Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mandatory Fun and the Little Black Velvet Dress: A Social Experiment

Last weekend, tragically, George broke his favorite wine glass, the one commemorating the U.S. Air Force’s 50th anniversary. His sadness reminded me of the night he acquired that wine glass, which reminded me about the little black velvet dress I wore the night he acquired that wine glass, which reminded me how, when I wore the little black velvet dress on the night he acquired that wine glass, men noticeably talked to my boobs instead of to me.

George had to attend a dining out for the 50th anniversary and of course he wanted me to tag along. Military parties come in two varieties: fun and "mandatory fun." Dining outs, or military formal banquets, are usually fun occasions, at least when flying squadrons get together to party with rituals, toasts, and lots and lots of alcohol. This dining out, however, was “mandatory fun.” Few of George’s friends were going, and not one of mine.

Oh, joy. Get dressed up and go to the Officers’ Club; eat cold, bad food; converse with strangers; and wait until given permission to go pee after some boring speech about blah, blah, blah.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t convey my deep and sincere respect for the awesome work of the Air Force over its first half century.

For once in my life, I didn’t have a formal dress to wear, having donated the old ones I’d worn for years to Goodwill some months earlier. At first, I didn’t expect to have trouble finding a suitable dress for a reasonable price, but after much fruitless shopping, I realized a reasonably-priced, attractive dress that fit me did not exist in Boise, Idaho, in 1997. The only acceptable dress I could find was almost $400.

Um, no. Just no. I didn’t pay that much for my wedding dress.

So I dug through my closet and found a little black velvet slip dress that George bought at Victoria’s Secret a few years before. I’d never had the guts to wear it out in public because the v-neck plunged rather alarmingly, but it was at least a semi-formal cocktail dress with a pretty—if short—swirly skirt. It seemed the best option at the time.

In 1997, I was in pretty good shape. The dress was a size 4, my boobs were perky but not terribly large (I wore a barely B cup size), and other than my cankles, I rather liked my body.

Still, I wasn’t in the habit of wearing plunge necklines and showing that much leg. I even had to buy a new bra for the dress as my old, strapless bra peeked unattractively out the top of the dress’s neckline. I tried on at least twenty different bras at five or six different stores before finding a skimpy black push-up that wouldn’t show.

Standing alone in the dressing room, I didn’t mind the décolletage. After all, I was saving big bucks by wearing this little black dress.

This very little black dress.

The night of the dining out, George saw the results of my frugality. He was not amused. He asked if I could put on a sweater. I said no. He asked if I had a scarf. I said no.

On the hour-long drive to the base, he kept glancing nervously at my boobs. I decided this was the perfect social experiment: what, indeed, is the effect of cleavage on social interactions with both a spouse and strangers at a formal event?

The answer, which did not surprise me and I’m sure will not surprise you, is complete and total distraction. Even my smallish boobs were enough to distract pretty much every man I encountered. None of them could maintain an interesting line of thought for conversation, and when they could form words at all, they spoke those words to my boobs, which, to my knowledge, completely lack ears.

As you might imagine, I had a blast with my little social experiment because the circumstances were completely safe and secure, and it was particularly entertaining to watch George squirm. He didn’t leave my side the entire night and tried repeatedly to tie his napkin around my neck. Also, he didn’t flinch when, later that year, I purchased a $120 evening dress on sale at Macy’s that had a modest neckline and did not require a skimpy push-up bra. Never again has any man, other than my properly wedded husband, addressed my boobs in conversation.

On the whole, I rather prefer it that way.

Here's a picture from the Christmas party later that year, for which I bought the dress with the modest neckline. As you can see, this party was definitely fun, and not at all of the mandatory type. Also, note how I look boobless. George really liked this dress.


  1. Great story, Susan! It's funny how our men do not like it when WE wear the same type of clothing that they love to look at on OTHER women! lol....

  2. Yes, Patti, there definitely is a double standard when it comes to wives versus every other woman on the planet!

  3. I am CRUSHED not to see your "little black dress" or a photo of your B's on their Very Big Day. Ha ha ha.

    When I was 26, I bought a stretchy black knit miniskirt on a whim because it looked versatile and comfortable and was surprised when I got it home how short and sexy it was. I had never dressed "sexy" in my entire life; I had always done "pretty" or "classy." Truthfully, I didn't even think "sexy" was possible for me, but the little black skirt showed me it was. I had great legs and had never noticed. They had been hiding under long demure floral sundresses or preppy plaid woold skirts.

    For about two years, I wore the stretchy skirt, a form-fitting denim miniskirt, and on a very few occasions, a black leather miniskirt that I bought on a dare in California. Everyone loved the skirts but my husband who never told me not to wear them but never complimented me on them either.

    *I* enjoyed the skirts and that brief interlude in my life where I finally felt like a contender in the "gets a second look when she enters a room" competition. It was good for me, as I'd been teased about my looks as a teenager and always felt like the "ugly girl" at the party.

  4. Sorry, V. There is no photographic evidence of the little black velvet dress. I'd show it if I had it, though, because I really did look hot!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!