Bret and I went to the hospital’s big annual fundraiser, a benefit ball at the local country club, last Saturday night. This particular event is both celebrated and despised (sort of) in my book.
The ball is a great event where tons of money is raised for major hospital projects, so I love it for all the good it produces. For example, one year when the community was rallying to raise enough money for its new Women’s Imaging Center, complete with digital mammography, three anonymous business men (whose names are now known; this town is small, remember?) took the CEO aside at the event and said they’d match the dollars raised within the next two months. I can’t remember…Was it a match up to thirty thousand? Three hundred thousand? Probably the latter. By golly, the rest of that money and then some came through after what will always be remembered as one of the most beautiful and passionate benefit balls ever held.
As for the part about not liking the benefit ball so much…Well, the Counting Crows song, “Round Here,” helps tell my story. There’s a line in that song that could be about me: “She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous.” So true. There are so many “who’s whos” at that event — so many people with whom I feel I don’t share a league because of money, status, weight — (need I go on?) that I always get pretty stressed out about going.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a real honor to be invited and to be able to participate. But I always worry about whether I’ll be able to fit in and overcome my fears of talking to people, dancing, and doing all the things people generally do at these functions. However, I am always reminded of why I married Bret when we go to these things. He can fit in and have a good time anywhere, and I love this about him. I’ve learned a lot about interacting in social situations from Bret over the years, and I’ve found that standing near him and holding his hand often helps shake my case of nerves.
Another concern about going to these types of events is finding the dreaded dress. The thought of getting this body into something that’s generally shiny and form-fitting in some way just doesn’t jive with my curves and self-image.
I used my children to get out of going to the first few balls. The first year the ball was held, I was pregnant. The next time, I was still nursing. (How could anyone expect me to get my huge melons into a formal?!) The time after that, I had just had a baby and was newly-nursing. That last time, just after having had Walt, Bret took his very attractive sister from out of town as a date. Talk about stirring the pot! A good friend of mine who attended that evening squelched the cheating hubby rumors that kept creeping up. Too funny!
So just like last year, my kids were old enough that I could not use them (or, specifically, their effects on my body) to get out of attending this year’s annual fundraiser. I bucked up and went again.
My friend, Laura, will ever be my personal shopper and scheduler from now on after she proved herself in the preparation for this event. She grabbed two dresses for me on a quick trip to a nearby city, and she only spent $22 on each one! I returned them the next day in another big city for one in a different size, same color and style. Then on Wednesday when I had child care, she called me up and told me that I had better get into the salon for a mani-pedi that day. And that I should get shellac, whatever that is. So I did. Whew! I hadn’t even thought about getting that stuff done!
Laura and I also had fun picking things up for one another. (Last minute call from Laura while I am at the mall: “I need a royal blue pocket square!” My return call a little later: “Got the pocket square, and Judy found you blue earrings. I’m just about to pick up our free underwear from Victoria’s Secret. (Coupons!) I am looking at a giant flower for my hair. Gotta go!”)
One of the the funniest parts of the evening involved jewelry. I had given Laura a bag of “bling” (all fake) to borrow from, and another friend had offered to loan her a real gold and diamond tennis bracelet. My husband was the last to see the friend, so we had the bracelet to give Laura on the night of the ball. When we called to let Laura know that we had it, she refused to wear it, citing that she was too nervous to be responsible for such an expensive bracelet. Not me. I slapped that puppy on and admired it all night!
Poor Laura…When everyone first sat down to dinner that night, the emcee’s first words from the podium were, “We have a lost and found situation. Anyone missing a bracelet?” Laura held up an empty wrist and glared at me. I didn’t know whether she was going to dive under the table from embarrassment or strangle me right there on the spot! (The bracelet had fallen off earlier too and made her late getting out the door.) Instead, she held her head high and plowed through the crowd to retrieve the cheap bracelet. In the end, I told her that a lesson had been learned: never borrow jewelry from someone who shops for jewels at the hospital’s yearly five dollar sale!
Getting into the dress and finding (or sometimes keeping on) coordinating accessories isn’t the only clothing-related challenge with the benefit ball. What if someone wears the exact same thing? It seems like two people almost always show up in the same outfit at a large function around here. Our pool of stores to shop from is pretty small when you look at how far we have to go to find civilization.
Well, I was certain that I would have a twin this time. There were tons of dresses in multiple department stores like mine, just in different colors. Sure enough, someone was wearing my dress in eggplant. I think I was the only one who noticed though since my color was as bright as hers was dark.
And remember the friend who wanted to fling my bracelet into the nearest river? Yeah, Laura also wore the exact same dress as someone else. (The CEO’s wife!) Both were good-natured about it and took pictures together. They called themselves “The Bridal Party.” And you know, the evening wouldn’t have been half as fun if they hadn’t shown up in the same gorgeous blue dress!
The other night I took a neighbor to a function at the children’s museum. Afterwards, she told me that she’d had so much fun that she was really glad she went. Then she added, “Even though I didn’t want to in the beginning.” I know what she means. I feel similar about having gone to the benefit ball. And the best part is that I have nearly an entire year before I am blessed to have the opportunity (and I truly mean that) to stress about going all over again!
“Bling-Bling” and me striking our red carpet poses!