lesson #25: the victoria station dress
Remember earlier when I said that Grandma Ruth told me to buy things that were special even when money was tight? Well that rule applies to the next fashion tale I am about to tell as I was truly broke when I decided to take a thousand bucks and an airline ticket and live in London, England. My glamorous-to-me, intellectual-wanna-be, punk-rocking, weed-smoking boyfriend was coming to visit me in London. I had been there for three months or so and it had been tough. I had worked three or four jobs, lived in a couple of places, and was basically constantly thinking of HIM. I had lost a bunch of weight because living in London you walk everywhere and because I was so depressed and freaked out that I ate nothing but potato chips, drank nothing but tea, and smoked a gazillion expensive SILK cigarettes. Healthy, I know. Anyhoo, I was simply thrilled beyond belief that this important fellow was coming to see me and I wanted to look, you know, completely irresistible.
So, I splurged on a black crêpe dress
with a jaunty tie like fixture that hung in the cleavage area. It was short-sleeved and knee-length and I wore it with dark black tights and these pointy witchy ankle boots. It was my version of literary Euro chic– emphasis on the literary. It felt very important to look smart, sort of like when I wore John Lennon glasses in college to my Shakespeare class.
I was meeting him at Victoria Station, which was then one of the busiest transportation hubs in London. It seemed to clang and bong every millisecond and there were a ton of shops (like in an airport), one being The Knicker Shop (which sold only cotton underwear and that’s the British in a nutshell for you!). I stopped at a pub to have a nerve-calming tonic and was hit on by some “old” probably thirty year old guy. He said something ridiculous about my eyes, to which I blew smoke in his face and said, I’m waiting for my boyfriend.
I kept wondering what it would be like to see Boyfriend again. We had written all of these swoony love letters back and forth and he was a bit of a poet. Maybe if I get brave, I’ll insert some of them here, because they were good enough to keep. However, back to the story. So, I really had myself worked up and the station was humming and buzzing and here I was, in Victoria Station, drinking vodka tonics, in one of the world’s largest cities, and looking for a boy with a dark fringe (that’s British for bang) and a trench coat and most likely a Clash tee-shirt.
Truthfully, we (meaning myself and the boyfriend) were both posers of a very ordinary breed. We both posed at being hip and artistic and erudite and he was always keen (that’s British for thrilled) to let me know that he had me whipped in all of the above categories. There I was in my literary Euro trash dress and tights, my hair slicked back in a dark head band, my lips a strike of maroon. And there he was with a copy of something clichéd like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and his duffel bag and his scarf wrapped around his neck like the French do. Oh, I really had it bad for this guy.
The point is (before this story gets very long and boring):
I used to blame him for putting himself constantly in a superior category than myself. I thought he came from a wealthier background. His family was better educated. Yet, I was the one with the college degree. I was the one living on my own in England, while his dad still paid his rent on my old apartment! I guess I really had blinders on. Back to my point, at this stage of my life I can see that I also LET myself be put in that inferior category. I vaguely idolized certain qualities about his life that would never be a part of mine. Like, he could speak fluent French (so he said, how would I really know?). Like, his family “owned” a small island in Canada on Stony Lake and he had glamorous cousins who went on cruises around the world for their 21st birthdays. Like, his dad was an appointed minister of health in Canada and former economics professor at Indiana University. I guess I aspired to be, not of a higher socio-economic standing, but cultured in a different way. So, I let this boy-man convince me that I was sooooooooooo lucky to be his girlfriend. And he did have his finer points, however, thinking back to that Victoria Station moment, where, incidentally I walked right past him (actually that was a good thing, because it humbled him a bit) and then hugged him madly, I guess I had been a little out of balance on a couple of things. One was the superiority/inferiority complex. Two was the fact that I made him my world. I truthfully had a shitty time in London because he was all I cared about. What a waste. If I had been honest with myself, I would have taken my father’s advice, gone on a quickie tour of Europe and come home to Bloomington and my safe happy used-to-be college life.
I can still see:
That dress, those shoes,
My wide-eyed self posing
there for him,
thinking I was what he wanted me to be
That Clash tee shirt and Jack Kerouac book.
His scarf-wearing self posing
there for me thinking…
who the hell knows what he
In the end, such madness is exposed. But it was fun pretending with him. I suppose we were both trying to figure out who we were. And that’s okay.
Because now, I have these memories.
I gave the dress away.