I have recently discovered the latest in a list of annoyances caused by being a … a … a … (I still choke on the word “widow”) … alone.
As I write this post I am preparing to board a plane this afternoon for San Diego … Widows Camp. There. I said it. I am forcing myself to go despite the almost unbearable amount of anxiety it is causing me. I know, I know … I am going to meet with people who may actually understand me and all the shit I’ve gone through, and I should not be anxious about it. But sometimes knowing how I should feel is just not the way I actually do feel, and this is one of those times.
(That is not me, btw. But it demonstrates quite well how I feel right now.)
There are plenty of reasons why I am so anxious about attending the camp. Where do I start? Flying alone, finding my way from the airport to the hotel without my husband, having to walk into that first room by myself and feeling like all eyes are on me, worrying that I will spend the weekend silent because if I talk I may burst into tears. The list goes on. But the biggest reason for my anxiety is actually the part that is intended to be the most fun …. the Masquerade Ball.
The Masquerade Ball, so lovingly planned by the woman who founded the Soaring Spirits Organization and intended to provide everyone with an evening to dress up and get out and have some fun, is causing me untold amounts of anxiety. I am not a dress up kind of girl at the best of times, although I would comb my hair and throw on a nice blouse for my anniversary dinner each year. Basically I live in yoga pants and tank tops – they’re comfortable and quite frankly I don’t really have anywhere to go that requires anything fancier. Until now.
The Masquerade Ball is on Saturday night, and while there are several reasons I am anxious about it, here’s the top four:
1. I don’t know how to dance. Ben was an awesome dancer. For a big, rough looking man he sure had some good moves on the dance floor. “Ben” was synonymous with “rhythm.” I, on the other hand, never managed to advance much beyond the old 1-2 side to side shuffle. (Unless I am drunk and surrounded by those who have known me forever and will love me no matter what. Under those circumstances I am an awesome dancer. And singer. Just sayin’)
2. I don’t know anyone. Not knowing anyone raises those old teen anxieties of standing on the sidelines at the high school dance. Yes, I know that many people arrive at camp without knowing a soul and people get to know each other before the Saturday night event. Knowing that does not ease my anxiety, because secretly I fear being the first person to attend this camp who doesn’t make any friends, and therefore will be the high school student standing alone on the sidelines at the dance.
3. I don’t really know what to wear to a masquerade ball. It involves a dress. The last time I wore one was at Ben’s funeral, and I looked terrible. Yes … terrible. I’ve seen myself on video and it wasn’t pretty.
4. I don’t own an appropriate dress. I do have a sundress that I have worn on one occasion when it was simply too hot for anything else, but the only pair of shoes that go with it are flip flops. I don’t imagine that flip flops are appropriate for a masquerade ball.
Ever the practical person, I decided to try to ease my anxieties by dealing with each one head on to see if I could find some solutions that might help me to relax.
– Reason 1. The only way to fix this problem would be to take some dance lessons, and there wasn’t enough time. So, the answer to this problem? Try to look busy on the sidelines for awhile until I can make a discreet exit.
– Reason 2. Literally cannot be fixed until I arrive. No solution for the time being so I may as well put it out of my mind. Or just keep worrying about it. Either way.
– Reason 3. Google told me that people wear fancy costumes and hold masks up in front of their faces. I love the mask part (no need to apply make up) but the dress part? Oh my. Still, now that I know the answer I suppose it is technically no longer a problem.
– Reason 4. The answer to this one was easy … go and buy an appropriate dress.
I decided I could not go and buy a fancy gown like the ones that Google says are worn at Masquerade Balls because it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, but I figured I could find something slightly fancier than a sundress. I spent about 7 hours in two different stores trying on gown after gown after gown and gagging at myself in the mirror. When I was finally sweating like I had just finished a 10K from all the changing of clothes, I happened to see a plain black dress hanging on a hook. Long. Simple. Rather elegant. Comfortable. Affordable. And, hopefully with a little help from a pair of Spanx (and possibly dimmed lights) … it would fit. Hallelujah!
The sales lady packaged it up and off I went, stopping at one other store to buy out every pair of Spanx they had along with seven different bras that I thought may possibly work under this dress. (This was not cheap, I might add). Finally I arrived home, squeezed myself into some Spanx, pulled on the extremely awkward strapless bra and stepped (almost excitedly) into the dress to see how it all worked.
There was no one to zip me up.
I was enraged. Did you ever watch the Friends episode where someone stole Ross’ sandwich at work and he turned into Red Ross? I turned into Red Wendy. I lost my sanity, upstairs in my bathroom that day. I went into a frenzy of twisting and turning and trying to reach behind me and push the zipper up, and when that didn’t work I tried to reach down to grab it. I am not that flexible. Nothing worked, and I was furious. I normally would have sat down and had a good cry, but I was just too mad. I was mad at Ben for not being here and for leaving me to try to figure out how to get myself dressed for a Masquerade Ball all by myself. (Not to mention that I wouldn’t have to attend this ball if he hadn’t gone and died on me.) I was mad at Ben for causing me to sweat so profusely in my efforts to practice zipping myself up that I left sweat stains on my brand new dress. I was mad at Ben for dying. Period.
When I finally sat down on the edge of the tub due to exhaustion from all my raging, it occurred to me that I clearly need this camp.
Once I was calm I discovered that if I pull the dress over my head instead of stepping into it (thank God for jersey material), I only need the zipper to be down a few inches instead of all the way to my waist. Then, if I sort of shimmy and pull at the same time I can manage to reach that last little bit of zipper and pull it up. I felt like a bit of a warrior, but I am still pissed in general that I no longer have anyone to zip me up.
Yes indeed, I do need this camp. Hopefully my next post will not be about how the zipper burst during my crazy shimmying efforts to pull it up, and how I was left half naked at a Masquerade Ball standing on the sidelines.
Hug your family.
PS. I also bought some pretty gold sandals to wear so I can ditch the flip flops. Now I’m worried that I may be overdressed at the Ball. 😉