It was prayer request time, the same way every other Sunday School class of my childhood had ended, and I was trying to think of something innocuous to say. The previous week after my dabble in hyperbole, my teacher had prayed earnestly that God would calm my fears of dying a gory, cancerous death from my head cold. The rest of the 7th grade girls had nearly hyperventilated with snickering. This morning though, they simply looked bored. I wished I could master the look too, but I suspected it required mascara and/or cleavage. Also, it’s pretty hard to look bored when your bangs are pointing skyward in defiance of your otherwise flat hair (and all known laws of fashion).
L, the femme fatale of the group, finally raised a manicured hand. “I’d like to ask for prayer for my little brother,” she purred. “He’s struggling with jealousy because my parents won’t let him wear jeans to church.” She rested her hand just so on her stonewashed flares and fixed me in a catty stare. The other girls followed suit.
I wanted to die. Even a gory, cancerous death via head cold would have been preferable to sitting there facing down the 7th Grade Girls Sunday School Coolness Squad. I knew as well as everyone in the room (excluding our oblivious teacher perhaps) that L’s prayer request was a work of artisanal malice handcrafted just for me, but how was I supposed to defend myself? I was, after all, wearing a dress.
The last dress I had seen on any of my contemporaries had been two years before, and it had been a chic little number with barely-there sleeves and tailored lines. My dress, on the other hand, was designed with shoplifters in mind. The skirt alone could have concealed a bin of foursquare balls, the sleeves already resembled 3-liter bottles, and let’s not underestimate the potential of a colonial-era collar billowing over a repressed chest. In that moment, I thought what I had thought a thousand times before with all the determination of an Uncool Kid who has no other recourse: When I grow up, I will NEVER wear dresses.
I haven’t quite stuck to my guns on this one. My husband’s suits hang in front of a handful of sequiny formals I wore in college (and should probably relinquish to the dress-up bin), and I invested in an unpretentious sweater dress before job interviews last winter. However, dresses for church? Well, here’s a typical Sunday morning scenario from pretty much my entire adult life:
I open up the closet whispering, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.
I take out a dress reminding myself, This one is actually cool; normal people wear things like this.
I put on the cursed garment mumbling through gritted teeth, Lo, I will fear no dresses for I am now a grown woman.
I look in the mirror.
I throw the dress into the back of the closet and put on jeans.
Something’s been shifting for me lately though. Maybe it’s having enough birthdays under my belt that I finally feel more like a bona fide grown up and less like a ten-year-old in high heels. Maybe it’s accepting my girls’ absolute refusal to wear pants because skirts are so pretty, watch me twirl, wheeee! Maybe I finally have the magical amount of distance from that Sunday School room with the catty stares and the loathing of all things poofy. Whatever the reason may be, I spent my birthday money this year on something that would have shocked my 7th grade self—something whimsical, orange (really, is there any better color in the world?), and decidedly dress.
Folks, I wore it to church this morning…
…and I didn’t even cry.