So there I was, in lobster-red, blistering agony from dallying with the sun without protection.
The irony was that I had been so careful in the past 3 weeks to make sure my back and shoulders, which had had no sun exposure yet this year, matched my arms, which (thanks to spectating Pirate's cricket matches) had a lovely brown, terminating in a white line just before my shoulders where my T-shirt begins. Yes, I had a farmer's tan. And I spent a fair penny on self-tanning prodeucts to get rid of it and get some color on my back and shoulders without looking like an oompa-loompa. And it worked. Friday night my skin looked fine. No tan lines to speak of. And saturday afternoon I blew it all to hell.
My evening gown is black, with a deep V-neck, halter straps, and totally backless right down to the top of my ass. So it showed off my bright red chest, bright red shoulders with conventional bra-strap tan lines, and bright red upper back/white lower back beatifully. (Essentially my back looked like the flag of Poland flown up-side down. Charming.)
After I endured the agony of the shower (though set at a pleasant, tepid temperature, the needle-like spray of water stabbed at my back and shoulders like being shot with a thousand poison darts) I began The Process.
Ladies, you know what this entails... mousse, hair curlers, hair drier, hair spray, blemish concealer, foundation, eye liner, eye shadow, eyelash curler, mascara, eyebrow pencil (I waxed the eyebrows earlier in the week to give the redness adequate time to fade), lipstick... it's a pain in the ass, I tell you. And though I can't stand such a time-consuming beauty regime, and despite the discomfort from my sunburn, I couldn't help but be in a good mood.
I didn't resent the sunburn because the way I see it, given the choice between doing something I enjoy and being pretty, I'll take having fun any day. So even if I'd known how burnt I would get, I wouldn't have changed a thing about the afternoon. So how could I complain, knowing full well that if I had it to do over, I would do it all again, with the same results? Besides, I was running around the house naked with curlers in my hair, and my Pirate was sitting in the rear garden, polishing his shoes. I heard him laugh and came out to see what had tickled his imagination so. He looked up at me.
"Running around naked already? Wow. Last year* it took almost nine hours to get you to that stage. Result." He grinned.
I hit him.
Obviously he was in a good mood. He'd been deliberately antagonizing me all day, a behavior I have come to recognize as an indication of high spirits.
*our first date
Eventually I took out the curlers, combed out my hair, gave it one final spray, and slipped into my gown. Some sparkly doo-dads (cheap, from Claire's) for the finishing touch et voila'! One overly-made up woman with natty hair and sunburn wearing a black dress. *sigh*
While all this was taking place, Pirate was getting dressed in his room. He was attaching the cuff-links to his shirt when I cam in: a custom-made job he'd had done especially -- the sleeves and back were made from a neon pink and metallic gold pashmina that he bought in Indial last spring. The wool/silk blended material was soft as owl's feathers and shimmered when the afternoon light hit it. Over the shirt went the white waistcoat, including gold pocket watch on chain, and white DJ. The bow tie he tied himself. None of this pre-tied namby-pamby crap couteur for my man no sir-ee.
My god but he's handsome.
And with each layer of clothing you peel off, the handsomer he becomes. Like a sexy onion that makes you weep with arousal. Oh yes.
The ball was lovely. The theme this year was The War Years. We were greeted at the gate by a Winston Churchill impersonator, complete with cigar, who later gave a speech during dinner. The tents were covered in camo netting and decorated inside with red, white, and blue balloons and Union flags. The women of the waitstaff were dressed as Rosie the Rivetter, the drinks at the cocktail bar (which was surrounded by sandbags) all had names like 'Lindy-hop Lemonade' and 'Glen Miller Green Eyes,' and there were all sorts of military relics on display that they'd borrowed from some museum somewhere. Portrait photos were taken in an actual Jeep (left-hand drive), and they even got the RAF to do a fly-by in a couple of spitfires. The only thing the theme neglected was the music. It was fine, but some proper Big Band and 'Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree' would have been both better and more appropriate.
Ents for the evening included bumber cars (dodgems, to you brits), casino tables (Pirate turned 75 pounds into almost 700 pounds at the craps table. Too bad it wasn't real money), and a hot air balloon that was tethered to 3 Land Rovers. The casino was too crowded and I never manged to get into the Black Jack game, the hot air balloon only went up 20 feet and spat dirty water at the passengers, but the bumber cars were fabulous. We spent a lot of time on those. As the evening wore on the guys operating the things decided the saftey codes were really more like suggestions anyway, and turned up the juice. I have never seen bumber cars go so fast. I have wicked bruises on my knees from all the impacts and bumping the steering column. I just tell people they're from the blow jobs.
One of the more emotional moments of the evening was actually the RAF flyby. There was something not quite right about standing on the lawn in an evening gown, coctail in hand, laughing and cheering at the machines of war as they raged overhead through the blue sky. It was a beautiful evening -- blue sky, a few fluffy clouds, light breeze -- and perfect night for flying. I could tell the pilots were having fun up there. Those boys were playing with big ol' antique toys and messing about like kids in a sandbox, and that's OK. But I couldn't shake the feeling of unease; i couldn't look at those planes and block my imagination from wondering what it must have been like to be sitting in your living room in 1945 and hear them whiz by overhead, see them careening past and not know if they're yours or Hitlers. What must it have been like to live with the fear, the hunger, the constant destruction? And here we were, making a party game of it.
But was it just a party game? Or were people cheering because they remembered that these very planes were the ones that helped save them from the Nazis all those years ago? Has the memory of the horror gone, or does it linger on yet? I didn't know. It was a very strange sensation, seeing those spitfires in the blue sky, and me watching them with hardly a care in the world.
I was wondering about all these things when I realized I'd lost my date. The Pirate had abandoned me for another. I couldn't get him away from her: the chocolate fountain. I thought at one point he was just going to stick his whole head underneath. They had skewers with strawberries, raspberries, tiny donuts, jell babies, and marshmallows. I ate the berries and jelly babies and didn't have a single taste of chocolate. I got yer willpower right here, beyotch.
Dinner was amazing, as expected. The seafood buffet was well stocked, although the salmon was over cooked and I really need to introduce the Engligh to proper cocktail sauce. Now hear this: ketchup and mayonaise is NOT coctail sauce. Ketchup and horseradish, that's cocktail sauce. Following the seafood bar was the main course, which paid tribute to vegetables by having a bowl with a couple pieces of lettuce in it if anyone insisted, but we just at the pork with hot apple sauce, beef stew, chicken skewers, and pork sausages. It was not a good night to be a vegetarian.
And just in case the completely free coctail bar wasn't enough, there was ample wine on the table. And there were only 6 of us at a table for 10, and Pirate doesn't drink, so we had twice the allowance of wine. Woot!
Don't even get me started on dessert.
This has mostly just been a catalogue of the nights sensory pleasures -- the visuals, the tastes, the sounds -- but that's really only the surface, the very outer edge of my perception that evening. I've described these features because they are easy to communicate. As a reader you have no trouble visualizing a tent or a table laden with rich puddings or even Winston Churchill. You know what music sounds like and are familiar with the experience of dancing. I could even describe for you the smell of the fuel in the hot air balloon, the warm choclate from the fountain, and dew on the grass, and you could understand that easily as well. But how to describe what was really going on in my head and in my heart?
How can I articulate the warmth in my cheeks and ears when I looked at the Pirate? Or the conflicting sense of total comfort and familiarity with the exitement of newness and exoticism when we danced? Can you begin to empathize with the confusion of feeling totally out of place in that contrived, concocted environment, but yet feeling as that I was exactly where I belonged whenever the Pirate spoke to me? And do you know what it feels like to have tears of joy come to your eyes in those silent moments of shared understanding when not a word is spoken, and without evening looking at one another so as to give the impression to others that our attention is elsewhere, hands meet knowingly in the middle, sure of themselves and each other, gently caressing and tickling the other's fingers? Do you know that feeling? Can I possibly explain it?
We didn't close the place down this year. After a couple slow songs (where my bracelet kept catching threads on the back of his new shirt), our bodies pressed obscenely close together, only making the barest pretence of dancing, we left. This time there was none of that awkward silence, none of the games, no one trying to prolong the night. We knew why we were leaving. And given the way were were dancing, frankly so did everyone else there.
Tune in tomorrow for Part XXX: The Dirty Bits.