left me to fend for myself, and went back to her colleagues. Her ambivalence, made me question whether, after retirement, Mrs Scott had moved to the USA and taught a resistance class! The slight laugh, and definite 'hmpf', as I left, unsatisfied with their collection, did little to instill enough confidence in me to ask if they were expecting more stock, or if it would be possible to order items in 'my size'. It was as equally as insulting to an episode I encountered when I was in England, when the sales assistant, with her back to me, announced that I looked, 'fabulous' and that the outfit was 'made for me', as I exited the changing room in my own clothes, asking for the next size up! Obviously, I expect too much!
This weekend our experience was far more pleasurable. Much as I do not like to advertise, or rebuke, as it is not the purpose of my posts, I will say that anyone who lives in Austin, and is looking for a dress, for any occasion, (yes, including sun dresses,) Julian Gold, on 6th Street, has the most pleasant sales staff, who have the utmost respect for all who enter their establishment, attired in floppy hat or not! Mrs Scott's lessons did not need to be reactivated, and there was no talk of Summer's revoking her right to keep the memory of her failure! I did not find a dress, but tried on many, the best of which caused me to repeat the phrase, 'stop me from being my mother', as it was scarily similar to the one she wore when she was Mother of the Bride. Friendly advice, rather than abject criticism was given as well as an invitation to return on Tuesday, new stock day, as well as a list of sizes for the stock available. At last, Status Quo!
Alas, my search continues, for the perfect fit, and time and tide waits for no man. Each bite of contraband food seems to stick to my lower regions like glue, and no one stocks an 'off the shoulder marquee'. However, I believe that somewhere, out there, is the ideal outfit, and all will be good on the day! Of course, finding a pair of shoes, and accessories will be .... another story.