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The Power of Being Dishy

by Ferida Wolff

I was in a dress store making my first foray at mother-of-the-groom dresses. My son propelled me into this category by announcing he was getting married this year. I was delighted to hear the news. I love his fiancée and see a great future for them. My husband and I even get along well with her parents and the rest of her family. So, with a late winter wedding in mind, I started to browse in the specialty shops for styles that would be pretty and appropriate for my fifty-six years and my new role. I had no intention of buying anything until three or four months down the road. After all, the bride-to-be hadn't yet bought her gown. Knowing that I wasn't buying, freed me to try on whatever caught my eye.

All that was forgotten when I tried on The Dress. Why this one called to me, at this time in my life, I'll never know. It was strapless with a beaded bodice and a long, softly flowing skirt. I thought I looked good in it in the dressing room but I have been known to pick out clothes that were less than flattering. I tend toward folksy styles with so much material that my thin, five-foot- two frame sometimes gets lost. When I came out to show the salesperson, however, I knew it was right. There were eight people in the shop and eight pairs of eyes lit up. Nine, if you counted mine.

I had never worn a strapless dress before. I never thought I could carry it off. I was carrying this dress like I was born to wear it.

"That dress looks great on you," said one of the other customers. "You have the shoulders for it."

My trainer at the gym would be happy to hear it.

An older gentleman who was waiting sleepily in a chair while his wife tried on one dress after another was suddenly alert. He didn't say a word but he didn't have to. I could tell I looked sexy. I felt sexy. His wife was trying on a more traditional style dress and jacket, more like what I had expected to look at and for a moment I had a twinge of doubt. She was older by a good fifteen years but we had the same amount of gray hair. Did I look foolish? She looked at me with an appraising look and smiled. I smiled shyly back in appreciation.

"This dress fits you like a glove," said the salesperson. "Usually we have to take in a few tucks here and there but not this time."

I preened in front of the three-way mirror a little while longer before could I not? One doesn't turn down Cinderella's gown. I walked out of the shop feeling like royalty.

I tried on the dress for my husband and got the same lit-up reaction.

"You look dishy," he said.

I laughed at the old-fashioned compliment and immediately became nervous. Was it okay for me to look dishy? Would it embarrass my son?

Would it embarrass me? Was someone in her late fifties supposed to look that way? And why did it feel so good?  

I didn't think of myself as dishy as a teenager. My hair was too straight, my body too skinny and flat. I remember wishing that I would be sexy but when I developed curves, they seemed foreign so I covered them up. That did nothing to enhance my appeal. I was smart but didn't see the desirability of that at the time. Later on, I worked at being professional and efficient as a girl revolution would.

And here I was, lapping up the admiring stares. I was glowing. But it was more about sensuality than sexuality. I didn't really care what was going through other people's heads when they saw me in the dress, though it was amusing to think that I might be prompting some lascivious thoughts. I just knew that I felt fluid and graceful. I wasn't trying to return to my youth, an impossibility after two children and thirty-seven years of marriage. It wasn't necessary anyway. Dishy-ness is not a function of youth. I have a friend who is closer to seventy than fifty who has people of various ages flocking around her with that light in their eyes. She recognized her sensuality all along while I played hide and seek for five decades before finding it. 

To my surprise, I enjoyed being dishy. This new perception of myself was fun. There was energy here, a power I now understood. I started carrying myself differently. I walked taller and easier with the confidence of someone who has been a dish all of her life. The dress helped me claim the sensuality that I owned but never accepted. I knew I would look smashing. I was going to have a wonderful time at the wedding, too busy dancing to worry about my son, whose attention would be focused on his beautiful new wife anyway. I hoped she realized how dishy she was already.

Ferida Wolff has been exploring the inner terrain of the self for over thirty years. She was an elementary school teacher, a student and teacher of Yoga and has a certificate in holistic studies, leading meditation workshops. She is the author of sixteen published books for children and author of Listening Outside Listening Inside and The Adventures of Swamp Woman, Menopause: Essays on the Edge. Her website,, reflects her varied interests, travels, and writings.



©2005 Ferida Wolff from The Adventures of Swamp Woman, Menopause: Essays on the Edge
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