She had placed the dress on a hanger. This was notable in itself, as most clean clothing usually ended up in a heap in the closet floor mere inches from the hamper. There was no thought behind this, no rebellion. It was, for the most part, sheer disinterest in the banality of it all. Putting clothes away was boring. As long as they were accessible and not terribly wrinkled when needed, there seemed little point. “Hanging” clothes were mostly for going to special occasions like church or school concerts. Worst were the times the hanger clothes were expected, right after the dining room was dusted, the good dishes set out, and delectable, otherwise forbidden bakery treats were procured. This meant tedious dinners with aunts and uncles – the titles were honorific — who barely looked at Bridget, instead devoting time guffawing too loudly over glasses of wine while sloppily praising Bridget’s mother, Sharon: the Beauty, the Brains, the Hostess. Mostly the beauty, as the chicken was usually dry and Sharon’s eyes went dead when conversation drifted away from her, which mirrored those of whichever member of the Gardening Tea Club had spoken most convincingly and with perceived deference to Sharon.
Sharon’s eyes took on a strange light when aunts and uncles told Bridget she looked just like her mother. Bridget enjoyed the compliment, but only because she saw how beauty was power, and she longed to be considered beautiful. It seemed a cruel twist that her only pathway to beauty was by mirroring her mother. On the rare occasions that aunts and uncles asked Bridget to engage in the conversation of the day, she spoke passionately and quickly, with her mother’s conviction…a conviction much more palatable when coming from a sixteen-year-old than a forty-two-year-old.
The dress was a surprise. Sharon had insisted that Bridget accompany her to the mall, as Bridget was “showing through” her old clothes. Bridget knew this meant more shapeless (albeit colorful) dresses, blouses, sweaters, and skirts. She hadn’t expected her mother to take her to the intimate’s section of Macy’s and select some shapeware “for smoothing.” When Bridget balked, her mother took her to hosiery and purchased several pairs of control top pantyhose. Her mother stared at the size chart on the back of the package of DKNY Opaques for long minutes while Bridget stared at the disembodied plastic leg modeling tastefully naughty herringbone sheers. “Size Small,” Sharon decided, giving Bridget a studied once-over, “you’re short.”