Barbarella
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When I free my body from its clothes, from all their buttons, belts, and laces, it seems to me that my soul takes a deeper, freer breath. — August Strindberg

My arms were trapped above my head by the unforgiving garment I was attempting to shimmy into. After pulling a muscle in my right arm in an effort to escape the silk prison I’d created, I paused and tried to picture my awkward reflection in the mirror I couldn’t see. Howling in frustration and misery, I leaned against the bathroom wall and considered my predicament, a task that would have been much less melodramatic had I not been intoxicated.

It had been around three months since I’d acquired the “iridescent espresso” gown that now held me captive — “iridescent espresso” being Ann Taylor’s words for “brown.” My pants were snug from two months of serial wining and dining at my preferred San Diego eateries sans exercise, a regimen that would leave even the fittest women with a bit of bloat. I knew I’d gained some weight, but I’d refused to contemplate the exact amount.

I took a deep breath and wormed my way free of the chocolate-colored evidence of my denial. I tried again, this time unzipping the wretched thing before throwing it over my head. Once I’d squeezed the bridesmaid’s dress (the one I was supposed to wear at my sister’s wedding just seven no-carb days away) around my abundant hips, I tugged the two zipper halves on the left side of my torso together. “Not even close,” I spat at the mirror. Despite my exertion, the two muddy shores yawned around a four-inch river of flesh.

Once my sobs had tapered to sniffles, I texted David, who was a few states away at a photography workshop. His first response, as always, was born of logic — he thought I probably just needed help with the zipper, and that if the dress was still too tight, I’d simply need to have it altered. As if it wouldn’t be a horrific experience to stand in front of a complete stranger and say, “Is there enough fabric for you to extend this thing to cover where I’ve porked up?” Just as I was imagining my humiliation, David texted, “Don’t panic, don’t cry.” I typed, “Too late, bawling like a baby.” We communicated this way for a few minutes, me writing that I was a big fat failure, David assuring me that I don’t fail at anything, me apologizing for being a freak, David agreeing that, yes, I’m a freak, but a beautiful, wonderful freak whom he loves very, very much.

When my thumbs grew tired, I toggled to the phone and called David. He’d had an easier time understanding my texts, as my voice was obscured by sniffles and snorts. I gave him a run-down of my evening thus far, beginning with the moment our friend Jen arrived with the 1932 horror flick Freaks, and ending ten minutes after Jen went home, when I — filled to the brim with a bottle of wine, a pound of cheese, and images of freaks dancing in my head — supposed it was good time to try on the dress.

When I’d finished blubbering, David spoke soothing words in a soft tone; he asked me not to stay up all night fretting and suggested I visit a seamstress first thing in the morning to get the matter settled. I kept him on the line until I sensed I was exhausted enough to be able to fall asleep.

The following morning, within 30 seconds of waking, my plight consumed my brain, at which point I groaned and pulled the comforter over my throbbing head. I decided that instead of running around to find a seamstress, my time would be better spent in bed, wallowing in self-pity. My plan was perfect but for one small, overlooked detail — I hadn’t silenced my phone.

“Barb? I’m so happy you picked up,” said Jenny. “I need to ask a favor of you. It’s kind of urgent.” I murmured a greeting to my sister, the one for whom I was suffering. “One of the groomsmen dropped out, and now the bridal party is uneven.”

In the fraction of a second during which she paused to take a breath, I spotted my solution and, tears renewed, I gushed forth: “It’s okay, because I gained a bunch of weight and the dress doesn’t fit, so how ’bout I back out? I really don’t mind if I’m not in the wedding. I mean, I’ll still go, of course, but it’s totally fine if I’m not up there standing next to you. I mean, with only one week to go, it’s not like I have much of a choice, and this works out for the better.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Jenny said. “I was going to ask if you thought David might be interested in being a groomsman.” She paused to adjust to the conversation’s new direction. “You know what? It doesn’t matter if the number is uneven. Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out. You’re going to be in the wedding, and it’s all going to work out just fine.”

While Jenny was apparently rallying the troops (within the next minute, I ignored calls of support from Jane, Heather, and Mom), I received and accepted a call from my friend Jen. Jen and I had tentative plans to go for a walk, plans that, in the midst of my crisis, I’d entirely forgotten. With hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I told my friend what had happened after she’d left, and how miserable I was at the prospect of trying to find a nonjudgmental tailor on short notice.

It was a Friday, and Jen had the day off. After she’d been briefed, she said, “Do you want me to come and try to zip you up?” I could think of nothing I wanted more. Less than 30 minutes later, Jen stood in my bedroom while I struggled to get as much of myself as I could into the dress. I hobbled over to her. Jen, upon witnessing the sausage effect first-hand, smiled and stifled a giggle.

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Comments

jim87vette July 24, 2008 @ 8:04 a.m.

So I can't say "would you like some cheese with that Whine" since you had both lol j/k.Thats so funny after the fact of coarse. I have a closet full of t-shirts and such that I know have shrunk over the coarse of many washes.I say well when I loose 10 pounds this shirt will work fine so I then put it back away and move onto the sure thing-the larger shirt. Btw I love cheese lol.

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Barbarella Fokos July 24, 2008 @ 1:24 p.m.

Clothing misunderstandings can be very depressing, but there's always cheese and wine to ease the pain. ;)

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pete78 July 27, 2008 @ 2:10 a.m.

Sometimes when I don't fit into my dress I use Crisco to lube myself up. Seems to do the trick pretty darn well. You ever try that? And the best part is that now Crisco uses 0 grams of transfat!

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Barbarella Fokos July 27, 2008 @ 10:13 a.m.

Never thought of Crisco, Pete. Sounds like a party. I'm always game for parties. ;)

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towelheadedcameljockey July 31, 2008 @ 3:06 p.m.

Red Mini, very cute. Plate DQMNTRX plates....Dairy Queen or Disqualified Dominartix?

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Barbarella Fokos July 31, 2008 @ 3:19 p.m.

That would be "Dominatrix," after someone else got the "O." D'oh! I tried a variety, one even using the number 8, but this one looked most like the word at a glance. The Q causes just enough doubt and speculation. But the matching red and black riding crop helps me clarify matters. ;)

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Deider Aug. 19, 2008 @ 9:37 a.m.

I had been off of work for two months until last Monday and every week my boyfriend would bring the Reader home and the first thing I would read were your stories. I love them there so awesome and then I saw you on the news a couple of weeks ago with the brown dress. I like your style thats what I first noticed and how awesome your writing his. Now that Im at work and sometimes get a break I can read the READER online. I look forward to Thursday story...

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Barbarella Fokos Aug. 19, 2008 @ 11 a.m.

Thank you, Deider! I'm delighted that you enjoy my stories, and that you caught that bit with me and the dress on the news. I had a lot of fun showing it off, especially after all the drama it has caused me. ;)

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Deider Aug. 20, 2008 @ 7:39 a.m.

Yea, when I was flipping the channels I saw the story before yours and I thought I was dreaming when you came on it was funny and cool. Tomorrows Thursday lol...

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pinkshoes March 26, 2014 @ 10:53 a.m.

Time after time, as I read about your adventures I think that you are truly blessed to have found such a wonderful man. It gives me hope for those of us who haven’t yet. :)

(Posted originally to "Tic tact” by mistake.)

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