Fade to Black

I love to dress in black. It is my favorite non-color. I have worn black almost exclusively for years. People ask me if I’m in mourning for my clothing, and I tell them the only clothing I mourn is the brightly colored garb I used to wear that is irreparably ruined by stains and slobberings.

When my younger daughter was about 6 years old, she went through a phase where she would get dressed for school at bedtime, lie down very carefully on top of the covers, and sleep fully clothed through the night. She chose garments with dark hues that hid any glaring wrinkles and creases. I always expected her to get up in the morning looking like a freshly dried prune, but she magically woke wrinkle free. Except for having to eat breakfast and brush her teeth, she was ready to go. When I queried her about this obvious quirk, she explained to me that: You never know who you might meet in your dreams, and you certainly don’t want to get stuck encountering Prince Charming in your pajamas and you don’t have to rush to find things that match when you are in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning.

Not being in a strong position to argue either point, I acquiesced.

As the years went by I found myself slowly drifting to darker tints and then to black, clearly a predilection I had inherited from my daughter. Black is easy to match. Black can go from casual to elegant in the flash of a patent leather pump. Ketchup streaks go better with black. Black is always presentable no matter what. If I have to run to the grocery store first thing in the morning it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look presentable. I don’t want anyone to think I yanked something from the laundry hamper and threw it on, even if I am only going to pick up milk and mushrooms.

Meeting people in my dreams wearing my pajamas is mostly expected in my profession. If I choose to wear nightgowns on stage, that is between me, my director, and my piano. Offstage, it could be construed as eccentric, but I don’t think it would raise many eyebrows in places as heavily sprinkled with actors, artists, and performers as Hoboken and New York City. Not if you wear black.

Meanwhile my daughter has grown more casual and colorful, and I have accumulated more black clothing. I don’t have to fuss with my hair to go grocery shopping and run errands. I don’t have to put on lipstick. I don’t have to look for Rorschach-looking mustard globs on my T-shirt. I can trundle nonchalantly through the produce section.

But it is just my luck that every time I venture mildly creased but safely clad in black to the grocery store I meet somebody I know who is suavely swathed in pastels, teeth gleaming, hair chicly styled, who makes me feel as though I have just won a prize in the Best Resemblance to a Shaggy Dog Contest. It’s not that meticulously dressed people do this on purpose. I know that they sleep in their clothing the night before and arise in the morning all ready to wear. I know that their hair doesn’t move and that they have permanent lipstick glued to their lips. I know that their eye makeup is the kind that never congeals and runs. And yet there, in the middle of the canned tomato products aisle where I am having a conversation with Mrs. Perfectly Attired, an annoying little voice in my head rasps, “Do you think because you wear all black you can get away without ironing once in a while? How could you miss the asymmetrical pleats in the front of your pants?”

While this internal yammering is going on and the smartly suited neighbor is making small talk, I am thinking this is the last time I leave home without dismantling the Wicked Witch of My Closet and replacing her with something that keeps me and my basically black wardrobe crinkle free and smiling. I am not giving up my black! – Pamela Ross

Hoboken resident Pamela Ross is an actress and pianist. Comments on this piece can be sent to: current@hudsonreporter.com.


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