I used to take and post quite a lot of flower photos. But then I got away from it – they’re just too easy, all that day-glow perfection, sexuality and general come-hitherness. But then, I had another look at these Black Silk Cymbidiums and changed my mind.
Warning – major digression ahead. It’s okay to admire the picture and stop here. Or continue at your own risk…
My very first corsage was an orchid, given to me by a boy named Dale when I was fifteen. I was a freshman and he was a senior and I had talked to him a couple of times in the school library. While I was desperate for a boyfriend, he wasn’t even on the b-list. Nice, but not very interesting or cute or charming or funny. I was completely surprised when he asked me to go to the movies with him. Of course I said yes, because I had never been asked out on an actual date before. And I was shocked when he brought me home and we parked in the driveway, had a couple of chastely dry kisses, and he asked me if I would go to the prom with him!
Wow!!!!!!!!!! I mean, WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I was not expecting that. The prom was only two weeks away. But I wanted to go so bad, and didn’t dare hope anyone would ask me. So of course I said yes!
My mother took me shopping in Albany, the big smoke – and spent a whopping $50 on the most beautiful dress I had ever seen – floor length pink and blue with tiny paisley swirls, with a pink net smocked waist, long sheer sleeves, with cuffs to match the waistband. It was just perfect. And to make it even better, I found a picture of Lucille Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz in a teen magazine, wearing my dress! I was definitely going to make waves. And Dale wasn’t so bad. He was a senior, which counted for something.
We went to the movies the following Saturday night and had lunch together in the cafeteria during the week. Instead of reading in the library afterwards, we annoyed the librarian with our whispering and laughing.
Dale showed up appropriately early on the big day with my corsage in a florist’s box. I prised it open to find an olive and yellow orchid with a limey olive ribbon. It totally clashed with my dress, but I pretended it was wonderful. My mother took several rolls of film of the two of us. Then we went to his parents house and his mother took more pictures. It suddenly hit me that the reason he’d asked me to be his date was because his mother insisted he go to his senior prom. I was invisible to her as her Instamatic flashed and she asked him to stand here and here and would I mind being in this picture, dear?
His house was half a block from our high school so we walked over. He presented our tickets, entry to the gym, which had been decorated with paper streamers and lanterns and a disco ball. There were tables around the room and a band trying to coax us onto the dance floor. Yeah, it wasn’t that exciting. Noisy, and none of my friends were there. I don’t think Dale had any friends because we ended up sitting by ourselves over in the corner. Still, I had the prettiest dress in the place. And the orchid was pretty cool, too. I’d find excuses to cross the room so people could see me, see my swishing and swirling and feeling so beautiful.
And it was on one of these fake errands to fetch another paper cup of sugary punch when fate sucker-punched me. In walked the class president, the coolest guy in school, with his perfect blonde girlfriend on his arm. She was wearing my dress! Only I was a size 12 and she was was a 6. I wanted to die, to run and hide. Go home and get out of this dress and throw it in the rubbish. But I couldn’t.
I stayed and Dale and I danced and sat and drank more punch and had cheese and crackers.The class president and his perfect girlfriend were elected king and queen of the prom and got to sit on the stage. If anyone hadn’t noticed I was wearing her dress before, they couldn’t miss it now. I couldn’t even bear to go into the girls’ room, afraid of being around the other girls.
At 11 it was over and we walked back to his parents’ house and got his parents’ car and he drove me home, 12 miles out of town. He parked just outside the house and we chastely necked for about 20 minutes and he went home.
My mother was waiting up, dying for all the details. I did my best to sound like it had all been great fun. I didn’t mention the prom queen’s dress. I put the orchid back in its box and put it in the fridge for a couple of days before it wilted and I tossed it in the rubbish.
Dale never spoke to me again. I went back to spending my lunchtime in the library reading. I was only halfway through Dostoevsky at that point, and he was a safer date than a 3D boy. I can’t say I was heart-broken. I always knew my life would begin after I left town, when I went off to university. But the whole thing stunk.
I’d been used, even if it wasn’t abused. It bothered me, low-level frustration, wishing there was something I could do. But what? What options for revenge were there? Appropriate revenge, not psycho acting out. I thought about it for a while. A couple of months, actually and finally came upon my perfect retribution.
I sent Dale pieces of toast in the mail. A half a piece of reasonably crisp, but not burnt toast. No butter or jam. No note. No return address. Just the toast in a small envelope with his address typed on the front. Laughed so hard the whole time I was putting it together, and then thinking about him opening it and finding toast and wondering who would send such a thing? And then a week later another piece, and another the following week.
I figure he’s still wondering. I’m still laughing.
And life after high school was everything I expected and then some… and no one else has given me an orchid corsage since then.