THE DRESS • by Jennifer Brophy

Getting Dressed

Across town, there is a woman trying to decide what to wear on a first date. All of her clothes are scattered around the room. She holds two dresses up to herself in front of the mirror.  She wonders if she should wear the black dress.

The black dress is, well… slutty. She hates that word but really that’s all there is to it. It’s a slutty dress. She knows this; it’s probably why she bought it. To feel confident. Powerful. To say, “this is who I am.” If she chooses this dress, he’ll sleep with her tonight. She’ll feel satisfied. In control. And because she knew what she was getting into, she’ll be completely at ease when he doesn’t call her back… Or she won’t.  She’ll go crazy waiting for the phone call that will never come. And because she’s a stress eater, she’ll gain 15 pounds. She’ll be so heartbroken that she’ll never go on a date again. The slutty black dress will remain on a coat hanger in her closet forever and she’ll grow old with a house full of cats. No. Cats are weird. Better to die alone. She throws the black dress away and holds up the other dress.

The blue dress. This dress is far more conservative. It’s proper, respectable.  She knows that if she wears this dress, she won’t have sex tonight. Or any time soon for that matter. He will, however, call her for another date. And then another. He’ll invite her to meet his parents and take her away on weekends.  They’ll get married, live in a house with a cute little fence in the backyard, and have kids. She’ll be happy.

At the Movies

He picked the movie. That’s a lot of pressure. If it’s bad then it’s his fault that the date was ruined by a stupid movie. Unless the movie is so awful that it’s fun to rag on. That could work. He looks over at her to see if she’s laughing. He’s heard her laugh before. She has a nice laugh. And a sweet smile. He tries to remember if he told her she looks pretty in that dress.  She isn’t laughing. Is it okay for him to laugh? What if he laughs at a joke she doesn’t think is funny? What if it’s offensive and he just doesn’t realize it? What if he becomes that guy she tells all her friends about that laughs at stupid, sexist jokes. He’ll become the joke and she’ll never go out with him again.

He just won’t laugh. At any of the jokes. Not even that one. That was a good one. Will she think he’s too serious now? Will she think he has no personality? Is that what she’ll tell her friends? That he’s a dud? Do people still say “dud?” Is that his fate? To be the boring guy who uses archaic slang and dies alone because no woman wants to go out with a man with no sense of humor?

Dining Out

She’s starving. She asks what he’s planning to order. This is a tactical decision. She has to make sure whatever she orders isn’t way more expensive than whatever he orders. Because that wouldn’t be fair. Not when he’s paying. He’s paying, right? The man pays on the first date, right? Because she expects him to. She wonders if she’s a bad feminist. She’ll offer to split the check when it comes. She’ll say she doesn’t mind, but really she does. So she’ll be lying. She wonders if she’s a bad person.

She’s still starving. She really wants the ribs, but that’s not an option. She’d never get the stains out of this dress. Besides, she worries that if she orders a lot of food he’ll think she’s fat. He won’t like her anymore. He won’t be attracted to her anymore. That’ll be that. She can’t have that. On the other hand, if she just orders a salad he’ll think she’s just way too into her looks—which by the way she totally is, but she can’t let him know that—and he won’t like her anymore. And he probably won’t be attracted to her anymore.

Driving Home

He ran out of things to say 5 minutes ago so he pretends to be focused on the road. This is good. She’ll think he’s a smart driver. Most guys drive like lunatics. He’ll stand out. For being cautious. For being boring. Without thinking, he puts pressure on the gas pedal. They speed up. She tenses and tries to hide it by smoothing out her dress. He slows down. That was dumb.

He drives down her street. He starts thinking a few moves ahead. They’ve had a good time. He’s pretty sure he can kiss her goodnight. In the car? Or should he walk her to the door? Do people still do that? And should he even go in for a kiss? Or should he wait to see if she kisses him?

The End

She knows something he doesn’t. As the car pulls up in front of her house, the woman isn’t wondering about first kisses. Or which one of them should make the first move. Because it’s already been made. She wore the black dress. So none of the rest of it mattered. Not the sexist joke he laughed at during the movie. Not the fact that she didn’t offer to split the check at dinner. After tonight, they’ll never see each other again anyway.

Jennifer Brophy loves stories no matter the medium — print, tv, film, comic, back of a cereal box, etc. She is a copywriter living in Florida and spends her free time playing with her dogs, losing at trivia nights, and using the Oxford comma.

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