By Jackie Papandrew
It's funny how one's self-image tends to stay frozen in time. Your mind picks out a moment when you looked your best, sometimes a moment that occurred many moons (and many pounds) ago, and it goes through some kind of freezing process that crystallizes this warm memory into a mental ice cube tray where you can periodically pull it out of the figurative freezer of dreams and lick it with the symbolic tongue of delusion just to make sure it's still there.
Or something like that.
For my husband, this frosted fantasy is more than 20 years old and revolves around his balmy bachelor days when he drove a little red sports car and spent his weekends logging hours as a private pilot. He keeps a picture of himself -- I call it his Top Gun picture -- from those days. He's leaning against that sports car, handsome and dashing in a flight suit, with his airplane in the background. The car and the plane are long gone, and the flight suit would require a considerable amount of alternation if he wanted to wear it now (sorry, dear), but I know my Tom Cruise clone still sees himself as that studly single man.
My flash-frozen picture of myself occurred about the same time, back in my skinny season, when I first wore a Little Black Dress. For a woman, the LBD is far more than a piece of clothing. It's a canvas on which she can showcase her stylish self, one of the most important items in her wardrobe. And once a woman, say one like me, has felt beautiful in this essential item of apparel (a la Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's) , she tends to assume she will always look good in it.
So with this assumption firmly in mind and having not worn an LBD for quite a while, I went shopping recently for a new little black dress to wear to this year's holiday parties. I had my teenage daughter and my mother in tow. And I stumbled upon a shocking scandal, one that should have every woman in the country up in arms.
Someone is sabotaging the LBD. Someone, probably the same folks adding lead to children's toys, is removing fabric from the fundamental fashion frock and skewing the sizes. These pernicious people have a lot to answer for.
I tried on dress after dress in what I thought would be a quick quest for a trendy, yet timeless LBD. I started, naturally, with the size that I know fits me, the size that has fit me for years. But for some reason, the dresses in my size failed to flatter my figure. In fact, each terribly tight toga refused to go much past my knees! I was astounded, and then annoyed, as my size-zero, soon-to-be-disowned daughter snickered and rather cruelly implied that my love for a certain Italian dessert could have contributed to my size shrinkage problem: ("Oh, tiramisu," she said mockingly, "how could you?")
My mom, trying to be helpful, began bringing me LBDs in larger sizes. I refused to try them on.
"That's my size and I'm sticking to it!" I said heatedly, pointing to one of the discarded dresses.
A warm flush of embarrassment began to spread over my face and threatened to melt that icy illusion in my head.
That's when I realized I was the unwitting victim of a vast LBD conspiracy. These people are trying to make me look fat and send me into the little black dress doldrums. But I won't give them that satisfaction. I want my original size back. I'm calling my congressman.
© Jackie Papandrew 2007
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Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer/editor with experience in a wide variety of publications, including newspapers and magazines, technical materials and corporate communications. She also writes a syndicated humor column.