It was the first time I had ever worn something “sexy.” I was going to my first adult costume party and decided to be brave, daring, and not quite me. A friend had told me about a single guy friend of hers that she thought I would connect with.
It took a month to find the right costume. I knew I wanted to be Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland, because the whole thing felt like a strange adventure so why not embrace it. I ended up buying three different costumes before the party. The first was too cheaply made. The second too tight. And the third one just right. I was a little shorter skirt than I was used to, and a little lower neckline, but everything still felt covered. I bought some white tights, a bunny purse, and some steampunk jewelry. All of those things are still in a spare room, never worn again.
The problem didn’t turn out to be the single guy. He was fine. We laughed a little on the couch, but I found myself more interested in visiting with a new potential friend than him, and lost him into the crowd before long. He would go on to date and break the heart of another woman from that room so it was not meant to be.
I stayed at the party for a couple hours. Trying to mingle among people I didn’t know but wanted to. These were cool kids in a variety of awesome costumes from the homemade to the store bought. Most of the people in the room knew one another, while I knew the host and barely knew another handful of faces. I can be extroverted when I have a purpose, but otherwise I’d much rather be with a small group of friends or a book.
I had an early morning commitment so it was not going to be a late night for me. I’d started wandering the room as part of a final pass / social attempt before my planned exit.
It was in the middle of the living room that I caught the attention of this married man. I knew he was married. I’d met his wife, who was nearby. He knew I knew he was married. And yet he came too close and spoke too much for a married man and this not-his-wife woman.
He commented on my aura and explained what it meant. And said that I should stay longer to sing a karaoke duet with him. And there were other words too. I don’t remember any of them. All I remember was the screaming inside my head for my friends to notice how close this man is. Somehow, without a hand on me, he made me feel shame like I never had before. As his eyes stared over me, an experience that still sickens me years later, I worried what would happen if I were alone in a room with him.
The interaction lasted only a few minutes, and then his wife came close enough for me to defer the still-married man over to her. I slipped into the back room for my coat, constantly looking over my shoulder, terrified that he would follow. I was less than 20 feet from the party, and yet shaking over being so isolated. I wrapped my coat around me, covering more inches in this warm armor, and escaped with a smiling wave to the host and promise to text soon.
It was not until my car reached my parking spot at home that I let tears start. This was my very first time trying to look sexy. Not cute or pretty or professional but sexy. I had lost some weight, felt more confident, and was going to meet a guy that I’d been hearing about for weeks. Instead I sat in my dark car, blaming myself for being inappropriate by choosing this costume. If I had gone home earlier, it wouldn’t have happened. If I had dressed more conservatively, it wouldn’t have happened. If hadn’t lost weight, it wouldn’t have happened.
Finally the cold forced me out of the car and into my apartment. The costume quickly swapped for flannel pajamas and a bed covered in blankets. I covered every inch of myself, seeking sleep and forgetfulness.
I have seen that man a few more times. Each time placing other persons or large pieces of furniture between us. He probably thinks nothing of that night, either because he was able to forget thanks to the alcohol in his blood, or it was such a minor occurrence that it didn’t make a memory. But for me, for me there is a costume buried in the closet that I cannot wear and I cannot seem to throw away.