Riding the Bus to School: Black Tie Optional

When we were kids being raised Jehovah’s Witness, my mom used to excuse us from school on Pagan Holidays. like Christmas parties, Thanksgiving Day cafeteria specials and anything remotely involving Halloween. We had to sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance. All in all growing up Jehovah’s Witness took the heat of childhood and turned it up to a broil.

Though I wanted to be an obedient daughter, the rules of adolescence were clear: Thou shalt not be different. I became a genius at blending in. I stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. I would sign up for bringing Jolly Ranchers to the Valentine’s Day party (candy hearts would’ve ratted me out). But I could never pull off the ultimate: Attending the school Christmas Party. My mom understood the draw of this ultimate of Pagan events and was on DEFCON 1 alert status during December. No figgy pudding would penetrate the fortress of our home.

In the 7th grade I circumvented a note sent home informing my parents of a Christmas program that would be occurring one day at school. The flyer made it sound like quite the festive affair and I knew I was going to have to be smart about this. Sneaking out of the house with a wrapped ornament and Jolly Ranchers would not be easy. Then there was the question of what to wear to such a momentous occasion.

Around 1974 my sister Joan had attended her high school prom.  Prom’s were frowned upon but when you reached “the Age of Reason” in my home we were allowed to make our own decisions on these matters and, to a man, we cut and ran straight to the nearest Pagen festivity once we became Reasonable. So, Joan, who was 7 years my senior, had a navy blue dress with giant pink and white flowers on it. This. This would be my Christmas Party dress. Probably because I had not yet reached the Age of Reason, I failed to make any conscious note that Joan was taller than me and had boobs. Also it didn’t occur to me a formal gown might be overkill for an 7th grade daytime school activity.

Weirdly, I eluded my mother, boarded my school bus wearing the formal gown, went to school and came home. I don’t recall whether or not I had a good time or if my gown had been the smash hit I expected it would be. This, I learned later, is what the physiologists call, “selective recall”.

It wasn’t until years later, as adults, I told this story to my sisters. Instead of the sympathy and empathy I was expecting to receive from them I got Piermaned. First rule of being a Pierman, you do not show your vulnerabilities. Like a Wildebeest on NatGeo, you will be taken down by the pack. And I was. Everyone remembered Joan’s navy blue dress and they could all picture my prepubescent form stepping onto the bus that day. They told the story to my husband, before he was The Husband. I feel sure it was to test the depth of his love. When he heard the story, he didn’t laugh. He almost cried.

“Oh, honey. You wore a formal gown to school?” He muttered it over and over.

The story is in the annals of Pierman family history. The Formal Gown has been told and retold to the generations. Someone will start it, and others will join in. They can never tell the whole story without laughing. The Husband always just looks at me with giant sad eyes and wipes the spit that hits his face from an hysterical sputtering sister.

Last week I bought a robe du soirée (an evening dress) at a flea market. Because it was pretty, that’s why. I’ve been Googling all sorts of phrases like “Gala events in Paris” and “What to wear to the opera”, “Paris black-tie events” and nothing comes up. I’m stymied. Channel? Cardin? Louboutin? Where is the Royal Court when I need them? Frustrated, I begged advice from The Husband. Where can we go where I can wear my pretty new dress? He let’s the idea percolate for awhile and then finally said,

“Why don’t you wear it on the City bus?

I know he thinks he Piermaned me but even if I’m a Wildebeest, he doesn’t have the power of the pack with him this time. I think I could pull it off.

21 Comments

  1. Wow how have I missed out on these conversations over the years? This is the first time I have heard this story, but on your behalf I think I have selectively blocked out a lot of childhood memories. I did awhile back say that I was the one that tapped Dorothy on the back at the meeting and she fell between the seats and got stuck Joan of coarse got in trouble for that because I was the quite one and mom didn’t think I could possibly the one to do such a thing

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    1. That’s a great story! I should tell it someday on my blog. Oh, yes. The story of the formal dress is an oldie but goodie. I can’t believe you e never heard it!

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  2. I love that dress and would wear it with pride to a nice restaurant or even a dinner and dance soirée. I think even for the post-wedding do would be quite an eye-catcher: just imagine twirling around in it. If that doesn’t take your fancy, how about you organise a 1950s theme party and invite some friends round? Enjoy and have fun. 👜

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  3. Ahhh….Christmas. I always felt so helpless. “How do I convince Mrs.Pierman to let you have Christmas?” I found my ways 😉 but I always wanted to invite you over for turkey and to church for singing carols. 🎄

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    1. Once I became Reasonable you are the one who introduced me to “real” church. I still remember some Bible scriptures because of Meadowood Baptist! And you and I did figure out a way to celebrate Christmas. Remember? I bought you a book of Lifesavers like, 6 years in a row for Christmas (I was not very good at gift-giving yet).

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  4. Although not spurred on due to any particular familial convictions, I had a burning desire well before the “age of reason,” or any other reasonable age wanted a tuxedo. I think it had sonething to do with Bond, James Bond. Eventually I succumbed at a quite unreasonable age and long after the only 3 times I ever needed a tux. I dare not even now tell my sisters for I’d consider myself lucky if they were just indifferent. And they are rarely just indifferent. Cute dress by the way. If your hubby needs a tux to go with it………

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    1. Haha! My hubby has a tux somewhere in a closet at home. It is very outdated and doesn’t fit him well but he can’t bare to toss it out. My sisters are rarely indifferent either. I wouldn’t even mention your tux crush to them based on my bus dress experience.

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  5. Ah I wiped a tear over that. I was laughing so hard. Sorry. I wore the same dress to my 9th grade prom wher I got the worst kiss of my life. I broke up the next day and gave back the drop Wear the dress. Impress. Make a lasting memory. Even if it makes you laugh.

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    1. Oh my gosh I wrote a whole blog on “the drop” and decided not to post it. Maybe I will resurrect it. Where is that dress now? It should be enshrined somewhere!

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    1. Oh, thank you! So many people are feeling sad for me and I just think it’s funny. I have no memory of feeling awkward at all (though probably I should!). Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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