Columns 2005

Dresing up for the Nutcracker

Along with many other Alaskans, I kicked off the holiday season with turkey and ballet.  But this year, the Nutcracker was even more special than usual because three wonderful young ladies accompanied my friends and me to the ballet.  They were beautiful by any standards you’d like to apply and added to that, they were suffused with the beauty of youth.

When Kate and I first made plans to go to the Nutcracker, we decided on a matinee figuring we’d get away with dressing casual, dining casual and being home soon after dark. Our goal was to be in our PJ’s at a time when, in our youth, we would have barely been starting out for the evening.

But then we hooked up with Elaine and she brought her daughter and her daughter brought two friends.  When Elaine called to say they’d all be joining us, she said that the girls were very excited about the outing and had decided to get dressed up for it.  I hung up from that phone call and wondered how I had so lost the fun of getting dressed up that I now consciously looked for excuses not to.  Here I was, getting ready for a wonderful ballet and dinner and all I could think of was whether I could get away with a nice sweatshirt.

When exactly did getting ready for a fancy night out become a chore because it meant finding a bra that actually held everything up and in place – an exercise that seems to get harder with each passing year? As little girls we had all played dress up. We had all raided our mother’s closet and clomped around in her high heels and beads pretending to be going out for a night at the opera. Now that we had the chance to actually do it, why were we trying to figure out if a sequined sweater over jeans wouldn’t work just as well?

So Elaine and Kate and I decided to let the girls lead the way for us.  We too would get all dolled up.  We’d make the occasion special by putting away the snow boots and Levis and pulling out the dressy sweaters and fancy pants and shoes that don’t have laces or Velcro.

We all met up at the PAC. The girls took my breath away with their beauty…that and the fact that they were wearing open toed shoes with heels and tops that exposed shoulders over which they had causally tossed tiny shawls and little sweaters.  No winter weather was going to interfere with the look they were determined to achieve.  No snow on the ground was going to cause them to cover up toes painted special for the occasion.  I got chilled just looking at them.

After the performance, we walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The girls giggled and squealed as their nylon clad toes sunk into snow piles not yet shoveled away and the wind hit their bare shoulders as we turned corners.  Nothing stopped the giggles and nothing stopped their fun.  They were looking good, feeling good, and had not a care in the world beyond making it into the restaurant before their toes froze solid.  And little by little, with each passing moment, I could almost sense again the fun and excitement of having a reason to be all dressed up with make up on and feeling like the lady I hadn’t quite yet become.

We didn’t have reservations for dinner so we ended up eating in the restaurant bar.  The girls all had Shirley Temples.  I mean seriously, when was the last time you even thought of a Shirley Temple?  They went to the rest room en masse and came back pretty hysterical about the heated toilet seats.  They discussed the ballet.  They were old enough to be impressed by the athleticism and skill required and young enough to turn bright red at the mention of the male dancers’ tights. 

When the evening ended and we said goodnight, I realized that their presence has been like a gift to those of us who accompanied them. It’s easy when living in Alaska to use the snow and cold as an excuse to not make that extra effort to look your best.  But every once in a while, it’s nice to remember why we should. 

I hope that someday, when these girls are older, they’ll remember this holiday and how they felt and those memories will warm them as much as these memories will warm me.  And remind me that dressing up occasionally shouldn’t be a hassle.  It should be a joy.