Above photo by Better in Bulk.
As I know I’ve mentioned before, my friend Jenny is always coming up with these fantastic things that make her (and others) furiously happy. You probably know about our Beyonce adventure. And the Twilight wolf costume dance off. And the time she and her readers saved Christmas.
But now, as we’re looking ahead, making resolutions and starting fresh, I’d like to talk about something more personal, related to furious happiness…happiness in your own skin. Specifically, I’d like to discuss the brilliance of the Traveling Red Dress. I wrote about it a bit before Halloween and on Hitting Refresh on Babble, but I wanted to tell you about the red dress here too.
It started as a random idea. Jenny wanted to wear the dress but she couldn’t imagine purchasing it just for herself…she wanted to share the joy. Because there’s something a bit magical about that dress.
In Jenny’s words...
I want, just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies. I want to be shocking, and vivid and wear a dress as intensely amazing as the person I so want to be. And the more I thought about it the more I realized how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply “not sensible”. Things like flying lessons, and ballet shoes, and breaking into spontaneous song, and building a train set, and crawling onto the roof just to see the stars better. Things like cartwheels and learning how to box and painting encouraging words on your body to remind yourself that you’re worth it.
So she bought the dress. And then she wore it. And then she began sending the dress around to different people who needed it for whatever reason.
All for different reasons.
All have stories attached to them.
And there are many, many stories, more all the time…You can read about some of them here.
Or, you can even read about mine here.
As I said on Hitting Refresh, Jenny brought this dress over to my house on my 40th birthday and insisted that we do a shoot. I say insisted because she did insist, but also because I was uncharacteristically hesitant. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to do it…I really, really wanted to do it…but I was also really scared of it. The dress is intimidating. It’s large. And it’s red. And I was uncomfortable with that much energy being focused on me and actually on me.
But, if I’m really honest, I’ll tell you I was afraid of what the photos would look like. I wasn’t sure that they’d match up to the way I felt in the dress. Or the way I felt about myself at 40. It’s complicated. But on about four levels, I would say, I didn’t want to see myself. Because even though I still feel almost exactly like I did at 16, I know that I’m not. I’m not at all. The 16-year-old me was naive, and predictable, and safe. While my current self has lived enough and seen enough to know that life is anything but safe or predictable. Sometimes it’s shocking, disappointing, thrilling, and really scary. Sometimes it’s all those things at once. And sometimes the most shocking part is how you’re able to handle it, and how you’re able to wear it.
And that’s the thing about The Red Dress. It’s pretty intense to put on something so bold and really look at yourself, where you are, how far you’ve come. And like I said before Halloween, it’s true that there’s something about putting on a costume to become something new, something uncharacteristic, something better. But there’s far more exquisite power in doing this in an non-ironic, unabashedly “Here I am!” kind of way. It takes guts to put a spotlight on yourself and look straight into where you really are, and who you really are.
Jenny and I had a long discussion about this last month…and her words have stuck with me ever since. She finally wrote about it here. And I’ll tell you, she is one of the strongest, bravest people I know. It’s really remarkable to see someone be so candid and honest about her real struggles and her real self.
My new year’s resolution, for all of us, is to be so brave in 2012.
And to be so daring to wear our own red dress, in the clear light of day, right where we are.
After Jenny wrote her post and then this other post, people began using #silverribbons tweets to support, honor, and celebrate those battling depression. A lot of people even asked Jenny to offer them in her shop, but, as she says, “honestly, you can make them for free if you have a nickel’s worth of silver ribbon and a safety pin. If you do want to buy one though, you can buy them here and here. Any profits will go to donating new red dresses for The Traveling Red Dress Project.”
1/8 Update: There’s been a red dress explosion! Jenny updated a lot of it here:
UPDATED 2012: The red dress is now years old and is a bit tattered but it’s still filled with magic and is currently on the road visiting people who need some magic in their lives. Ideally, we would have 15 red ball-gowns in various sizes all traversing the globe at the same time but I just can’t afford it. If your company is interested in donating red ball gowns, just drop me an email at advertising (at) thebloggess.com.
And then people started tweeting with #travelingreddress and offering and matching up and going crazy with it.
It’s inspiring. I’m inspired. And so, I just bought two red dresses.
I’ll send them to the next two people to leave a comment about why they need a red dress experience. And then those people will send it on, and so it goes, into the traveling red dress circulation of awesomeness.
Let’s do this.