Long ago in a time when a ball gown ment, floorlangeth. Heals ment, 15 minutes of pain before they took a trip to the shoe pile. Hours were spent looking for the most beautiful gown, in person, in a store with a fitting room, not online. Begging for a bigger budget so you could get the one that was backless or had extra sparkle. It hung in plastic, in your room for a week or more, begging you to dream about being Cinderella. You just knew that when you walked into the room with this dress on, every mouth would gasp at the beauty beaming from within the midnight blue, deep red, or silver gown. You went to the city for this dress, it isn’t likely that anyone will have YOUR dress. For just this one night, you are going to be so uniquely beautiful!!!
Then PROM NIGHT! Magic! Only 4 girls crying in the bathroom and only 5 more in the hall, and your not one of them! You dance! Dance until your velcro hair sparkles are on the floor!
Midnight…. the magic is over. The dress comes off. You see the blisters that the beads caused under your arms and the scab tomorrow on your ribs where the zipper was, is the only thing you continue to wear to show you were a princess for a night!!!
Fast forward 2 years.
There just isn’t any room in your closet, you cleaned out all the cloths that are ripped and stained, but left anything that could layer. You see a couple big bags in the back… gowns… you have 3. You think to yourself “Why am I keeping these? Like I’m ever going to prom again? Halloween costume? Could you sell them? They are really out of style…” Then you hear about a clothing drive. Take all the old purses, shoes, toys… and your prom gown.
The gown goes into a big shipping container and takes a long, frightful journey to Malawi. It is sold, to the highest bidder on the black market. Bought as a package deal, sold in large unseen garbage bags. Then redistributed within the second hand clothing shops, to a woman who has a small 10×10 shop. She hangs your dress amongst several others on a makeshift hanger like a curtain on the outside of the shop. Then one day, by simple fate, Arinaphie, a 16 year old girl who carries bananas across town to sell in the market, helping support her family and her own school fees, looks up and sees YOUR dress. Her breath catches in her lungs, her heart races… she would look like a princess in this dress! She can tell by the stiff zipper and excellent bead work that this dress is “original” (not cheaply made). 2,500mk (about 4$us). That’s a months savings for her but she is smart… she notes a small rip in the dress at the hem, where you stepped on it getting out of your boyfriends dad’s truck. She pays 1,800mk. She takes the dress home and hangs it in her room, where she can peak at it all night and dream about how everyone’s mouth will drop when they see her in this gown!
The Morning comes, it’s Tuesday. She wakes up smiling. She finishes chores, bathes and takes the gown off of the hanger. After adorning herself with a plastic bracelet and her broken flip flops, she loads her bananas in a large basin and heads across town for the market.
The gown sparkles in a way it never has before, brightened by the African sun, sunshine is new to this dress. The zipper hurts some but the smiles from her Aunties becomes medicine, making the pain quickly subside. No one asks, where are you going? Why are you all dressed up? What’s the occasion? They know why she is wearing the dress, because it is beautiful. She is a princess. She feels beautiful. She is beautiful.
She works all day in the satin. Afterwards she washes it carefully and hangs it back up, where she can see it. On Thursday she will plow a field in it, being careful not to damage it. The next Monday she will wear it to the market with her friends. Again, she will wear it that Friday, working with her mom in the banana fields, so on and so on, until the dress is unrecognizable. It will go to several girls for several years before it becomes an entry way rug or mop.
And the dress is happy.
Why are we so afraid to be beautiful?