This is me on Tuesday night, in the hills above Las Vegas, Nevada
See how I look carefree and put together?
Twenty minutes before this picture was taken I was skittering through an outdoor mall in 94-degree heat and four-and-a-half inch heels looking for a pair of earrings. Toes screaming, praying that I don't sweat on my dress. The chunky silver earrings I had sought and purchased 10 days earlier had been left on my dresser in California. In the first store I entered, the saleswoman said, "I sense a woman on a mission." In the second store, I found a knockoff of the California earrings for half the price.
An hour before this photo was taken, I was telling my poor husband -- who had traveled by airplane with me that morning to Nevada in order to attend a posh, fashion-themed fundraiser in a house he helped design -- that he had to go without me. Because my silk dress (pictured) had a do-not-iron label but was hopelessly wrinkled. So I ironed it anyway, through a pillowcase. And scorched the bodice. Eventually, in despair, I tied the bow up higher and got in the car.
Three hours before this, I was in the hotel salon, asking them to fix the nail on my middle finger that had chipped.
Six hours before this I was watching my open cosmetics case go down the conveyor belt in airport security and marveling at how many products I had packed to make my face and hair look good. And thinking about how my husband had packed just his razor and a bottle of Lubriderm lotion.
Twenty-eight hours before this I was having my nails professionally painted.
Three days before this I was making myself the fabric clutch you see under my left arm, because if you can't buy designer, but can make boho-chic, well, go for it.
Ten days before this I was buying this dress in the sixth store I had been tried dresses on in (it's from Anthropologie, by the way, on sale).
All this work and worry for this moment of walking into a party on my husband's arm and feeling that I could pass for fashionable.
It was a spectacular party, for a beautiful crowd of forward-thinking, fashion forward, big-hearted philanthropists, raising money to help hungry children in their county. But I'm honest: it's an intimidating crowd for a mostly stay-at-home mom who generally feels dressed up if she has white jeans and a new pair of flip flops on. Hence all the careful preparation on my part.
There was not a woman in the room who did not look stunning, and not just the models posed around the gorgeous house. But I saw the guests a little differently than I expected to. I sensed -- or perhaps only imagined -- vulnerability behind all that gorgeousness, especially in the women my age or younger. A rigidity of posture to ensure their dress draped right, their plunging neckline didn't plunge too far. The cautiousness of their steps in their high heels that were surely killing them. Maybe they hadn't been desperately searching the jewelry rotunda an hour earlier like I had, but not one of them had arrived there without a lot of effort.
And I felt, as I stood there, that my husband had been right (as usual). I had been kind of worked up over nothing. I wasn't really any different than anyone else in the room. Even the models, who were, after all, just women who make it their business to look amazing, and work really hard at it. Two of whom were posed on a chaise in the "dessert lounge" with sweets in their hands, for the benefit of guests who might could sit and pretend to be models themselves. See me at right.
One of them said they liked my dress. The other asked me to taste the cake pop perched in a mini martini glass of chocolate mouse in my hand, because she couldn't eat hers until she was off duty. "Tell me how it is," she said. "I like to bake those, but I don't like the ones at Starbucks."
One amazing chocolate mousse martini and one mini key lime meringue later (and okay, also a pb&j cheesecake square and a strawberry shortcake shot (held below, which is why I look so happy), I was standing in the valet line watching as one woman after another started taking off their shoes and sighing. Including me. Suddenly, I was just one of the girls.
And I recalled, standing there in the dessert dark, a story my best friend from college once told me. She was going to a wedding, where she would see friends she hadn't been with in a while. She was a new mother, and so of course dealing with new-mother body issues. So she searched for weeks for the right dress to wear, obsessed about it even; and eventually spent a little more money than she should have. And then she got to the wedding and it began to rain. Hard. Every single guest was given a black trash bag to pull over their head and wear like a poncho. She felt like she was being divinely punished for her vanity.
For my part, I think God was maybe being funny rather than punitive, if the rain had anything to do with my friend at all. There's certainly a lesson there, not to place too much stock in what we wear or how we look, because, as the Good Book says, beauty is fleeting. Dresses scorch. Earrings get left behind. And as far as competing with other women, it's much more fun to stand at the party and realize we're all on the same team. The girl you think looks great next to you might have been hysterical over her hair only 15 minutes earlier. The model might be dying for a cake pop. All our feet are killing us.
And me, well, I'm wearing my only slightly-damaged dress to a summer wedding.
I might even look carefree and put together in it.