The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Out of the Neckhole

By Anne Chudobiak

The Quebec Writers’ Federation is holding its annual awards gala tomorrow. For most people with any interest in the event, the question is: who will the winners be? But I find myself struggling with another question, whether or not to attend.

Initially, there was no doubt. I had a great time last year, and I would have a great time this year, too. All I needed was someone to have a great time with! And maybe a new dress.

My difficulties began when I checked in with my friend Angela. I’d gone with her the year before, and she’d watched in horror as writers were dragged from their dark corner tables to stand on stage. “Next year,” I’d said, “this could be you!”

And it’s true, it might. Her debut poetry collection is up for a first book award. This means a lot of things, most of them good: recognition and possibly money. But it also means that she has to go to the gala early, for pre-ceremony drinks. She was planning to attend with a fellow nominee. They were going to give each other strength. “I could meet up with you after,” she told me.

No problem, I thought. I hadn’t even asked my friend Krista yet and I happened to know that she had a deep-seated writer crush on one of the nominees. Surely, she’d appreciate the chance to ogle him under the guise of supporting the arts. But Krista, I soon found out, was off to California with her boyfriend.

That’s when I really started to worry. I have this superstitious belief that there is a limit to how many people you can serially invite to the same event, and that limit is three. I would have to choose my next invitee very carefully. If I was smart, I wouldn’t invite anyone else at all. Why tempt fate?

But then a Googling Italian brought me back in touch with another friend, Alisha. It had been months since I’d last seen her, when I found this comment under a picture I’d posted of her on this blog:

Francesco R— said...
Alisha P—? The Alisha P— that was in KCVI in Kingston? I can't believe! I an an italian that was in Canada for one year during 1990 with my sister... the story is too long, but anyone would care to listen to it? Perhaps Alisha?

I contacted Alisha to let her know about her Italian, and the topic of Angela’s gala came up. I asked her if she wanted to go. When she said no (butoh class), I should have abandoned all hope, but instead I went ahead and bought a ticket: if I couldn’t find anyone, I’d go by myself. Where was the harm in that?

I wanted to go all the more because I had a dress in mind. I’d seen it in a window of a local store. It was the perfect colour and I could wear it again for Christmas and New Year’s and well, forever. But up close, it wasn’t as attractive, not the least because the price tag said $660. I showed this to the saleswoman, but she seemed unfazed. “Yes? It eez cute?” she asked me.

I decided my tastes were too expensive for my own good, and that it would be better for me to continue my shopping at a discount store, where nothing would break my budget. I found such a place on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Saint-Joseph. The windows were plastered with sales signs. Everything was reduced. I loaded up on outfits and headed for the changeroom, where I met my next challenge: a sequined purple number that liked me more than I liked it. I tried rolling it up over my shoulders. I tried sliding it down over my hips. Nothing worked. I was stuck. I sent out an SOS.

Before the saleswoman could use the necessary force, I had to leave the shelter of the changeroom. It was too small for the two of us. I stepped out with my arms over my head, as though in surrender, and bent forward, so she could get a better grip. I could hear the fabric ripping as she pulled. “I don’t want to hurt you!” she yelled.

“Please,” I said. “Do what you have to!”

Out of the neckhole, I could see other shoppers staring. Why did this have to happen in a store that also carried menswear? I tried to pretend that it was Saturday morning on Chabanel street, where manufacturers open their showrooms to the public, and bargain hunters try stuff on out in the open. According to that scenario, at any moment those people might get naked, too. And if it was a bridal gown manufacturer, then they might need some help from the staff. This was a very normal situation, nothing to worry about.

“I’m going to count to three,” said the saleswoman. “One, two…”

I was so grateful to be freed from the sequins that I bought a dress, a more cooperative patterned silky thing. I don’t know if I’ll wear it tomorrow, or if I’ll even go (I’m not sure that I want to tempt fate a second time! I knew when I did it that "serial inviting" has potentially serious consequences), but there’s always Christmas and New Year’s and, well, forever to consider.

Come to think of it, an ill-fated expedition—to a store, to a gala—is an expedition no less. I just might have to go tomorrow night and see what happens. I wouldn't want to miss anything, good or bad! Either way, it's something to write about, n'est-ce pas?


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

You said, it Anne. The search for things to write about is a motivator to try new experiences for me too. This post is great - the scene with the sequin dress is hilarious. Go to the gala!!

Tue Nov 20, 10:29:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Absolutely go to the gala, Anne. Go alone if you have to. And see what happens.

Tue Nov 20, 11:32:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

I'm still laughing about the purple sequins.

Tue Nov 20, 12:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Purple sequins? If I was a girl, I wouldn't be caught dead in purple sequins. That was good luck you ripped your way out of that neckhole. now go to the gala, would ya!

Tue Nov 20, 03:33:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne said...

I have my ticket and my neighbour has agreed to come with me. So I'm all set :)

Hello, Miss McDougall! It's been a while!

Tue Nov 20, 05:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What a hoot. Now, if it had been green sequins you could have gone as a mermaid. Oh, wait, it isn't Hallowe'en. The dress you chose sounds great. Have a blast. Give yourself an award.

Tue Nov 20, 08:03:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne said...

Thanks, Tricia. I do like the other dress, and not only because it has a zipper.

Tue Nov 20, 10:30:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Tony, the thought of you in purple sequins is delicious. I'm glad you're not a girl.

Wed Nov 21, 01:32:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger sass said...

glad you went! must hear about it. when there's no looming large figure talking over me in the doorway.

btw - while in san francisco, not ogling my not-so-secret writer-crush, i purchased a dress of my own. at h&m.


we'll have to go.

Sat Nov 24, 11:24:00 pm GMT-5  

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