“How do these women do it?” I wonder.
I study the svelte women dining in a downtown restaurant. They are daintily eating their mixed green salads. They have perfect blow dries, perfect French manicures, and perfect designer purses tucked beside them. They have chic high heels on. In fact, their shoes are similar to the pair I just fell in love with at the shoe store. I was eyeing a pair of black patent heels with a feminine oh-so-delicate French bow at the front while trying to focus on the purpose at hand: hiking boots.
“I need boots. I don’t need high heels,” I say to myself. I have nothing to justify buying high heels.”
My new winter hiking boots are tucked beside me in the restaurant booth. They were a great buy, but still, the black patent shoes are what I’m daydreaming about. Really, when you consider my real life of dog walking and errands, where in the world would I wear them? If I dressed up every day like these downtown working women, I could justify the black patent shoes.
I eat my hamburger and lament this fact. I consider what I’m wearing: my usual doghair-dusted fleece jacket with stale dog biscuit crumbs in the pockets. I shift uncomfortably in my seat. The fleece feels too hot and it’s like I didn’t get the memo that summer isn’t quite over. This outfit is too warm and I’m hyperaware that between the man-size hamburger and mountain woman uniform, I don’t fit in.
Then and there I decide I need an occasion to clean up my act to be more feminine and glamorous. I want to go out and sparkle and not have dried doggy drool on my sleeves. I want the Cinderella moment of getting in the pumpkin carriage to be swept away to the ball. A moment away from all of my domestic duties and taking care of family members, both human and canine.
That night, I search arts and culture events online. If I’m going to dress up, I need somewhere to go. I see that Romeo and Juliet, the ballet, is coming to town. It’s a perfect outing for me and my soon-to-be-mine black patent shoes!
I’m thrilled when the ticket finally arrives in the mail. I post it up on the bulletin board in my kitchen. As I go about my domestic chores that day, wearing my yellow latex gloves, I eye the ticket once in a while and get a pang of anticipation. I’m so excited about being Cinderella for a night.
I book a salon appointment for the morning of the performance. How important it is to have something to look forward to! I think about it as I take out the garbage and recycling. I catch myself humming the soundtrack to Romeo and Juliet as I prep dinner. I wear my new black patent leather high heels around the house to break them in. They make me feel that I have such verve and style. They are frivolous, fantastic. It feels good not to worry about cost per wear.
My carefully selected blue sweater dress hangs expectantly in my closet, ready for my big night out on the town. I’ve never worn it. I bought it a few months ago and insisted on waiting for the perfect occasion. I’m guilty of letting beautiful items of clothing become dated in the closet with price tags on them. Too perfect for my imperfect life.
“Well, no more,” I say to myself. “No more waiting! I’m going to live, dammit. LIVE!”
I select my long, also rarely worn, pearls and stud earrings to go with the dress. I put them on and hold the sweater dress up beside me while wearing my new shiny black patent leather high heels and strut around the bedroom.
“I’m all set!” I say. “If Romeo and Juliet isn’t special enough for my finery, I don’t know what is.”
The big day arrives and Cinderella couldn’t be more excited prepping for the ball.
“I’m here for the works!” I pronounce to the salon receptionist. We look down together at her book and see I’m booked for a huge ribbon of time that’s highlighted in yellow: cut, highlights, manicure, and pedicure. I’ve got my Starbucks grande latte, water, and energy snack. In Cinderella, the fairy godmother may have waved her magic wand and voila, Cinderella is resplendent in her glittery gown and sparkling shoes ready to be whisked to the ball in her pumpkin carriage. But I know this is real life and settle in the chair for the long haul to get to fabulousness! To get to perfection!
Finally, my hairstylist holds up a mirror and shows me the back of my hair. I can hardly contain my excitement. It’s a smooth, superb helmet. It’s a very blond, chin-length bob. This modern coif reminds me of a CNN political commentator. But a slight, sweeping wave at the side which is kept in place with extra firm hair spray add that touch of romance which is in keeping with a night at the ballet.
I glide out of the salon onto the sidewalk. I cross over to the sunny side of the street and wait for the bus. I feel revived, refreshed. I feel like a new woman.
When I arrive home, I have enough time to change into my fine grey blue knit sweater dress and black patent high heel shoes. How light and compact my fancy evening bag feels compared to the normal sack bag I lug around all day long. Practical, sensible me is gone.
I freshen up my make up, spritz myself with perfume (how nice to smell like jasmine and roses instead of my usual eau de damp border collie) and finally put on my long string of pearls and matching earrings. I look in the mirror and think about the perfect downtown Calgary urban ladies.
“Who is the glamorous one now?” I purr.
Minutes later, I’m whisked off to the ballet in my carriage (a taxi). I feel like a princess as I float out onto the curb.
The ballet is spectacular and everything I hoped it would be: the dancing, the costumes, the set, the orchestra…I’m totally and completely transfixed by it all. Afterwards, in front of the theatre, I hear someone talking to the back of my head.
“You have great hair.” I turn around to see a woman who reminds me of myself on most days: harried, carrying lots of bags and weighed down by them. She looks weighed down by life. She is on her way to do more errands and get more bags, I imagine.
“What…oh…thank you!” I blush. I know it’s more than my hair. It’s that I look like I have it together…I look like I have an organized mind and life. I’m not flapping my wings like an out of control chicken. For once. I feel I need to let her know that there was a wizard behind the curtain, behind the perfect hair, nails, and even behind my calm, composed manner.
“I spent the day at the salon,” I say. “I was there for hours. My hair rarely looks like this. I rarely look like this.”
“Well, you look gorgeous!” She smiles warmly and trudges on her duty-bound way.
I’m suddenly reminded of how I felt in that downtown restaurant…so envious of the manicured, high-heeled ladies who lunch. With time, effort and a little magic we can all feel perfect, if even for one day, one lunch, or an afternoon at the ballet. It’s not that difficult or mysterious after all.
The next day I eagerly trade my dainty high heels for my new hiking boots and enjoy an extra-long walk with the dogs. I’d missed them. Dressing up and playing Cinderella was lovely, but my everyday life is filled with dogs and nature and fresh air.
And it’s a really good life; a different kind of fairy tale.