This is the second in a series of blogs written by Tess DeMint (aka Professor Ed Madden), a contestant in the 18th annual Vista Queen Pageant, a fundraiser for our beloved Trustus Theatre.
Please support Tess by visiting Trustus Theatre. Each vote costs $10 and all money goes to Trustus Theatre.
Last weekend we decided to go shopping.
At that first consultation with T.O., I had tried on things from the theatre wardrobe, and settled, I think, on a couple of possibilities. But no shoes there, and still in need of at least one more getup. T.O. suggested visiting thrift stores, if only to get a sense of what I liked, what might work.
When we were in Arkansas during spring break, we ran across a booth of formal dresses in an antiques mall, all the dresses marked down to $30 and $40. Maybe a formalwear shop closing up. Some crazy things, mostly prom dresses. We decided to check it out. I slid a big jacket on: too small. I found a chart for size translation on my phone: it included waist and jacket sizes for men and the corresponding women sizes. We looked through all the sizes. Nothing for me there.
That was, of course, before the consultation, before I’d even settled on a name or a persona. Now I have a better sense of who I could be, what I might look like.
Goodwill, where we started shopping, was full of many things, but not much that seemed useful. Way too many outfits that looked like tired professional women at work. I did find a choir robe for $6, which seemed maybe worth buying. The shoe rack had some scary-cool things, but nothing in my size, nothing in an interesting color. I noticed my own shoes were dusted yellow—pollen, that film of yellow coating everything right now, the air filled with the sexual life of plants.
At one consignment shop, somewhat high-end, filled with furniture and bric-a-brac, as well as racks and racks of clothes, we had a little more luck. There was a ruffled pink thing that looked promising. (I texted Tio a photo. “Drama,” he wrote back approvingly.) A large woman in orange seemed annoyed we were in her section, and practically pushed me aside with her cart. She was perhaps unamused by two men giggling over the options on the plus-size dress racks, which could mostly be dismissed as (as Bert put it) “too mother-of-the-bride.” Not the look for a Vista Queen.
At another consignment store, Second Chances, when we mentioned Vista Queen, the woman behind the counter brightened up, walked us through the store, determined to help us find the right thing. When I told her what I thought my size should be (based on that internet research and the things I pulled on at the first consult, encased in my fake hips and bosom), she laughed, oh honey you don’t need something that big. She pulled out a lovely beaded black size 16. Just pull it on over your clothes, she said, to get a sense of how it fit, how it looked. It was breathtaking—and breath-taking, too tight.
We checked our watches. We had dinner plans. It was our wedding anniversary—eleven years after being unlawfully wed, as I like to say, that long-ago ceremony filled with family and friends, but unacknowledged at the time by state law. While we searched the consignment shop, our minister, who now lives in the Upstate, sent a text of well-wishes from himself and his wife.
One more. Behind the desk was a flouncy white ruffled dress that slid maybe too easily over my head. Bert suggested a slit up the side to make it a little less matronly. We texted a pic to T.O., me in the middle of the shop, the dress pulled over my jeans and green shirt.
He agreed with Bert: too mother-of-the-bride.
I hope T.O. deleted that picture.