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Monday, 15 August 2011

The Polka Dot Dress.

Once upon a time, in rented ground floor flat in Queensgate, London lived a budding dreamer and fashionista who wanted to be all things great but suffered from bouts of extreme shyness which would incapacitate her. That and the fact that she was always taught to respect her elders and bite her tongue kept her from speaking up from a tender age. What she feared most was confrontation and this is why, on that fateful day, she was pushed to her wee limits. Her younger sister, the tomboy of the two who preferred to drive over her Barbie’s rather than drive them around, always managed to voice her opinions loud and clear in her beat up trainers and short skirts. On that afternoon, she was busy with her Tonka truck and headless Cindy doll, so she did not witness my undoing.

Our gorgeous and temperamental mother, whose love for her older brothers sometimes bordered on adoration, had given away something of mine in an instant that stuck with me a lifetime and when invoked,the memory of it still is like a finger repeatedly poking my shoulder.
It was a day like any other and I was happily doing my bit for childhood somewhere in my room when my uncle popped in for a visit on the way home to the States from a business trip. Family visits were always a treat in our family, an opportunity for old and young to rally round and listen to tall tales relayed by not so tall men. One minute my mother and uncle were in the living room and the next... before me in the room I shared with my sister. They were gazing into out closet and before I could piece their conversation together, my mother had pulled out my prized possession: my navy blue “Flamenco”style, polka dot dress. Brand new, I was saving this marvel for the next birthday party invitation and my grand” Sunset Boulevard” entrance (I lived for the dramatic and any opportunity to project).
This was 1970 after all, I was testing my fashion waters and apart from the dreaded and itchy Viyella dresses our mother made us wear, this dress was my attempt at being avantgarde and fashion forward. And there it was, held up to my uncle for inspection before it was whisked away. It was then that I figured out their exchange and what it boiled down to is this: “You can kiss your dress goodbye now Reem, your uncle needs a gift for his daughter ....”
In that brief exchange, my dress was no longer my own, my feelings were confetti and my uncle wore the triumphant smile of the cat who got the bloody flamenco dress and wouldn’t get a bollocking from his wife.

“But it’s mine!” I screamed humiliating myself and breaking the code of family ethics: “Thou shalt not reclaim your property once it has exchanged hands.”
“Reem, how rude! Apologize to your uncle immediately!” exclaimed my mother happy that she had found favour with her brother while bailing him out.
 I was inconsolable until my father came home and I ran into his arms, explaining the reason for my distress. He could have promised me as many toys from Hamleys as I liked...nothing could replace that dress in my eyes.

Fast forward many years later, dresses have come and gone, my uncle now divorced was free to fully embrace his new title of playboy and charmer.He always had a beautiful woman on his arm and a libido as large as his kingdom sized bed.... (The bed in his London pad was so big that a hand full of kids could play freeze tag on it and never fall off...)
He paraded around his conquests and kept us entertained with his endless supply of stories. Soon the demands of these lovelies and the upkeep of this lifestyle began to take its toll on his wallet; style and substance costs money so do gifts and restaurants.He was saved the day he stumbled across “Pandora”: the luxury second hand boutique in Knightsbridge that sold gently used designer garments, accessories and as luck would have it.... my cast offs! His hapless girlfriends got gifts, as well as his friends and family, my uncle’s wallet got a reprieve and I ......got satisfaction.