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.