Thursday, 13 August 2009

Princess Past-It.

Once, when getting ready for a ball there would be a touch of Cinderella’s magic about me. After a day at work, I’d have a shower, shave all the necessary bits and pieces, style my hair, don a frock and then wave that magic wand of mascara and a slick of lipstick and bibbity-bobbity- boo, a handsome man was at my side and I was ready to go. These days, it is more a stealth mission needing weeks of planning. For a start where once I could have got away without a bra if my dress was low cut nowadays I have to visit the specialists at Marks and Spencer, who take you into a dual cubicle where one can modestly swap bras, whilst the assistant draws the curtain at the appropriate juncture before revealing your general state of bulging flesh. She then patiently adjusts and readjusts or indeed, shakes her head sadly and decides that the pretty bra that you picked out with bells and ribbons on, just isn’t you. Instead she returns with an industrial thing that looks as though Isambard Kingdom Brunel had something to do with the design.
Such was my experience last week, alas it was far, far worse as I had the two youngest children with me and the youngest of all has no patience whatso-flipping-ever of sitting in a cubicle, dual or not and at a salient point i.e I was undressed to my drawers and the assistant had just walked in again armed with various shades of beige, commodious well engineered strapless bars, the Red-Head bolted. Appreciating that M&S did not need some Erica Roe figure streaking around their lingerie department, I had no choice but to stay put whilst the assistant and the 7 year old hot footed it after her. She was found mercifully, at the bottom of an escalator about to embark on another floor.
I gave up at that point. “You’ll do”, I said to the beige thing and with the Red-Head in my vice like grip I paid. That wasn’t an end to my preparations sadly. Far from it. The dress and shoes were bought and hanging up at home but now I had my face to consider. In the past, cosmetics had been minimal, the icing on the cake as it were; these days a significant layer of primer needs to be brushed on before the actual paint is carefully applied. To Dingles we went. Years ago it was a joy to play amongst the powders and pastes that the Body Shop or Boots No7 had on offer. With children in tow it is a recipe for nervous collapse. The Urban Decay lady seized me immediately. How apt, I wryly thought.
By the time we had chosen a new eye shadow, eyeliner and lipstick, the girls looked as though they were about to embark in one of those God awful American baby beauty pageants, so caked were they in foundation, lipstick, powder and shadow. It had kept them quiet but at a price and now I had to walk back through Plymouth looking as though I was pimping child prostitutes. Worse, it was raining so hard that by the time we reached the car, black mascara was literally trickling down their already grotesque faces. I’m surprised a passing social worker didn’t apprehend me.
The day of the ball finally arrived. I went to work. I came back, made tea for the children, had a shower, depilated, went to the hair dressers, endured an ‘up-do’ that required over 50 hair pins and so much lacquer that I was genuinely concerned that a carelessly discarded cigarette would have seen me incinerated.
Walking home, I entered the house to hear Hubby raging that he couldn’t find his button rings and where the hell was his waistcoat? And would the dog please just bugger off. Your best black trousers and a golden retriever are not the finest combination. I rose above the general hub-bub and went upstairs to make the final adjustments. Make-up applied, I finally heaved my chest into the new bra and wriggled into my gorgeous dress and stepped into my spectacular shoes. I descended the stairs to the general oohs and aahs of a loyal family, only to find Hubby standing outside, sweating.
“I’ve gone beyond being trussed like a turkey Alice. I’m melting already and we haven’t got there yet” and pulling at his collar and bow tie, he really did look most uncomfortable.
“This waistcoat is playing merry hell with my innards Alice, I can barely breathe”. We were a bright pair what with his serge trousers, stiff collar, patent shoes, waistcoat and jacket and me with my five inch heels and underwear that was more scaffolding than lingerie. Cinderella and Prince Charming had most definitely long seen better days.
Luckily on arrival, friends were waiting for us with champagne and, with all of us being of a certain age, there wasn’t a person among us who didn’t feel the need for a slight realignment to his or her undergarments at some time or other. However discreet one attempts to be in these matters, yanking a wedgie out of your bottom is seldom done unnoticed.
After champagne and chit-chat and stunning Mess Beatings by the RMB, we sat down to dinner. All was going swimmingly, wine and thus conversation flowed, a magician entertained. The Marine Band played. A young woman took to the floor to sing but the singing was a ruse. It was only half of her ‘turn’. She turned out to be a stripper! At a Royal Naval ball?
“Burlesque act Alice, burlesque”, my husband did and still doth protest too much.
Hubby will be the next incumbent at the establishment where the ball was held. I hope to influence his decisions. Thus to redress the balance for sexual equality I look forward immensely to the Christmas ball.


DL said...

You've made me come over all nostalgic, AB. Although when I was last at a naval ball we were all young and lithe. I'm sure we'd have the same discomforts as you if we were doing it now. And we'd also have to endure similar anarchy even to get as far as leaving the house in our gladrags.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

reminds me of a very wet summer ball at HMS Excellent! No croquet played that evening!