Do you know what’s more awkward than walking naked into a room of robed women? Being invited to one of their houses not knowing the dress code. Not, “smart casual” or “day wear” but, what level of posh.
I parked my dust encrusted people carrier between the be-dazzled Beemer and knee-high Porsche’ and navigated my way to the palace’s front door. With a few deep breathes, I gathered myself. You can do this. They’re just people… women… soul sisters.
I sucked my gut in even tighter, raised my hand to knock and almost KO’d my hostess. The door burst open to peals of laughter and a blazing starburst of tear-inducing white.
“Jen, you made it.” Like the novelty toy inside a Kinder-Surprise, the ladies eagerly grabbed me and ushered me into the blinding light of their alternate universe.
“Look at you.” And they did. All nine of them. All watching. All blending into a collage of white on glaring white—flowing white slacks, designer white tops and laser enhanced white teeth. All grinning. At me. In my cheap chic black—pregnancy jeans (no I wasn’t pregnant. And yes, they still fit… after thirteen months), Target’ flouncy black top and my sister’s black ankle boots.
I felt betrayed. My loyal friend who’d always had my back—hiding spilt food, dog slobber and post-natal fat—had deserted me. Black had taken me from the shadows and thrust me into the limelight. Where all rational thought now pooled in my too-tight boots, and my anxiety crash-tackled my insecurities in the awkward silence. What were they waiting for? A performance? In a rush of fear-induced adrenaline I broke out a rendition of Bob the Builder’s “Can we fix it?” Complete with spirit fingers and digging action. Yes. Yes, I did.
The gaggle roared. “Oh, my gosh, Sal, you said she was a tonic?”
Maybe they were Elton John fans? “Make mine with triple Gin please.”
With more guffaws I was dragged through the white mansion where I gave a silent prayer of thanks for the couch that engulfed me like a chubby fist slammed into clump of playdough. But even here, with feet dangling, I was birthing a migraine from the blinking neon sign above my head, “Outsider”.
With a wink, Sal thrust a tall glass of cool into my hand, perched on the edge of the couch, and proceeded to “fix it”. Yes. Yes, she did. Her vim and vibrancy provided a shield behind which I entrenched myself for the rest of the afternoon. Although, I wouldn’t have minded if someone had passed that cartruter… chartoot… bits and pieces board around. I was starving.
Eventually the anxiety wasps and elephant butterflies warred each other into extinction, so my only real discomfort was the lack of circulation in my feet. These women proved themselves gracious, generously hospitable and genuinely funny.
It wasn’t until I was welcomed home however, with an explosion of colour, bodies and chaos, that I could finally exhale. To be fair though, I’d enjoyed myself even if the day had been a cross-cultural experience. But it was here, with a sleeping toddler in my arms, a warm mass of boy and his dog wrapped around my freed feet, and a bag of crisps shared on a messy couch was where I was truly at peace.