Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I was just reading Santo’s instructions on making petit fours (so pretty). She talks about the teas she attended at her school as a child. This made me think of the teas at my college. Well, it made me remember the fact that there were NO teas at my college. No charming ladies dressed in lawn tea gowns and white gloves, passing antique china cups across the President of the college’s living room. Did you have teas at your college? See, here’s the thing. Just before I went away to my tiny southern college, I fell in love with a dress. It was, for those who know about such things, a Jessica McClintock dress and at the time that meant demure, lacy and fluffy. I see that now Jessica McClintock doesn’t mean quite the same thing but that is beside the point. The point is that I fell in love with a pretty, lacy, Little House on the Prairie meets sort of Victorian Day dress. I mean you would actually have to call this something like a day dress as it was not a gown but was something totally different. It even had a little bustle. It was blue. With flowers. And it was nothing like anything else I owned. It was, in fact, nothing like anything I would ever wear. But I loved it nonetheless. It was beautiful and I wanted it.

It was also expensive. In retrospect, what I considered “expensive” was probably something like $70 or $80. You can barely buy a pair of pants for that these days…maybe a pant, one half of a pair of pants. But certainly not a little house on the Prairie meets sort of Victorian Day dress. I was torn. What would I ever do with a thing of such beauty to warrant it’s massive price tag?

Enter Mom. My mom is a marvel. She is kind and generous and lovely and beautiful and everything a mom should be. And she is an Olympic level shopper. She can shop like…a mutha. It’s amazing. If she leaves the house for more than twenty minutes you can rest assured that she will come back with bags of something. Art, jewelry, groceries, books. Anything. She is such a good shopper that I can guarantee you that today, right now, August whatever, she already has all of her Christmas presents for this year purchased. She may even have some wrapped. And there is also a very good chance that she has several purchased for next year as well.

I am not like my mom. Well, most of the time I am not like my mom. I have my spurts of shopping but in general, I am a think about it shopper. I tend to mull a purchase over in my mind for days…weeks…years. And I firmly believe that if the item is no longer available when I go back then it was never meant to be. I also have a similar theory involving price tags. If the item doesn’t ring up, it’s not for me. It’s a cheap theory but it has saved me tons of money over the years.

So back to the pretty, lacy, Little house on the Prairie meets sort of Victorian day dress, I wanted it but there was no way that I could justify it. I was a jeans and tee shirt kind of girl. In fact, my freshman year of college involved pretty much jeans, tee shirts, a Baja hoodie and no shoes. Dirty hippies do not way day dresses and there is just no way around it. And no way I would spend or ask my mother to spend so much money on such a frivolous item. But I felt compelled to show the dress to my mom.

She was, naturarlly, enchanted. I think she would have been enchanted by pretty much any outfit that did not involve a Hoodoo Gurus tee shirt and a pair of my brother’s boxer shorts layered over long johns. She would have loved anything that required me to wear shoes. And hose. And comb my hair. She offered to buy the beautiful dress. And still I hesitated. What would I ever do with it?

It was then that my mother asserted that I would need the dress for the tea parties at the President of the College’s house. Surely his wife would host such gatherings. And I could wear it to the fall cotillion. Or maybe the homecoming dance. It was even appropriate for the Christmas service. I would get so much wear out of the day dress that it would be worth every penny.

I don’t really need to tell you that I was never invited to a tea at the president’s house, do I? I did watch old kung-fu films with him a few times but I would have been incredibly overdressed if I wore the Jessica McClintock. I don’t think we had a fall cotillion but I did go to a freshman dance in my hand painted overalls. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t wear shoes or hose with them though. I know we must have had a homecoming dance but I suspect that I was out drinking during that and would have ruined a day dress running around the President’s rose garden with a bottle of Boone’s Farm. I also strongly suspect that there was some sort of Christmas service and that I may have even gone to it. But I doubt any of us dressed for it. In fact, my shoes of choice, when I did finally put shoes on, were duck boots.

Sorry, Mom. No petit fours for me. No wafer thin china and no white gloves. I still have the dress though. I will never wear it again. It’s outrageously out of style and…well, not all that lovely when I look at it now, but it’s still there. I think I will probably keep it forever, just to remember all those teas I didn’t go to.

See, once again, it all ties up in a pretty bow. Santos makes petit fours and I remember that I never got any.


Anonymous said...

i think i have a picture of myself in a hoodoo gurus tshirt and boxers from a long time ago. are you sure we're not somehow related?

MamaMin said...

A friend & I tried to make petit fours once. It produced the most unholy mess ever in my kitchen - and that's saying something, believe me. Also ... no teas at my college. Plenty of keg parties, though.

Miss Sassy said...

Oh my - Jessica McClintock. I can picture the dress very well. Did you ever wear it? I wore a black and white polka-dot-dress to my graduation that had a crinoline in it! Poof skirt with a glossy belt. Ah, if I could fit into it again I would wear it just because it fits.

Joanne said...

We didn't have president's teas. That's what happens when you go to state schools in Alaska. :) Actually he college I work for now doesn't have president's teas and I work for a churchy college. (Well Catholic not like Southern Baptist)

I do have a fabulous red dress in my closet that I fell in love with many years ago. It is low cut and slutty and high cut and flowy and I've never worn it in public. Yet I really love it. :) Someday I'll find the appropriate place to wear it. (Of course by then it'll be back in style)

Brenda Griffith said...

At U Chicago we had a linguistics graduate student tea in our lounge every Friday afternoon with the faculty. Though we didn't actually drink tea. It was more of a "beer" than a "tea". And I don't ever remember wearing a dress. I did take my dwarf bunny (Attila the Bun) in the inside pocket of my jean jacket to a few (he was pocket-trained and on a leash).