wear the right costume and the part plays itself

August 3, 2006

I’ve been absent lately because I’ve been preparing for, going to and recovering from the Romance Writers of America National conference in Atlanta. I do this once a year, every July. This is the first year I haven’t been able to drop in a heap on the sofa and sleep for three days.

My quality of work at the new ‘day job’ has been less than inspiring, I’m sure.

But I’m almost recovered and can begin telling what stories I remember.

My preparation for the conference usually begins several weeks before hand, when I come to the conclusion that I have the wrong, shoes, clothes and make-up; grab the charge cards and go try to buy a new ‘game face’.

Those of you who know me, don’t laugh. I do too own make-up. Mascara and eye-liner and everything. Being trapped in a hotel with a couple of thousand women brings out my competitive femininity. And when I realize that July is rolling around again, I find it easier to pick a new lipstick than to lose 100 pounds.

It is also easier (and much less painful) to get my eyebrows waxed then to write and sell another damn book. Which is actually the point of going to writer’s conferences, but I tend to gloss over that and go straight to the make-up counter.

And this year, I needed to dress up. I had places to be and things to do. I was going to present the Golden Heart Award for best unpublished short historical manuscript, and as a new Harlequin author, I was invited to a soiree at the Ritz.

Or as I got to calling it: “A Sooooowaaaaaaray. I am going to a swaaaaaaaaahraaaaaay! At the honest to God, no shit RITZ! Swwaaaaaaaaaaaahrrrr…”


The boys had had quite enough of the S word, by the time I got on the plane to Atlanta.

But it gave me an excuse to buy both a presenting dress (on sale last January. $45. Flashy, black and beaded, but will not upstage winner) and something soiree-worthy. (Black, fewer beads, better lines). So I went to my favorite store.


When you have spent 45 years eating cheese, you’re likely to be shopping in the plus department, and depending on the season, you may come away from a normal store empty handed and with the feeling that you did something awful to the designers to cause them to hate fat women, since this is the only explanation for the available dresses.

But on Ebay, the world is your bugle-beaded oyster. You can choose from cast off cruise wear; dresses brides, mothers of brides, fat sisters of brides; rejects from the Mary Kay conference (who are even more competitive then writers when dressing for success) and occasionally drag queen costumes.

These are always disappointing. I don’t mind the excessive glitz. I’d be willing to wear a mermaid skirt, especially after 2 or 3 days of continual cocktail partying. But it depresses me to compare measurements and find that all the men have longer legs, perkier asses and bigger tits. Where are the fat, dumpy drag queens, I ask you? And why aren’t they ever the ones selling gowns in July?

I found a sheath, new with tags. All I needed was a wrap.

I went shopping at my other favorite store, a place called “I love Funky’s.” The name describes the merchandise. Eclectic fashion, rococo antiques, lounge lizard, interior design and miscellaneous, flashy crap. I’d been eying up the beaded shawls and burn-out velvet scarves there for over a year but had nowhere to wear them.

I miscalculated. Those were winter weight. Currently, they were showing chiffon and net, lots of flowers and nothing to go with black.

I also realized, as I was trying on the available styles, (which were very pretty, even if they didn’t match my dress) that I was standing in front of a mirror and modeling their summer collection of table runners.

I slunk home, and announced to #2 son that I would be making a stole from some silk velvet in my sewing room.

He said, “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to realize that all you need is a rectangle of fabric.”


And he added, “But you know what would be really weird? If you had a dress that went all the way to the floor, and then you went out and spent a lot on fancy shoes to go with it.”

#2 son will be living in my basement, alone, for the rest of his life. With an attitude like that, there are no women in his future.