I have to attend a book launch on Thursday (ha! not that kind of book, with a picture on the cover. This one comes in a funereal black ring binder sort of thing and looks a little like a two volume book of condolence), so I decide that 11pm on Tuesday night is the ideal time to decide what to wear. I get out my best dress and stagger down stairs with it claustrophobically wedged around my shoulders.
- Do you think you can get this zip up?
I say to the CFO. Ever the man for a challenge, he weighs in manfully. We get the dress down over my body with a few well placed tugs and he examines the zip. The dress is beautiful, my most expensive piece of clothing ever. It is a black, short, flared silk and crepe Temperley dress with lovely silver appliqué patterns and very light, transparent flared sleeves. I love it. It is however, part of the "mad period" wardrobe, and thus very small.
The CFO gives the zip an experimental tug. I try to put my arm above my head helpfully.
- No! Don't do that! It's going to give!
- Ok, what should I do?
- Just hold it here. And here.
says the CFO tugging at the fabric and giving the zip another yank.
- Ow! You're pinching me!
- No I'm not. Stop moving.
- But I'm scared you're going to hurt me.
- Well I will hurt you if you don't stand still.
We dance a crablike pas de deux around the kitchen with me shying away from him as he tries to defy the laws of physics. I fear for my flesh.
Eventually, by dint of me holding my arm at precisely 90° while the CFO holds the bottom half of the dress in place with his knee, the zip grinds reluctantly into place.
We stand back and he surveys his handiwork.
- That looks fine!
he says, ever the optimist.
- Hmm. As long as I consider breathing to be optional, yes indeed. How come it's too tight over the ribs? How can my ribs have got fatter?
- I suppose they must have a slightly larger coating of, um, flesh than before. Or else it has shrunk!
says the CFO latching onto what he considers a genius explanation with enthusiasm.
- It's never been cleaned, CFO. It can't have shrunk. I suppose it's just about doable? If I take really shallow breaths?
- Of course mon amour, you look beautiful.
says the CFO, and edges backwards out of the kitchen with the expression of one who has narrowly escaped death at the hands of a savage wild animal.
I take the dress off, very carefully, without getting trapped. There are a couple of sticky moments with the sleeves, but I escape without incident. I examine my feelings. Hmm. I don't actually care that much. The thought forms in my head that to lose sufficient weight on my ribs to wear this dress with comfort, I would have to be mad again. I decidedly do not want to be mad again. Fuck it, I think. I'll try and get someone to move the zip somehow.
I do not want to pummel the offending ribs with my balled fists, or scratch my recalcitrant flesh until it bleeds. I am not planning a two day crash diet eating nothing but prawns and spinach. I do not even slightly want to cry and I do not feel that this tight dress makes me a failure. How can this be? Is this sanity?