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Princess

12 Dec

On Saturday night, me and my husband went to the annual Christmas gala put on by my employers. While I always get excited about the prospect of going out for a meal at a place that does not supply paper menus and crayons, there is always a bit of angst involved in the preparation.

For a start, we have to arrange childcare and hope that the almost-six-year-old drama queen won’t have a hissy fit when he discovers that we’re going out without him. When we fail to find childcare because it’s the Christmas season and apparently, baby-sitters have lives too, we have to hope that the kids won’t tie their elderly grandmother and great-aunt to a pole and dance around them waving sticks and chanting ominously.

Once the kids are sorted out, we move on to the more difficult question, one that has plagued women all over the world since the very beginning of time.

What do I wear?

Where shopping is concerned, my philosophy is this: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do the following day? In that vein, I went shopping for my dress at lunchtime on Friday, one day before the event. And yes, I had to get a new dress. No, I couldn’t wear something already in my wardrobe. My clothing size has changed so many times over the years, in both directions, that I don’t actually have anything that fits. So, off the store I went, fully expecting that as usual, I would have to settle for something I didn’t really like. The perils of being a habitual last-minute shopper. Someday I’ll learn. Maybe. Probably not.

Anyway, the shopping expedition went a lot better than expected. As soon as I walked into the store, I saw a chocolate brown creation that looked very nice. I never thought chocolate brown was really my colour, but some intuition told me to give it a try. By some miracle, they actually had the dress in my size. I picked out a couple of other dresses to try on just in case the chocolate brown one didn’t work out, and I retreated into the change room. I briefly wavered between the chocolate brown dress and a red one, but in the end I went for my initial instinct. Apart from the fact that the brown looked better, I already had shoes that would go with it. I wasn’t wild about the idea of dropping over a hundred bucks on a pair of shoes that would shred my feet by the time dessert was being served.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, when we were getting ready to go. My makeup was applied and my hair was as done as it was ever going to be. The husband was off putting on his glad rags, and all I had to do was put the dress on. As I slipped it over my head, my eight-year-old son – so sweet and innocent in his autism – wandered in. He tentatively touched the shiny fabric and smiled. And then – to my astonishment – he started helping me accessorize. He grabbed my shoes and helped me put them on. He dug around in my dresser and came up with the necklace I wore with my wedding dress. He handed it to me and said, “Put the necklace on, Mommy.” It wasn’t the necklace I had been planning on wearing, but when your mostly non-verbal autistic child gives you a full, appropriate-to-the-circumstances sentence, you don’t sneeze at it. I put the necklace on, and would you believe it, the kid was right! The necklace looked way better than what I had been planning on.

My little fashion diva stepped back to survey his handiwork. He gazed at me and said a single word: Princess.

We had a great night. The food was good, we had very nice people at our table, we danced and partied and had fun. The dress was a hit, and my some miracle, it was even comfortable. There are many moments of the evening that I smile about as I relive them. Walking into the ballroom hand-in-hand with my husband. The many laughs we shared with the people at our table. The outstanding wine and the food that was so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat it.

But in the end, there is one memory of the evening that I hold close to my heart, that warms me from the inside every time I think about it.

My beautiful son, looking at me with those big blue eyes, calling me a princess.

At moments like that, my cup overfloweth.

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Do I Really Need A New Dress?

15 Dec

This coming Saturday, Gerard and I are going to pretend we have a life and go out for the evening, sans children.  Said children will be home with their grandmother, no doubt driving her insane with their boundless energy that never runs out. They’re like the Energizer Bunny, those children.  They just keep going and going and going.

Gerard and I will be heading downtown, to some fancy hotel, to attend the Christmas gala dinner being put on by my employers.  There will be prizes, good food that neither of us had to cook ourselves (and that no-one will have to clean up after), dancing, and out-and-out fun.  I am looking forward to it.  Gerard is looking forward to it.  My mother-in-law is looking forward to an evening alone with the kids – at least, that’s the story she’s bravely putting forth.

And yet I find myself with a dilemma.  This is a dilemma that men can never seem to quite grasp the severity of, but that women all over the world can identify with.

What Do I Wear?

I posed this question on Facebook, and it sparked a fairly lively debate.  Most of the people who responded – all women – were of the opinion that I should buy myself a new dress.  The general consensus was that I work hard, I’m always taking care of other people and not enough care of myself, and that I deserve to pamper myself a little and buy something nice.  There was one lone dissenter – a man.  To protect his privacy, I will not state Kane’s real name (whoops, did I just say that out loud?), but I will say that I am impressed with his bravery.  How many men would jump so fearlessly into a discussion that women are genetically programmed to feel strongly about?

I love Kane.  He is a good and dear friend, and I give him credit for the fact that I actually survived the intense loneliness and off-the-boat neediness that I experienced when I first came to Canada.  Unlike many people, he actually does possess common sense, and he has the integrity to be honest instead of just saying what he thinks people want to hear.  I value Kane’s opinions a great deal.  when he expresses an idea that is contrary to what other people are saying, he’s not trying to be difficult.  He’s trying to help.

And that is why, when Kane posted a reply asking if I really need to spend money on a new dress just for one party, I actually did stop and think.  After all, he has a valid point.  There are other things that I could be doing with my money.  I have kids to buy Christmas presents for, a wedding to plan, groceries to buy, telephone bills to pay.  A new dress should not be high on my laundry list of priorities.  And besides, I have a closet at home that I can barely get into because it’s so chock-full of clothes.  There must be something in there that I can wear.

But.

But, but, but, but, but…

Even as the logical, rational part of me (and yes, despite what many people think, there actually is a logical, rational part of me) was making a strong case for saving money and digging something out of the scary depths of my wardrobe, there was another part of me that was pitifully saying, “But I want a new dress”.  Talk about conflict.  Talk about indecision.  For a couple of days I was flip-flopping between “Have to have a new dress” and “Cannot afford a new dress”.  How I wish I could just win the lottery and not have this problem.

By the time I got home from work yesterday, I had come to some kind of compromise with myself.  You see, I have this skirt.  A really nice long black skirt that is perfect for occasions like this.  What I would do, I decided, was buy a nice top with bling to go with the skirt.  That way, I still get to wear something new, but without forking over the money for an entire dress.

Ten minutes after I got home, that plan went right out the window.  What happened was this: I opened the mail.  And found a cheque from the Government of Ontario. For $335.  I will say this in words, because it somehow adds more weight.  Three. Hundred. And Thirty Five. Dollars.  The Ontario Premier has been sending out these “sorry I screwed you over with the sales tax” cheques, and I got enough to be able to say, “Screw this, I’m getting a new dress!”

So at lunchtime today, I wandered over to my favourite clothing store in the shopping mall, and emerged with a lovely new dress that I got on sale. The way I see it, everyone wins.  I get to go to the party in a new dress.  And I still have an extra $200 in my bank account that I didn’t have before, which means I can splurge a bit on Christmas presents for the ones I love.

And I’ve contributed to the economy by doing a bit of spending.  Just doing my civic duty.