Dresses

“You are not a yellow cotton sundress! You are red satin! You are strapless red satin.”

If you know me at all, you know that a lot of things come back to Veronica Mars with me. I apologise for that, but not really, because that would be to apologise for myself, and that’s a habit I’m hellbent on breaking. So, sorry not sorry.

Anyway, so there’s this scene. It’s a flashback, to a time before there had to be a Before Veronica and an After, to a time when Before Veronica had one best friend and she didn’t know things were complicated, to a time when that one best friend was everything that Before Veronica was not, and After Veronica…well. We’ll get there. So it’s a flashback. There’s a dance, and there’s a dress, and Lilly (the best friend who lives in After Veronica’s flashbacks), she doesn’t approve. She says, “you’re strapless red satin.” It’s the sort of thing best friends are supposed to say on tv, even when we can all see it’s not true.

It means a lot of things, narratively speaking, that I won’t get into here. It’s part of a different story, and besides, I don’t have a narrative to offer. I don’t think I’m near my season finale yet. I don’t even know which episode I’m in. Most of the time I think the show kind of sucks, to be honest. But if I may, I’d like to borrow the metaphor. I hope Veronica won’t mind.

I just want to take a second to talk about this world where yellow cotton sundresses live on one end of the clothesline, and strapless red satin lives on the other, and we all fall somewhere along that spectrum. Let’s say the one is just a thing denoting softness, like a marshmallow, and the other is a thing that is…not that. Say it is a spiked collar, or shards of glass. I don’t know. I’m too broken not to mix my metaphors these days. Too bruised to really talk about semiotics in that way Before Me could, like she knew things. I don’t know things anymore, aside from this. I’m sorry.

So anyway. Some of us are cotton, and some are satin. Some of us are other things entirely. But some of us got torn apart, and we’re trying to stitch a dress back together with different bits of cloth. Maybe something came along and shredded a yellow sundress, and there weren’t enough scraps left afterward to make the dress whole again. Maybe more than one something came along, more than once, and all of those things had a taste for cotton. Maybe we tried our very best to recreate that sundress. But it never fit right again. It was wrinkled and torn and stained and we couldn’t look at it anymore. We went scrounging for other things to fill in the gaps.

We find satin. It’s expensive. Maybe enough for a whole new dress. We’d pay even more to replace that first one, but they’re always out of stock.

There’s a scene where Veronica takes off a red dress, leaves it on a beach to go skinny dipping. There’s a scene where she dreams of a future where there was ever a need for After Veronica. There are scenes where she mourns Before Veronica, and there are scenes where After Veronica realises the red fits her better than the yellow, now, and she doesn’t even mind.

Some of us learn to wear the hell out of strapless satin. Some of us somehow manage it, somehow still get dressed and go out there every day. Somehow some of us have worn that satin from day one. I think all we can do is wear it every day where others can see it so that other people never have to. So that we can protect yellow cotton sundresses.

Here’s what I know: sometimes in the time between Before and After we take down all the mirrors in the house because we cannot bear to look at the monstrous thing that does not fit anymore. We think we are the monstrous thing. But listen to me — you are not a monster. It was never, ever you. Your skin feels too tight and your bones feel like fire because you are a phoenix. I promise. I promise. I promise.

Damn. I’ve mixed my metaphors again. Sorry. I can’t really help it. I’m just a patchwork girl now.

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