Four steps into the entrance of the downtown Hyatt, my feet started to hurt and I noticed a small run in my pantyhose. I took a deep breath, which was somewhat difficult considering I had bound my midsection with no less than four layers of figure-enhancing spandex, and tried to channel a festive attitude toward my husband’s office holiday party.
I limped to the elevators with great difficulty, as the new “Comfort Series” heels I bought for the occasion slipped backwards on my feet, allowing my heels to escape with every step. Upon entering the mirrored elevator, I noticed that the concealer I had applied under my eyes in the minivan was two shades too light, giving me the look of a startled barn owl.
I tried to smear the make up and held my shoulders back to lengthen my thickening middle-aged torso, something my mother had drilled into my head a thousand times. The dress I’d purchased in haste on a clearance rack did not look quite as flattering as it had in the store’s dressing room, and the uncomfortable layers of underwear, control top pantyhose, Spanx, back-fat reducing spandex camisole, and underwire bra was only making me feel like a bratwurst in a red dress.
As I hobbled out of the elevator toward the ballroom, I could see my husband’s demeanor change. Like Clark Kent, he was transforming from Francis, the man who wears black socks in his recliner while watching “King of Queens” reruns and scratching himself, into “Captain Molinari,” ready to leap tall buildings with a single bound. As much as I wished I could turn into Cat Woman and leap out the window, I staggered along as Captain Molinari’s pudgy sidekick with the bad feet and the cheap dress.
I made a beeline to the bar for a little liquid courage, but Francis delayed my mission to introduce me to various coworkers. “Great to meet you,” I would say, and then stand there with a fake grin on my face while my mind raced to think of something, anything interesting to say.
We found our table, and the buffet line soon assembled. Fighting my urge to elbow colleagues out of the way to get my share of the Mediterranean Chicken, I faked gracious patience and waited my turn.
Back at the table, I wondered if anyone else was having trouble chewing through the rubbery meat. Of course, I ate it anyway, along with a heaping plate of tiramisu, cream puffs, cheesecake, cherry crisp, and marshmallows dipped in chocolate fondue. I could almost hear the creak of my figure-enhancing undergarments, stressed to their maximum capacity.
The plates were soon cleared, and just when I thought I was holding my own among the muckety-mucks, the Admiral’s wife signaled to me across the table to wipe something from my face. Apparently, there was a large splotch of chocolate dripping down my double chin.
I excused myself to the ladies room, not only to relieve the pressure of my bladder, but also to take a breather from the social pressure of the event. As my luck would have it, the young female sailor who had just won the best-dressed competition, entered the stall right next to me.
There is nothing more equalizing than succumbing to one’s bodily functions mere inches away from another human being. We flushed in tandem and met at the sinks to wash our hands. I broke the awkward silence by complimenting the sailor on her lovely violet gown. She returned the compliment, an obvious obligatory gesture, so I let her off the hook by joking, “Are you kidding me, I’m so packed into this thing, I almost knocked on your stall to see if you’d help me get my Spanx back up.”
By the time I returned to our table, the dance floor was dotted with a few brave souls, gyrating to modern beats. Back in the day, my husband and I couldn’t wait for our opportunity to make fools of ourselves on the dance floor, but since the heavy hitters at our table were resigned to being spectators, we sat and looked on too.
Suddenly, the DJ called “Captain Molinari and his wife” to the dance floor to compete in the Salsa Competition. Despite numerous attempts, my husband and I never even learned how to do the Electric Slide much less Latin Salsa dancing, and I have felt the pain of my husband’s size 11 quadruple E foot on many occasions.
But my husband could not refuse the DJ’s calling, so we tried to salsa with about as much Latin culture as the fried ice cream at Chi Chi’s. Mercifully, we were eliminated before the song was half-over.
On the way home, my husband and I found ourselves in the Krispy Kreme drive through, buying a box of irresistible hot doughnuts for the ride home. And little later, undressing in our bedroom, I yelled to my husband, “Beware of flying hardware!” just before I released the hooks and latches on my figure-enhancing undergarments.
I slipped into some comfortable flannel and under the sheets of our bed, relieved, not only to be out of my dress, but also, despite a few mildly embarrassing moments, to have survived another Office Holiday Party.