I had the pleasure of attending my first ball a week ago. A flamboyant event replete with feathers and pearls, long gowns and mess kits. Not since the prom had I seen such a display.
With 27 years in as a military spouse it’s almost unbelievable that I hadn’t been to such an event before, but the airforce doesn’t tend to go for galas the way the army does. It’s no wonder really, airforce mess kits aren’t half as attractive as army mess kits. You just can’t beat that vibrant red.
I was nervous. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew I had to look my best. I preened and I powdered and I even changed out of my yoga pants. (I am a writer. Yoga pants are my uniform.) I put on a gown and I tried to look nonchalant as I walked into the opulent room adjacent to the more opulent dining room.
A keen trained social observer, I could tell I wasn’t the only one feeling the pangs of initiation. There were other wide-eyed by-standers against the walls staring at the hair sprayed, high-gloss, sparkle bedecked people mingling throughout the room.
The women were intimidating and fascinating at the same time. Floating across the floor wearing gowns of every colour of the rainbow, wearing real diamonds, or not. The men were starched and polished and looked every inch military with their medals and shiny buttons.
Finally my nerves got the best of me. I had to excuse myself from my group and find the washroom. Across the marble floor I walked, past a huge round table holding a vase the size of an umbrella stand full of flowers and feathers, into an anti-room with mirrored walls. The actual precursor to the bathroom itself.
There were women there checking out their gowns from every angle, freshening up their make-up, making good use of the free static guard, panty hose, even the mini-sewing kit to sew a wayward strap back on.
I smiled and nodded, pushed on a handle on a mirrored door I hoped would finally lead me to the actual bathroom. Success. Once inside a stall I took a deep breath to calm my frazzled nerves. What if I wore the wrong gown, what if I said the wrong thing, what if I ate my salad with my desert fork? I was sure to be found out as a fraud, not meant to be at such a posh event.
It was then I heard it. Echoing slightly down the long row of mahogany bathroom stalls, ringing on the marble vanities. Snap. Snap. Snap.
What was it? I listened more intently. No rhythm to it just, snap, silence, snap, snap.
And then I had an epiphany. Body shapers. Spanx. Modern girdles. All being yanked, tugged, dragged, rolled up into position under those glorious gowns. Elastic fabric snapping into place with the precision of a private saluting the commander. Snap. Snap. Snap.
I headed back to join my group with the confidence of a woman carrying a national secret. Underneath the satin and the lace, beneath the silk and all the sparkles we are all pretty much the same.