OUT OF THE BLUE I am invited to a ball. I immediately think of the last ball I attended and squirm. That was back when I had money. I didn’t actually have money of course but the excesses of those days were catching and occasionally I behaved like somebody who did.
Because, and this is what I would have argued back then, it’s impossible to find clothes for a ball when you are what retailers kindly label plus-size. (Plus what? Vat?) So obviously I rang a fashion designer I had met once in my life and asked her to make something up for me. When I think about it now I say to my old-self: “What were you thinking, asking a fashion designer to make you an outfit, you madser?” My old-self replies: “Look, I couldn’t find anything. Anyway, I’m loaded. I do my weekly shop in the fanciest grocery store in town. What? You know how I adore their chocolate covered dried mangos.” That woman is dead to me now, dead, thank Merkel.
Deep down I thought the designer might whip me something up for €20. She whipped something up alright but it cost quite a bit more. I happily produced the credit card, delighted to shell out completely unnecessary cash back then I was. These days you’ll find me in the vegetable aisle of Lidl wondering should I splash out on vine ripened tomatoes or just stick with the ordinary ones. Times change, you know.
It was black of course, the custom-made designer outfit, black being the plus-size ballgoers friend. I thought it was the business. I went to the ball and was not a bit surprised when almost immediately a photographer approached wishing to take my picture in my custom-made designer gear.
I was put in a photograph with another woman. I smiled a sort of enigmatic grin, conscious that eventually people might be gazing at the photograph in magazines wondering where I got my gear. The grin said: “Sorry babe, it’s a one-of-a-kind designer number.” The other woman in the picture was wearing dressy black trousers and a generously proportioned silk black top. When the photographer finished she turned to me and said: “Don’t worry, that photo won’t get used anywhere. They just put us together because we are fat and in black.” It put me right off balls to be honest. But here I am down the back of the coach on my way to another ball, trying to start a sing- song. I am wearing a sparkly, taffeta coat-dress belonging to my mother. Cost: €14 for the dry cleaning. There is a woman down the back of the coach called Melky Jean, a sister of Wyclef Jean, who has travelled from California to entertain the revellers. “Give us a tune,” I say. 99 bottles of beer on the wall, she begins, which is the American version of Ten Green Bottles. And that’s when I know tonight’s going to be a good night.