Last Saturday Belle requested that I go prom-dress shopping with her. For those of y’all who know me, feel free to take five until the laughter subsides
As per a recommendation from her friend AX, Belle made an appointment at a formal dress shop in Portland that specializes in prom/bridesmaids/quinceañera dresses. The appointment was as per shop policy (no walk-ins), as was the requirement that The Mother be present if the dress the DS (Dress Seeker) is seeking is a prom dress.  Thus, Belle’s friend AX and I were Belle’s ladies in waiting. Belle swore she’d asked me because she really wanted me there, and not just because the shop required my presence (and Belle desired my credit card). 
To anyone in the know, having me consult on selecting a prom dress would be akin to asking Donald Trump to recommend a hair stylist. Not only did I not attend any of my high school’s proms or formal dances, I was one of the founders/ chief organizers of the LNGTTPP (Let’s Not Go To The Prom Party). 
The closest I’ve come to wearing prom-like attire were the four times in my twenties when I was somebody’s BridesMaid. The choices for BM (ahem) attire were, of course, made for the BMs. I gulped, repeated my calm-down-and-don’t-run-away-screaming mantra (“grin and bear it…you are supporting a friend/your sister…this too shall pass”). Four times I swallowed my pride and donned the BM’s monkey suit, managing, each time, to refrain from compromising my dignity (too much) by lying therough my teeth repeating the Bridesmaids’ Little White Lie. All together now, ladies:
No, really, it’s quite nice/yes, I’m sure I can wear it again, with a few alterations….
Yet again, I digress. The Little Shop of Horrors formal dress shop was in Portland’s SW warehouse district, an appropriate locale, seeing as how the shop was in fact a warehouse. A warehouse filled with Foo-Foo Dresses. FFD Warehouse had rules: DS had to make the afore-mentioned appointment, show up for said appointment “freshly showered” and sans makeup and wearing regular “full-sized” underpants (the shop had a strict NO THONGS policy, for which I was later to thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster.).
Upon arrival, each DS, along with her guest and The Mother, were escorted from the front/check in room to the backstage/warehouse area. Each DS was assigned her own Valet Girl,  who helped the shopper peruse the racks and racks and racks and racks of gowns, make a variety of appropriate size/color/style selections, take DS to a backstage area and help her don the gowns.
Meanwhile, shopper’s guest and The Mother took seats, along with other guests and mothers, in a semi-circle of chairs arranged in front of the entrance to the dressing area and adjacent to a three-way mirror. This audience had the opportunity to whisper snide comments helpful observations as other DSs emerged from the dressing roomed to check out how they looked in their respective dresses (there was no mirror in the dressing area).
I settled into my preferred mode for fish-out-of-water situations: I am an anthropologist, here to observe the habits of this strange culture. As such, I was able to
(1) marvel at some truly and irritatingly beautiful young women  being persuaded to try on some truly unflattering styles (really, does anyone look stylin’ in a dress that looks as if it survived an explosion at the meringue factory?);
(2) savor the petty joy of noting that the gorgeous, blonde cheerleader-type trying on the green mermaid dress has grotesquely long, prehensile, downright ugly toes;
(3) admire the bravery of the hefty gal who had the unfortunate timing to emerge from the dressing room alongside a slinky, preening, would-look-ravishing-in-a-laundry-sack, I’m-too-sexy-for-my-school supermodel wannabe.
Competent (if fake) social scientist that I was, I paid special attention to what I considered my initiation into the hitherto secret world of Female Costume Terminology. Translation: I lost track of the number of times I heard, from either the Valets or mothers or friends – sometimes, all three – as they commented on the fit of some young woman’s dress: “She’s going to need boob tape/nipple shields with that one.”
Yet another cogent observation: Due to, I imagine, the fact that the DSs emerged from the dressing rooms more or less scantily clad, with their undergarments often visible (thus my afore-mentioned thanking of the FSM for the no thong rule), no menfolk were allowed in the back room…except for the two OFFBs (Obviously Flaming Fashion Boys) who worked at the shop. And, as both Belle and AX remarked, the OFFB really just seemed like two of the girls, what with their evident fashion sense and helpful, supportive commentary (“Oh, honey, she really rocks that dress!”).
Yes and well then. I survived the experience, and really, truthfully, admired Belle’s choice: a stunning, sophisticated, deep blue dress that should require a minimal amount, if any, of…don’t make me type it. (Boob tape.)
* * *
Gay Croissants and cupcakes, good; Gay wedding cakes, bad
My feminist-allergic reaction to the prom dress shopping experience was countered several days later by Belle’s request to help her with some statistical research for an upcoming debate in her People and Politics class, the topic of which will be the efforts of Some People In America to restrict abortion access for Everyone Else in America. Which brought to my mind related issues currently in the news – related as in, a certain kind of relative, say, the cousin who was dropped on his head….
Here’s where you cut me some slack and envision a more graceful segue.
“It would be an America in which access to birth control
would be controlled by people who never use it.”
- Georgetown U Law student Sandra Fluke, re the (allegedly) celibate Catholic bishops who opposed the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Imagine America in which community blood drives are organized by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 1964 Civil Rights Act is revised by the White Citizens Council, the USDA beef inspection monitors are trained by vegans….
Or, consider the recent efforts in several states, in the form of lawsuits and attempted legislation,  to allow businesses to discriminate under the guise of exercising religious freedom, whether it be a bakery that cancelled an order for a wedding cake  when the owners found out the cake was for a wedding of a lesbian couple, or a pharmacist who refuses to fill a prescription that somehow offends the pharmacist’s notions of sexual/reproductive propriety.
What these issues have in common is the yapping of the Religious Right, who apparently and almost totally miss the effing point when it comes to the “rights” and responsibilities inherent in the concept of “freedom of religion” (hint: it means you can decide religious stuff for yourself, not for everyone else. And BTW, freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion).
A tricky business, it is, arguing the “right” of a business to refuse service, to anyone, on any grounds. It can be made to sound reasonable on the surface. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago in this country that it was deemed reasonable, even deity-ordained, for business owners to have the right to refuse service to “coloreds,” to make black citizens sit in certain sections of the luncheonette or bus, to designate separate washrooms for “colored” and “white” patrons….
As Rob Boston  writes in the current issue of The Humanist, some people question the point in compelling shop owners to serve people they don’t want to serve, but the point is that discrimination, especially on the basis of things people cannot change, is an injustice our society has been working hard to eradicate.
“Legally, businesses are ‘public accommodations,’ which means they must serve the public. If you don’t want to serve all of the public, don’t open a business.”
I remember the brouhaha several years back when a Target pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a customer’s “Plan-B” script. I was livid, and boycotted the store for years,  even after the store tried to reassure customers that steps would be taken to ensure there would always be one pharmacist on duty who was willing to actually do his or her job (no, this is not how Target’s PR minions phrased it). However, I seem to recall that the second-largest discount retailer in the U.S. also made some kind of accommodation for pharmacists who had a “moral objection” to filling certain kinds of prescriptions.
A “moral objection” to filling a prescription. It still boggles my mind.
Yo, Target pharmacist: your job, as a pharmacist, is to dispense orders for patients. These orders are prescribed by patients’ physicians; you have neither the training nor the authority to diagnose, treat, or prescribe (repeat after me: “Not my job.”). Perhaps you have a moral objection to filling medication for someone with Type 2 diabetes, or any of the myriad of diseases and conditions caused or exacerbated by obesity and sedentary habits, because you think such ailments are due to immoderate lifestyles and should be treated with modifications of such. Or, perhaps you do not want to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, because you think the prescription taker’s need for Plan B might have been brought about by carelessness…or, well, even if it was due to rape/abuse/coercion, you frankly don’t care because you just don’t like the thought of anyone having sex, consensual or otherwise, or…
What do you think, when you presume to make such judgments?
Oh, wait, that’s right – there’s nothing in a prescription form that acknowledges the relevance of your thoughts regarding the prescription.
So, pharmacist, you have a moral objection to filling a prescription for ___________? Tough titties. None of your beeswax. Fill the Rx, or find another line of work.
May your all of your garments be boob tape-free, may prying noses be kept out of your beeswax, may your bees wax to their hearts’ content, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Yep, even though Belle is 18, she had to bring her mommy.
 Belle had leftover money from holiday gifts; MH and I agreed to a minimal financial contribution, and anything above that, she paid for.
 The most memorable LNGTTPP was during my junior year, when we snuck into the prom venue’s parking lot and tied tin cans, shoes and “Just Married” banners to the bumpers of select cars…and almost got caught, when several of the car’s (male) drivers – prom attending friends of ours – came out into the parking lot to drink the beers they’d stashed and take a leak behind their car’s rear wheels.
 I didn’t catch the official title.
 With bodies that make even us middle-agers who have kept ourselves in shape think we are doomed to eat nothing but packing peanut salads for the rest of our lives.
 The bakery owners admitted they’d filled pastry orders for gay clients, including the lesbian couple, prior to the wedding cake brouhaha.
 Boston, a member of the American Humanist Association, is also Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State
 An action that didn’t exactly have Target accountants quaking in their boots, as I shopped at Target only when there was no other alternative.