What could an innocent wish to buy a little white dress have hidden behind it? Some ugly horrors, as it turns out. I'm sure you have seen my posts on the internets yesterday about taking a day off to do nothing, to decompress after finishing the first draft of TUBE. I walked out of the house blank, with nothing in mind, got on the bus, and ended up downtown looking for a little white dress I so wanted for the summer. Nothing bad about it, right? Why can't a girl look for a dress? It's perfectly natural.
Well, it was only the surface.
I walked into the first store that yawned its open doors as soon as I stepped down from the bus. It happened to be H&M. I didn't even think about dresses, I just decided to look at "stuff" because I haven't looked at "stuff" for so long, being cooped up in my writing cave like a chicken producing 2000 eggs a day (words, that is). I flipped through a few things, and then my eye fell on something white. I pulled it out. A write dress. Perfect. Exactly what I had in mind. And only $35!
I thought, "I will just try it on, take a picture, and continue on my way." You see, this month I'm about $340 short on cash flow to make my monthly income budget. This is the first time I'm short since I started writing 3 years ago. Somehow I always managed to wiggle out of things financially, but the Amtrak Residency trip has derailed my schedule, and I wasn't able to prep The Badlings for publication and, therefore, didn't have an influx of cash I usually have when I launch a book and lots of people buy it at the same time. As a result, Royce is covering up for me to get me to the next month.
I tried the dress on and posted online the picture you see above, and everyone everywhere screamed that I should get it. I started thinking. "Okay, it's only $35. Where can I get $35? I can figure out a way. Can I?" I started doubting myself. I texted Royce. He, being the sweetheart who knew I didn't intend to buy anything, said it's no big deal, I can find a better one later. So I put the dress back on the rack and exited the store and continued on my way doing nothing. Except it wasn't nothing anymore. I started trying on white dresses in a store after store after store, forcing that first one out of my head and not being able to.
I started reasoning with myself. "I don't have the money for it right now." Then I thought, "Well, it's sort of see-through, so I will need new panties for it, thongs, actually, so no butt lines show, and I don't have money for that either." Then I thought, "And my bag is old and the wrong white shade, so I will need a new bag, and I can't afford it." Then I thought, "Fuck, I will need new flats too! To match it! Forget it." But it kept nagging me.
Here comes the juicy part, behind which a gory slimy tangle of childhood fears hid in waiting, like some hideous cockroach with ten heads and its intestines half-squeezed out and dangling from a tumefied cleaved belly.
I was exhausted from all this walking. My right leg is one inch longer than my left one, and I can't walk for more than 2 hours without starting to endure a searing pain in my right hip. I'm supposed to wear shoes with soles altered for this difference, but I refuse because they look ugly. Ignoring the pain, I walked all the way back to H&M and tried that white dress on again. Yes, it was lovely, and I wanted it. I calmly took it off, hung it on the hanger, put it back on the rack, and left the store.
What I did next was bizarre. It didn't seem bizarre to me at the time, but it did this morning.
I took another bus to Capitol Hill (instead of going home), installed myself in one of my favorite restaurants, and devoured a great steak dinner (I haven't eaten anything all day except a doughnut) THAT COST ME EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY AS THE DRESS WOULD HAVE.
I felt it was justified. I was hungry (hunger and being hungry is a whole another bucket of dirt I carry from my childhood). I deserved a good meal on my day off. We had a food budget. I should be fine scraping $35 out of the food budget. I nodded my head.
But I felt awful, like a soggy rag on a mop. Like a piece of trash. Familiar anxiety started settling in. This type of anxiety was what drove me into depression and suicidal thoughts in the past, the type that would start by twisting my insides and make me want to throw up, then proceed to my brain and hold it hostage in some kind of a delirious self-loathing state that would escalate to the need to hurt myself, first with words, then physically. I did slam my head into the wall on occasions like this, and pretty hard, too. I tell you, this is no laughing matter.
I thought, "What the fuck?? All of this over a fucking dress? Am I insane???"
Turns out, I'm not. I got home, relayed all this to Royce who was strangely very quiet and just nodded to everything. I went to sleep. I understood his reaction to my emotions in the morning. He has seen me through worse. Both of us being survivors, he knew exactly what I felt and also knew he wouldn't be able to help until I saw it for myself, because I would reject it. It was my protection mechanism.
It all boils down to suppressed wishes.
Since I can remember myself, I was ridiculed and yelled at and admonished, especially when I wanted something irrational and ridiculous. One of those things happened to be wanting to look pretty. To look like a pretty girl. My mom would make me these amazing dresses (she is a fashion designer, well, she hardly does it now) when nobody could buy anything like that back at the time in Soviet Union. It was the same fare of ugly frocks for the rest of the Russian girls. My mom is very talented, so my dresses were gorgeous. The other girls in class hated me for having dresses like that. They also hated my haircut that was unconventional, they hated it that I was cute, they hated the fact that the handsomest boys in class loved hanging out with me. My grandmother on my father's side also made me pretty dresses, dresses made from my father's old shirts (the one you see in the picture above). And yet because I have experienced the trauma of being sexually abused, whenever I exhibited any kind of "promiscuous" behavior in adults' eyes, I was harshly reprimanded. Dresses became a fixation for me. I wanted them, and I despised them.
At some point later in life I decided to look like a boy. If I was an ugly boy, nobody would want to touch me or to ridicule me. But that wish for dresses and being girly stayed, only I suppressed it. Also, there was one inconvenient aspect to dresses. Anyone could reach under the skirt and touch my inner thighs and the sensitive spot between them through my panties. I wanted to once and for all stop all that.
I decided t banish dresses from my life.
I fought against this decision. I have tried on occasions to buy some, wanting to look feminine, but everything I bought was either too bulky or too boxy or too sporty looking. Plus, I got used to denying myself things I wished to have a whim. It was irresponsible. It was childish. It was forbidden.
And that is what happened yesterday. I simply wanted that white dress, on a whim. It made me look very feminine, desirable, and seeing that picture I posted and people's reactions, I got scared shitless. And I set it aside.
It blew my mind this morning, the psychology behind this. I think writing Seamstress, a novel about a girl who turns into people whose clothes she copies, will uncover some more horrendous things I'm harboring inside.
Here is what I will tell these fears.
About 30 minutes ago, before starting to write this blog post, I called H&M and had them put that dress on hold. I will borrow $35 from Royce and will get it today. Fuck it that I don't have the bra or the panties to wear with it. Fuck it that I don't have the right shoes or bag or cardigan to throw over in case it gets cold. Fuck it all. I want it. And I will have it. If for no other reason than to put it on, twirl in front of the mirror, and feel fabulous, and hang it back on the hanger.
Would you look at what just happened? I got rid of an old nagging fear. I wrote it all out. It made me feel awesome. It made me feel myself. This is what writing does for me. It's healing me. It's better that therapy. It's letting me reclaim my life back.
And all because of a little white dress.
Amazing, isn't it?
I love you. Thank you all for the compliments you gave me yesterday. As soon as I will publish this post, I will board a bus and go downtown. I WILL OWN IT TODAY.