This seems to be the story of my life…
When I was 10, we were living in a fun and exotic tropical country. I had an utter dislike for the school I was attending, and was not only suffering from culture shock, but a case of invisibility. I did not want to draw attention to myself in any way shape or form.
It had to happen at some point, I got the notice, the dreadful notice. We were to practice a dance, and not just any dance, the Viennese Waltz. At 10, I had no idea what that was, but I knew it wasn’t going to be good. We were to practice, and then perform at night, for the school and our parents. My worst fear.
We were slowly paired up, I was the tallest in the class, naturally, due to my look, I was paired up with the other pale (more like pasty) looking boy, and we were placed in the back row. He had the sweatiest hands, and he perspired so much his red hair was constantly stuck to his head and face.
For an hour each day we rehearsed the dreadful dance, in the hot sun on the roof of our school. After all these years, I still know the steps, and the music still makes me nauseated.
It turned out, I was good at the dance, naturally having taken ballet and gymnastics, dances were not that difficult for me to “get” or to be good at. They slowly moved us to the front. OH. GAWD.
Two weeks before our big performance, we were given not only a picture, but instructions on what we were supposed to wear. All the girls were so excited, chatting about who was already making their dresses, and what shoes they were going to wear. Silly me, I thought we would be doing this dance in our uniforms.
I packed the picture and instructions into my backpack, and brought it home. My Mother, took the picture of the “Era” dress to heart, she went out and got fabric, and got the exact dress with big sleeves, and lots of lace made. I was not sure I wanted any of it, I kept on telling her that none of the girls were getting a dress that looked anything like the picture.
My Mother replied “Nonsense, it is a traditional dance, all the other girls are going to look silly. ”
I was never sure of my mothers instincts when it came to these things, often times, she went her own route.
The day of the dance, I got rather excited. For the first time in school, I felt graceful, and was being praised for a skill I didn’t even know I had. We were instructed to come back for a quick dress rehearsal that evening, and then we would perform for the school.
I went home, my Mother was excited, she pulled out the dress. My face fell, it was a bizarre shade of purple/brown, with lots of lace. It was miles of fabric, and a big skirt. It swam on me. My Mother put a big sash on me to tighten all the fabric up. I looked like a clown gone wrong. I looked like the satin department exploded on me. I. DID. NOT.WANT.TO. CRY.
I arrived at school, to find all my classmates with beautiful ball gowns on. They had all gotten soft pink, white, light blue gowns made in various silks. All had long gloves on, hair up. Tears welled in my eyes as I looked down at my exact replica of the picture. The girls all looked at me, and laughed. The teacher came over and asked what I was wearing. I replied quietly that it was a replica of the picture.
It turned out, these performances were cultural, and the outfits were a thing. The more money you had, the better the dress, and the more part of society you were. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the memo. My teacher was embarrassed. I was sent to the back of the pack, and told “maybe there, nobody will notice the dress.”
I didn’t cry, but I was humiliated in a way I didn’t understand. I would not be included in society, or at least in this country.