A faulty zipper, safety pins, and almost feeling pretty in pink…

I have to admit, writing this blog during the Pandemic was much easier. I had endless time to brainstorm topics and ideas and then more time to actually sit down and write about them. Since going back to work, I’m wondering how in the world I ever did it? I feel I’ve adopted a slothlike mindset, and this lack of motivation for writing a weekly blog has become an added stress.

Numerous times I’ve sat and stared at the computer screen to see who blinks first. And it’s always me. The screen won’t change until I enter the letters, and lately, it’s not been happening.

So what’s a girl to do?

I always find inspiration in the most unlikely places and today, it was on a Facebook post by Ree Drummond, a.k.a., The Pioneer Woman.

During the quarantine, Ree’s children have been filming her new episodes which she calls, “Home Sweet Home.” I’m hazarding a guess that she doesn’t have her normal production team to help prepare for the filming (as far as organizing things, and chopping up ingredients, etc.,).

In this Facebook post, Ree was advertising the delectable dishes she would be preparing in the latest episode, and she wrote, “Trust me, I’m making some tasty recipes this morning, but all you will be able to focus on is that white trash can.”

In all the preparation, the plastic white trash can that most of us have somewhere in our home, was left out, and it is visible in the background. I know this because I watched the show. And yes, I looked for it, since she brought it up.

Did the trash can make me feel less impressed by the yummy food she prepared? Did it take away from her talent, and skill, and sense of humor?

No. In fact, I found the exact opposite to be true. It made her more real, more human, and absolutely endearing. She became like every other woman who has been embarrassed by a tiny faux pas, a clumsy stumble, or even an epic catastrophe. The white trash can being unintentionally left out made me cheer for her, and say to myself, You know, Pioneer Woman. If we knew each other, we would be best friends.

When I was a senior at Texas A&M, I was co-chairman for Ring Dance, which was one of the final functions for seniors at A&M. It was so named since the Aggie Ring was the traditional mark of a student whose days on campus were soon to be over.

Ring dance was held on a Saturday night in April or May, from 8pm to before 12am, because there was a rule on campus at the time of its origin, that there was to be absolutely no dancing on Sundays.

I actually attended Ring Dance when I was a senior in high school. A cadet who was in my brother’s outfit in the corps needed a date and I was the best they could come up with on short notice. I’ll never forget when he asked me, I thought he said “Rain Dance.” I was completely bumfuzzled, and was a little relieved when my dad told me that he was sure I would be attending “Ring Dance” instead.

The only other blunder in this somewhat awkward situation was when we ate dinner with all of his senior friends and their girlfriends. In an effort to get to know this “mystery date,” I was asked a plethora of questions, but the most intriguing one was, “What is your classification?”

Of course I replied, “I’m a senior.”

They almost spit their food out when I added, “In high school.”

Now, getting back to the time when I actually was a senior in college. I had been involved in Class Council and Student Government since my freshman year at A&M. I was a freshman aide for Student Government, on the Sophomore Ball committee, and my junior year was co-chairman of Boot Dance, the celebration for juniors in the corps after Final Review when they get to wear their senior boots for the first time.

I had also been elected Senior Class Historian. It was my job to write the history of the Class of ’85 for the Aggieland (the A&M yearbook). My spring semester in college was a busy time, and thankfully (for me but not for my parents), I was taking a victory lap, and would not be graduating until December of 1985. If I had been student-teaching while also juggling these other responsibilities, things might have ended up worse than they did….

Although I’m not sure that could have been possible.

After almost a year of preparation, the night was finally here. In addition to the big event, there was a Class of ’85 Banquet before the dance. It was at that dinner, that I, as Class Historian, would reflect on our time at A&M. It was a big deal. My parents were coming in, and I had the most beautiful pink dress.

My dress was knee length, which was the style for formal wear at that time. It was a delicate, light pink satiny type material, and the bodice (top) was covered in beautiful matching pink sequins. It was strapless, and elegant, and even had a bow in the back (at my waist). When I put the dress on, I was sure to feel as classy and sophisticated as Audrey Hepburn.

(this is a very close example of the style of my dress)

For those of you who know me, you must, at this point, be waiting for the dramatic, unexpected circumstance (disaster) that will surely be a part of this story. Let me go ahead and alert you, you won’t be disappointed.

I lived in an apartment with two other girls, who were also getting ready for the dance. Two bathrooms and three girls. That meant taking turns, and in this well-synchronized plan, there was no room for errors.

I was completely ready, except for putting on my dress. My date was notorious for being late, which on this night was the one thing that would send me over the edge. He happened to be my co-chair for the event. We set a time that would give us plenty of leeway in the off-chance that something unpredicted might transpire.

The time had come for me to enter the final phase of my preparations—putting on my beautiful and perfect pink dress.

As I tried to find the zipper, I realized I would not be able to zip the dress up by myself. I couldn’t reach (imagine that)! I cried out to my roommates to see if one of them could come to my rescue. They were both at points in the pre-dance-getting-ready-ordeal that prevented them from helping.

And then there was a knock on the door. I was the most dressed of us all, so it was up to me to answer it. In one last ditch effort, I recklessly pulled on the zipper, not realizing it was hung on a piece of fabric. Desperate to accomplish this task without help, and then fancily sashay to answer the door for either my parents, or my date, (who might actually be on time), I forced the zipper in an upward motion. And in that moment, everything I had been working toward for over a year, was torn apart. My zipper was broken, and there was a gap from the bottom of the zipper just below my waist to the place where it had clamped itself on my beautiful dress.

Freaking out doesn’t come close to describing the emotional meltdown that ensued.

I was thankful to discover it was my parents at the door, rather than my now tardy date. My mother was an expert seamstress, so I knew this could be fixed. At least I was able to breathe on my own again.

I grabbed her, and we quickly ran into my room so she could survey the damage. I could tell by the distraught look that appeared across her face, it wasn’t good. The zipper needed to be replaced. There was nothing she could do in the short amount of time we had to repair it. I didn’t have a back-up dress. To use an impolite term, I was screwed.

The only thing that could possibly be done since we hadn’t a “needle and some thread,” was to pin me into the dress. My roommates rallied around me in this time of complete turmoil, and we looked in every nook and cranny, and gathered up enough safety pins for my mother to save the day.

I would love to say that like Cinderella, I was transformed and the evening was magical.

But, that would be a lie.

In a matter of moments, I had completely fallen apart, and had mascara smeared across my face. I had to quickly re-do my makeup. When my date finally arrived, we had no time to tarry. So off I went to the biggest event of my time at Texas A&M University in my safety-pinned, un-Audrey-Hepburn-like, not-even-close-to-perfect-looking dress.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ball. I began to laugh about it! What else could I do?

And as I sat at the head table at the Senior Banquet, no one could see the back of my dress. And when I stood up and gave my speech, with an introduction that included profusely thanking my parents for all they had done for me (in addition to pinning me into a dress they were currently praying I wouldn’t bust out of), I had the confidence and grace of a girl whose dress was actually zipped…

Until we made it to the dance.

My date did usher me around and stood a little behind me, so most people didn’t notice. And the big pink bow, did hid some of the safety pins, as well as the top part of my pantyhose. All in all, things were as good as could be expected in such a traumatic, and embarrassing situation.

But, as you well know, there always has to be the one person who feels obligated to point out the obvious.

And this person blurted out in a voice loud enough to wake the dead, “Oh my gosh! Look at your dress! What happened?”

And exactly as my mother had instructed me to do, I replied, “It was made that way.”

And then I put on my imaginary crown, and walked away like a queen.

There are so many lessons I learned that night. Unfortunately, it took me many years to understand them all.

First and foremost, always believe in yourself. There will be trying times and situations in life where you are shattered, and feel unworthy, embarrassed, not good enough, and pitiful. But if you look inside yourself, you can always muster enough courage and strength to carry on, simply because you have to.

That night, I had to show up. I didn’t have a choice. People were counting on me. And even though it wasn’t in the form I had dreamed about, I did show up. And after people listened to my speech, and saw me later in a dress that was being held together with only safety pins and the grace of God, they discovered a new respect for me.

And on that night, I gained a newfound respect for myself as well. I survived and made the best of a bad situation.

Many times in life, we don’t have another choice except to carry on. And I did.

Another lesson I learned wasn’t so much about myself, but about how we tend to view others. We often assess value to what’s on the surface—-appearance, clothes, and other worldly belongings. It’s not until individuals turn around, and we see the safety pins that are holding them together, that we become empathetic and begin to understand them more.

Everyone is fighting a battle. We all have burdens, and heartaches, and things that hold us back, or make us feel we are “less than.” Sometimes these scars are visible, but most of the time they are not. We need to always be kind, because we don’t know the trials, and heartbreak that others have endured. We don’t know or understand their journey of overcoming.

The night of Ring Dance, I know many people witnessed the back of my pinned up dress. Some might have pitied me. Others might have laughed. But I choose to believe that most people thought, “Wow! Think about all she must have gone through just to get here tonight. She sure carries it well.”

And that’s the way I try to remember that night. Not for the tradition, or the elegance, or the “saying goodbye” to Aggieland with my friends. But for the overcoming. For the less than perfect night that taught me it is never okay to give up.

Just like the white trash can in the corner of Ree Drummond’s beautiful kitchen, it’s a reminder that flaws are the things that add beauty to life. They are a sign of humanness. They make us real, and believable, and help us reach others in ways we couldn’t if we were seemingly perfect.

Find the beauty in your flaws, and make the most of them. You will be amazed at the places you will find strength. On that fateful night in 1985, my strength was found in a bunch of tiny safety pins, which literally and metaphorically held me together.

In closing, I’d like to pass along some important advice. Always have a back-up plan, be it an extra dress, a needle and thread, or safety pins. And during those times when you aren’t fully prepared for what life dishes out, and there isn’t a quick fix for your unexpected troubles, remember you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are enough. You never should have to hustle to know your worth.

And I guarantee, when you dig deep down inside yourself, you will find the strength, fortitude, and relentless spirit needed to carry on.

So straighten your crown, and dance like no one’s watching.

And, by all means, with every fiber of your being, pray that those safety pins don’t come undone!

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