That Time You Chose Your Style--How “the revenge dress” suits you

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

11/29/17


Just as I was gearing up for Jazz Fest—visions of mango freeze and crawfish enchilada

floating in my head—I was snubbed. I mean punched in the gut, what the actual, how

could you, kind of snub. What was the most infuriating about my “snubbage” was that it

questioned my character, value, and also my intentions. While I don’t always earn a

perfect score in judgement, my intentions are usually grounded in goodness. It was no

different in this case. I had reacted in a crisis with kindness, and in doing so, I got

screwed.


So I was scorned this festival season and drowned my anger in champagne in a can

and let Dave Matthews console me at the Acura stage. I gossiped like a stereotypical

hen, posted passive aggressive memes, and basically obsessed until I wasn’t allowed

to bring it up in conversation anymore. The snubber had moved on, but I had not. In

doing so, I continued to lose.


In 1994, after Prince Charles publicly admitted adultery, Princess Diana emerged in a

tight, black, off-the-shoulder Christina Stambolian show stopper that came to be known

as “the revenge dress.” It was not a gown fit for a princess, nor was it the gown of a lady

crying in her crumpet. It was a very bold middle finger to a man whose boldness in

humiliating her would be overshadowed. He looked like a fool, and she looked like a

queen.


An actual revenge dress wouldn’t have done me any good in my situation, but what it

represents certainly would have. Diana’s move wasn’t about sex. It was about power,

power over her feelings of inadequacy. Her worth was questioned, and she reacted.

Common advice for an actor is that 99 percent of acting is reacting. I guess the same

can be said of life, that 99 percent of character is determined by reaction in times of

defeat.


Musicians react by “sticking it to the man,” as Mr. Schneebly says in the film, "School of

Rock," politicians take to the press, and celebrities, like Diana, wow the cameras. But

what about the rest of us normal people with no platform? When scorned, what is our

revenge dress?


Like me, you might smack talk, consider war via social media, and allow what is

festering inside to control you. But let’s be honest, that dress simply isn’t a good color


on us. Every time we do that we fail. We never address the real problem. Someone

made us look deeper. Maybe a flaw was exposed? Our perfection was tarnished. And

whether true or not, our value as a human is suddenly up for assumption. As my high

school speech teacher always said, “Assumption makes an ass out of you (the

assumer), but also me (the assumed).”


So how do we wear revenge well? Maybe it has something to do with repossessing that

which was taken. Charles took Diana’s pride. My snubber took my reputation. Maybe

yours simply took you for granted? So how do we “stick it to the man” without a fashion

faux pas? The one thing no one can ever take is that which brings us joy, feeds our

soul, and makes us whole again. That particular style, our private passions and

happiness, is uniquely ours and should never be for sale. Those are the things that

bring us back to who we are and what we lost. If we invest in that, we got ourselves a

winning look.


I know enough to know that happiness is a choice. We choose to see the good in the

world. If we look for the dark, we will always find it. We have a choice to face offense

head-on and ask, is it even worth our time anyway? We have a choice to either give

what hurts us the middle finger or ourselves the middle finger. Because sometimes we

are our own offenders, and that’s not a good look either. What if we choose the dress

that reflects our style and makes “snubbage” last year’s fall line? Imagine that on the

red carpet!


What’s never out of style for you? Something creative, a subject, maybe kicking ass at

your job? For me the common thread has always been writing, whether for pleasure or

work. It’s therapy and victory in one. And while I do consider killing my snubbers off in

stories, I should remember that my style—my passions, family, friendships, my work—is

where my energy is best used. Not at snubbers.


So maybe when faced with our next snub, we go for the dress that suits us, not them.

The power they took is ours to take back. They couldn’t rock our look if they tried, and

wouldn’t we rather be caught dead than in what they’re wearing anyway?


Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.

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