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Monday 21 April 2014

In which I decide to follow the silk road...

There is much to bemoan about the ageing process, particularly when you're a woman. But it's self-defeating behaviour, really, because today is the youngest you will ever be -- 'be' being the operative verb.

So it's better to focus on the boons of becoming a woman. Instead of worrying about the changes that come at a certain age -- the grey hair, the crow's feet -- I try ('try' being the operative verb) to look forward to the things that a woman can only do at a certain age.

And it comes down to one thing: wear silk.

My formative understanding of womanhood came from black-and-white films in which the starlet would slink into a silk dressing gown, sit in front of a dressing table and lovingly run a Mason & Pearson brush through her hair -- all the while delivering withering put-downs to some enfeebled man who just couldn't keep up with the pace.

The unashamed indulgence. The ceremonial elegance. The absolute cheek! "That's what I want to be when I grow up," I thought.

The day I became a woman was the day I had the audacity to buy myself a silk dressing gown. Whenever I put it on I would pray that someone would call over unexpectedly and see how incredibly fabulous I was in my down time.

"Little drink?" I'd purr, while casually wheeling my drinks trolley and the elaborate array of glassware I had acquired, into the room. Sadly nobody ever 'caught me off guard' so it was only the mirror that got to see my sophisticated alter ego.

What's more, I no longer drink alcohol and I now live back at home with my mother. Two completely unrelated events, I should add.



Grubby

I still wear my silk dressing gown, though. And I've since discovered that silk is not just for lounging. Au contraire . . . I visited Marian Gale in Donnybrook, a boutique for women of a certain age and ilk, a few weeks ago. Well, it transpires that I am certainly of that age and apparently that ilk, because I soon spotted a garment that brought on mild palpitations.

Hanging haughtily on the rail, and covered in a plastic overlay so that people like me couldn't get their grubby little fingers on it, was a floor-length skirt made from cascades of rose-pink silk and chiffon. It was too beautiful to wear. It should really have been in a frame on the wall.

It might also have been part of a wedding dress. "Is this part of a wedding dress?" I asked Marian. She just gave me a wry smile and a little shake of her head. Neither a definitive yes or a no . . . good enough for me.

Besides, if skirts could talk, this one would say: 'Gentleman, please! Make way for the lady.' The price tag was equally arrogant: €750, but Marian, perhaps worried that I was going to pass out with the shock, said she'd give it to me for €500.

I've never spent so much on a single item of clothing in my life. The guilt began to creep up on me as I watched the receipt come spilling out of the machine. I'll give up smoking, I reassured myself... and eating. I'm a woman, I told myself, and this is what women do. The grand unveiling came on Saturday night last. It was a hen party (a recurring theme in my life this weather) so the first stop was a restaurant and the next stop was a nightclub.

It quickly became apparent that this skirt was going to be hard work. It was raining as we walked into the restaurant so I had to hoist it up into a bundle around my knees lest it trailed into a puddle.

On arrival I noticed that my friends were drinking red wine, so I made a beeline for the quieter end of the table, avoiding all hugs, kisses or indeed any form of bodily contact that could stain my newly prized possession.

I glided straight past a friend who has just returned from Oz -- and whom I haven't seen for a year. She threw me a look of bewilderment from the other end of the table. I blew her a kiss, and mouthed something about being an anal retentive.

Things got worse as the night progressed and my friends became messier. My beautiful skirt that never did anything to harm anyone was in constant threat and, like a mother to a child, I had to think for two. I probably shouldn't have worn it to a techno gig, but that's where the night led us and that's where the real trouble began.



Minefields

Normally I'm quite partial to the sweat and grime and downright savagery of techno music. Not on this night, not in a floor-length silk gown. "F**king barbarians," I muttered as I navigated through the battlefield, dodging the minefields of swilling beer and cigarette butts. "Watch it, mate, 750-quid silk skirt," I said to anyone who veered dangerously close.

I soon repaired to a quieter spot of the club, a cordon sanitaire if you will. The skirt was now out of harm's way and at long last the compliments could roll in. Did I mention that I looked like a film star?

"So, let me get this straight," began one gentleman. "It's your friend's hen party and you decided to wear a wedding dress?"

"Shut up," I hissed, taking a cursory glance to my left to make sure the bride-to-be wasn't in earshot.

A group of Middle Eastern men asked me if I was from Dubai . . . I suppose it is the fashion capital of the Middle East. Another said I'd win the Best Dressed Lady . . . if I was at the races. Things looked up when one gentleman friend said: "You look like a goddess." "I know . . . I mean, thank you," I replied.

At this point I noticed that there was a footprint on the tail of my skirt, and a hole, and a stain. And another stain. Instant karma for my excessive vanity.

Like Icarus and Narcissus, there has to be a Greek myth about the woman who wanted her silken robe to remain entirely uncorrupted, but whose hubris destroyed her in the end.

Katius dared not talk to anyone lest they sullied her immaculate silks. She would walk right by them. Soon people began to walk right by her.

The twist in the tale is that Katius's skirt ended up lying in tatters, just like her relationships with her friends. My friends now think I'm an a**hole, and the irony is that if I had cared a little less, my skirt wouldn't have got so dirty.

New clothes can make you behave in ways that are almost alien to you. I remember the day my friend's dad bought her an insanely expensive fur coat. She became so arrogant that she may as well have constructed a velvet rope around herself and started signing autographs.

My brother was once forced to knock a friend from his lofty perch. "That jacket has gone to your head," he remarked.

My silk skirt went to my head. In fact, I can't get it out of my head. Good friends or fabulous skirt . . . it's a toughy.

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