Sunday, October 7, 2012

Girl in a dress.

Jonnie Comet
11 June 1999

  She was probably in tenth year, about 15 or 16, lithe and lovely, carrying herself down the pavement with her shoulders back and chin set firm– unusual in such a young lady.  She wore those block-heeled shoes that for some inexplicable reason have come back from the ‘70s to haunt us– she might have done far better in a pair of plain white two-inch slingbacks.  But the shoes were forgivable.  Draped in a print of violet splashed upon white she was a picture of femininity, in the best sense: a vision of beauty in a simple cotton dress.
  What is it about a girl in a dress?  Have I gone so old and feeble-minded that I cannot help but gaze, lecherlike, at the compelling comeliness of a young lady so presented?  But I assure you, it’s not the physiognomic appeal that waxes me to words.  A woman’s shape is essentially universal. –no, do not fret, dear ladies, but you’ve got to admit that on a purely rational level, the female form varies very little from example to example.  All the same parts are there on every one, intended for the same functions, and in their function lies the truest beauty of the form.  To a given man one example may appear more attractive than another; –but, to each his own.  The only delineator is taste.
  It is not purely a cultural appeal either.  I know of women who toil an hour to get ready to put on a dress and go out in public– though for my life I cannot understand why.  I do pity them, not for the ordeal they must endure in dressing but for their belief that they must do it.  Doubtless these are the same women who growl with envy at one who can pull her hair back with a clip, throw the dress on over her head, and step into shoes on her way out the door.  I suppose such envy could even be healthy; it’s not the physical form that’s envied, but the aplomb.  Aplomb is always appealing in a woman.
  No; I mean that the young woman in a dress has a profoundly intellectual appeal.  There is something unspeakably satisfying to a mature man who observes a woman, particularly a younger one, in a dress, as she displays all the aplomb of one who wears dresses as a daily matter of course.  As with most things men think, this whole principle is admittedly anachronistic.  In days gone by all women wore dresses.  It was even more than stylistically de rigueur; for a woman to do otherwise was unthinkable.  Yet the generation of women born in the 1970s and thereafter have grown up knowing they can wear absolutely anything and be socially acceptable.  Good-fitting jeans or slacks always look sharp.  Shorts are cute– what other word could describe them? The tunic-and-tights ensemble of autumns past is sensible and flattering.  A skirt and jacket, as for the office, is exquisite. –indeed any top looks good with the right skirt; a savvy woman can wear a plain t-shirt with a wool skirt and look terrific.  But none of these beats the dress.
  I’ve never polled a sample but I would like to know just why any woman, in this age of liberated genders, would choose to wear something so gender-specific as a dress.  For one thing, there is a certain inherent vulnerability to a dress, in more than one sense.  The physiognomic entwines with the cultural to suggest the very reason why even less respectable men than myself find the look of a woman in a dress indubitably irresistible.  On one hand the woman in the dress is unprotected, socially and physically– there is little room to ‘hide’ in a dress and you certainly can’t run in one.  The woman so attired exhibits that vulnerability to the world, true; –but by choice, and therein lies her power.  So long as she has a choice in the matter a woman is never truly vulnerable.  She chooses the dress from her myriad of wardrobe and goes out with head held high, to brave the onlookers whilst knowing half of them will ogle her wantonly.  Not every man’s thoughts run pure as spring water.  Most men’s imaginings rage and bubble like lava just beneath the surface, frustrated to look upon the outward appearance of a woman and to only imagine what lies beneath what they see.
  Yet I tell you, the mature, thinking man sees much more than the surface and imagines much more than what lies just beneath.  He smiles to behold the girl in a dress, not out of base lust, but of sublime satisfaction.  He is comforted to see that a modern young lady might choose to wear a dress in the face of all she must endure for it, as though he believes she’s enduring it all for his approval.  But he approves– any man would.  His mother wore a dress.  His teachers wore dresses.  The girl he first dreamed of in grade school wore a dress.  Females are supposed to wear dresses.
  It’s not about physical vulnerability or the opportunity to see more of her than she might prefer to exhibit.  It’s just that to the man, the young lady in a dress seems to represent everything good and wholesome about feminine virtue.  Never mind that it’s only a façade– don’t break his bubble.  The young lady in a dress appeals to his best intentions: to admire, to protect, to cherish.  He may envision a companion in a dress bringing tea and slippers to his favourite chair.  In forty years she will not have changed enough for him to notice– still the tea, still the slippers, still the dress.  He closes his eyes and sighs happily, and the example before him saunters past and disappears into traffic.  It is not really the example he savours, but what she stands for.  When she is gone from sight he will still ruminate on it– that under more favourable circumstances he might meet a woman like that, that they would talk, admit a mutual interest, even date.  She will wear a dress.   He will adore her.
  The illusion does not lead to a perceived reality, but the reverse.  The mould is preexisting– every man’s dream girl wears a dress.  To see one so attired reminds him of that carefully cultivated dream.  The man marvels that the woman in a dress seems to have anticipated his dream and means to appeal to it.  It is not merely acquiescence on her part, because the choice is hers, and therefore so is the power.  The poor, admiring, well-meaning man is helplessly enraptured by her.  He cannot be otherwise.  Those men old enough to understand this will smile doubly: once at what they see and once, even more so, at what it means.  God is in His place and all is right with the world, when young ladies choose to wear dresses.
  I watched, as the little beauty strolled by and disappeared into traffic, but I wouldn’t let her see me smile.  I am no ogler and my thoughts were hardly shameful– it never even crossed my mind that under other circumstances this girl in particular might have had potential for me personally.  True, she was a pleasant picture that my memory could savour for the rest of the day, but she was more than that also, a symbol of all that is right, can be right, should be right, amongst young women.  She made an impression on me– in fact a profoundly good one– and may never know it, and might not have understood if I’d attempted to explain it to her.  You see, I don’t have to know her– I know what she stands for, and that is enough for me to be thoroughly, hopelessly charmed by her.  She chose to wear a dress today.  And a girl in a dress is omnipotent.

* * *

No comments:

Post a Comment