Dressing Up

Dad’s in town so we go out for dinner at the restaurant at the Hyatt where his company’s put him up. There are five of us: my brother and his girlfriend, my father and his partner, and me. It’s a nice hotel and a nice dinner, so I try to dress up, though every time I do I usually end up looking – as my housemate Josh likes to point out – like either a lesbian or a country girl giving it a red-hot go. Dressing up for me means picking out the best jeans out of the three pairs I own, borrowing some make-up, and finding some sort of nice-looking shirt, which in this case is a collared cotton one whose cut people kept complementing (though I’m pretty sure they’re just picking out the best thing about the ensemble and focusing on that).

There are rich people everywhere and some of them hold open the door of the elevator as we rush in. In the elevator among all the rich people is a little girl. She’s maybe eight years old and she’s all dressed up, many times classier than me, in heels she can actually walk in and a well-tailored dress. Earings flash in her little ears. She holds herself in imitation of an adult’s posture, with only the occasional flick of the shoulders or impatient bend of the knees to give away all the kid-energy trapped in there.

When the doors close and I see her turn around to the mirror on the back wall and her hands go up to her hair. It’s not as if her hair needs fixing, and she’s not doing much to it – just pulling at the strands like she’s seen the grown-ups do. Her face smooths out in learned assurance and her eyes pucker with concentration, and she stands there fixing her hair, as it seems she’s learnt she should do, as a girl, in an elevator with a mirror.

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