I have this dress that I bought in high school, meaning I’ve been wearing it for about 10 years. Not 10 years straight–I’ve worn other things in between. It still fits me exactly the same, is remarkably resistant to fading and stretching, and fetches an alarming amount of attention from strange men.
I want to clarify that, although I often write about odd things strangers have said to me, I do not think I’m any great shakes. My self-esteem usually resides somewhere around the 4th subterranean level of the office building that is my spiritual being. When I first greet myself each morning in my toothpaste-flecked bathroom mirror, I’m like, “You again,” and not in a sexy, winking way. No matter how many real-life Stuart Smalley audiobooks I listen to, I’m never going to strut around town like I’m the star of my own video for The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket.” That’s why it’s all the more remarkable that this dress garners so much attention.
It is, as the copy for a catalog aimed at middle aged women would say, figure flattering. It highlights my waist while hiding my XXL birthin’ hips (side note: I’m confused as to why In Style and the like are always giving me instructions to downplay my hips, when biology/evolution have taught me that men are instinctively attracted to such signifiers of fertility. So fertile, guys!). But other than that, there’s nothing that stands out about it. It’s black, it doesn’t show an untoward amount of skin, and it’s the opposite of flashy.
And yet! On one occasion at Miami, that haven of frat-boy-bro-douche culture, a guy yelled out of his truck window, “Hey, I like your dress!” That marks the only time a man has ever yelled something from a truck that wasn’t a sexual come-on.
A couple of months ago as we got ready to go out for coffee, I warned H, “When I wear this dress, strangers tend to talk to me.” He didn’t seem to believe me.
We ate coffee and breakfast pastries uneventfully. No one said anything weird to me. “Have I lost it?” I asked myself. Then, frightened: “Did I ever even have it?” Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the dress lost its magic. Maybe I can’t keep wearing things I bought when I was 16. Maybe I need to go shopping more often.
As we walked home, a man shuffled past us, wearing the uniform of crazy street people: an oversized t-shirt.
“That reminds me of that itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini,” he muttered.
This was yet another time I’ve been rendered speechless. I resorted to nervous laughter, a really terrible defense mechanism I’ve been using ever since I was a kid. But it didn’t matter–he’d already barrelled past us and was halfway through the church parking lot.
To recap, what I wore was not:
3. Yellow polka dot OR
4. A bikini
I turned to H and hissed, “Now do you believe me?” Getting weird comments since 2001: that’s my dress!