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  • "I feel like this one is more churchy," she said, trying to pitch the idea of a dress I'd already refused.

    "I think you should wear the blue and white one."

    "I feel like this one's more sophisticated."

    "It is. I wear it to work. I think you should wear the blue and white one."

    She stared at me before slouching over for an unzip. Her dad was waiting in the car. He called from the street before she tried on the last dress, her third of the morning and the second time for each. Despite a conversation about the seersucker, she wanted to try the collared dress again.

    "I think you should wear the blue and white one," I said of the dress she already wore.

    "OK," she said and slipped into the bathroom to pull on the collared frock while her dad waited.

    We'd reviewed the dresses last night.

    "I feel like I should wear the black one," she said at the time.

    "The black lace one or the black one with flowers?"

    "Black lace."

    "Didn't you describe that dress as sexy?"


    "I don't think so."

    She tried on the dress.

    "I think this is the one."

    "Yeah. No. I don't think so," I repeated.

    "Come on. It's sophisticated."

    She looked lovely in the dress and so very grown up. She also looked as if she were ready for a night at a club, dancing, and heavy drinking.

    She was 15.

    "For church? And lunch with your grandmother? I don't think so."

    She pleaded with me as my brother walked in. He took one look at her and said, "Definitely not."

    At her age, I wouldn't dare wear such a dress. Of course, at her age, I wouldn't own one. At this age, I don't, but I suppose that given our parity in dress size (if not age and height), I could borrow it. I just couldn't see myself in a short black lace dress with lon, sheer sleeves and an asymmetrical hem and definitely not for church.

    For the longest time, I felt as if I were playing dress up - I still do - and every day I donned a costume for whatever adventures life held. I wanted to look the part. I imagined that everyone else felt the same way but knew, on most levels, that it wasn't true.

    A couple of decades ago, I dressed for a date under my mom's watchful eye. As I swept my hair into a ponytail, she tsked.

    "You should wear it down. It's so much prettier down"

    I finished the ponytail in the car.

    My hair may have looked prettier down, but I didn't feel that it fit the outfit, occasion, and our plans for the night. I might have looked my very best in a prom dress, but that didn't mean I should wear it to work or the grocery store every day.

    Maybe I sacrificed a little for the sum of the whole, but in the end, it didn't matter. It was a dreadful blind date, and the man was slightly less interesting than cardboard. Nothing could have salvaged the night – not an outfit, not a hairstyle, nothing but, perhaps, a change in players.

    This morning, my niece sullenly changed back into the seersucker dress. She couldn’t explain why she thought she should look, at 15, “sophisticated” for Sunday services in a small country church on a hot day or for lunch with her small country grandmother, but she resented the fact that I’d put a crimp in her plans. As for my part, I rose slowly and put the dresses away, considering what role I would play and what I should wear.

    Did I have anything that fit an evil aunt?
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