… usually not me.
Which is why I have decided to not tell you the meaning of life this week, or to share with you the secret of eternal youth and have, instead, decided to concentrate on something really important.
By which, of course, I mean – Fancy Dress Weekend.
I know, I don’t understand why people have costume parties either. It’s hard enough for me to figure out what to wear at the best of times, so being asked to dress to a theme seems just down right mean. Part of the problem, I think, is that I really don’t have much of an imagination. Or any sewing skills. Or the desire to pay a hire shop an enormous amount of money so that I can look like Napoleon.
So, I invariably spend every minute from the day the invite arrives until late in the afternoon of the day of the party, worrying. Then, just as the shops are shutting, I suddenly realise all the truly great things I could have done if only I had some checkered cloth and a horse’s head.
But not this past weekend.
I woke up on Friday with that familiar sinking feeling of knowing that time was running out and I had absolutely no idea what to wear. The theme for the evening’s event was ‘My Favourite Movie Character’. Now, I was having problems with this on so many levels. First of all, I had no idea who my ‘favourite’ was. How can you, after all, compare Mr Spock from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan with Gregory Peck from To Kill a Mockingbird? And then there were the details. How did Princess Leia do those buns and what did Scarlett O’Hara use on the windows once she had made the drapes into a ball gown? If you didn’t turn up at all, could you go as the Invisible Man? Could you just wear your normal clothes and say you were Ghost Busted? I had no idea.
I did, however, know that this wasn’t going to be easy. I was going to have to think outside the box. And that’s when it happened. Inspiration struck.
I went through my entire wardrobe and found:
White shoes, white socks, white trousers, white gloves, white sweater, white face paint, blonde wig (I know, how lucky was that?) and a blue scarf. Put the clothes on, the gloves on, the face paint on, the scarf around my neck and went as….
The iceberg from Titanic (with the Unsinkable Molly Brown on the left)
Sheer genius, if I say so myself. Just to make things easier for those who might not have seen the movie, I also had a picture of the ship on a little pole which I kept moving towards my head whenever anyone spoke to me. It made eating and drinking difficult, mind you, but it was worth it. The blue scarf, as I kept explaining, was the surface of the ocean since, as we all know, seven-eights of icebergs are below the water. But, I’m sure you had already figured that part out for yourself.
Sadly, there were no prizes for best costume. But if there had been, I am beyond certain that I would have won. It wouldn’t, to continue the theme, have been plain sailing. There was, after all, stiff competition. But those Audrey Hepburns, Calamity Janes, Dorothys from Kansas and Thelmas and Louises were never going to defeat me. If the world’s greatest ship couldn’t, then what chance did they have?
I woke up the next morning knowing that I had reached the heights of fancy dress glory and that the rest of my life would be spent in trying to recapture the moment. It was a bittersweet feeling but, luckily, I didn’t have long to worry about it. I had another party to go to, and, as usual, no costume.
If it’s a Saturday, it must be a Talk Like A Pirate party. And the theme was ‘Scariest Princess’ and ‘Prettiest Pirate’.
Tom, my husband, went for scariest princess. He just happened to have his mother’s ball gown (it’s a long story), which came down to mid-calf and thus enabled him to show off his hairy legs, white socks and black hiking boots. He topped this off with a rather unkempt black wig and, what every princess needs, a cigar. He hadn’t shaved in days, in preparation for the part he said, which was very impressive since he hadn’t even heard what the part was until earlier that day. Still, I have to admit, he looked scary. And more than a little ridiculous.
That left me with the pirate. I basically went as a pair of boots. I’ve had them for years and while I never thought they were particularly piratical before, I figured they would be ok. Black trousers tucked into the top of them, white blouse with puffy sleeves, black waistcoat, black wig (we seem to have a lot of wigs in this house), red bandana, lots of jewellery, a drawn-on eye patch and we were ready.
It was a fabulous party. Lots of shivering of timbers and drinking of rum was done by all. There were a few parrots and several pieces of eight. There were also an amazing assortment of people. It was one of those brilliant events where the guests ranged from teenagers to neighbours in their 90s, all wearing one earring and saying ‘aaaaarh’ a lot. The hosts, being very musical, had very musical friends and so guitars were broken out and sea shantys were sung and a good time was being had by all.
And then the judging began. Prizes were going to be awarded.
Things got serious. The singing stopped. The parrots fell silent. The teenaged judges walked amongst us, looking at all the princesses and at all the pirates. No one spoke.
Then, just when the suspense was becoming unbearable, they announced their decision. Tom, to no one’s surprise, was named Scariest Princess. He was thrilled. I could tell because he waved his cigar around a lot and called everyone ‘Me Hearties’ a few times.
Next, the very handsome young man standing next to me was named Runner-up Prettiest Pirate. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that but the way the girl judges were looking at him was, I thought, rather unambiguous.
And then the big prize of the evening was announced. A hush fell over the crowd. I looked around at all the lovely 20- and 30-something year olds and thought that the one who had gone for the ‘buxom wench’ look was in with a chance. So was the blonde with the jaunty hat and cutlass. Not to mention the tall, exotic one over there by the fire.
And the Prettiest Princess was…
I know, it was dark. I was standing next to the handsome boy and so gave the girls an excuse to stare at him for a while longer. I do have rather lovely boots. But, even so, I was the one who went home clutching the William and Kate commemorative shopping bag as a prize. How amazing was that?
Who needs fame? Who needs fortune? Who needs to be a best-selling author?
Not me. I am the Prettiest Pirate.
Life just doesn’t get any better than that.
Not Leo Tolstoy
(aka Eileen Riley)