Last weekend I was staggering up the steps of the Great Wall wearing a bright orange top and a Legal Times baseball cap. This weekend, I was tripping up the steps of the Wall in a red and black ball gown and heels.
Last night’s event, organized by the Australia-New Zealand Association, felt like something one shouldn’t be allowed to do, like a picnic in the middle of Stonehenge or a bar mitzvah inside Rome’s Coliseum. But we were allowed, and thanks to some last-minute tickets that popped up and some heavy-duty pressuring of my dressing-up-averse husband, we went.
I had some moments of doubt when the dress I really wanted to wear – from the one time I went to the White House Correspondents Dinner about 12 years ago – wasn’t fitting exactly right. Well, the skirt fit, but the corset-style top was a little…tight. Without getting too detailed, I can say that while Joanna got it zipped up, there was some question about whether I would be needing to actually breathe for the evening. I suddenly had great sympathy for women who had to wear whalebone corsets, and knew why they might be subject to fainting spells. And that’s not getting into any kind of discussion about how it actually looked on me.
In any event, with some fashion consultation from Joanna, I opted for a silk halter top to go with the red skirt, plus black heels…and even a red evening purse. Yes, way too matchy-matchy for a certain twentysomething’s taste, but I needed a purse big enough to hold the tickets and my passport in case the Chinese decided that a ball on the Wall was a good time to check the foreigners’ visas. These days, we’re all feeling a little ill at ease here.
Anyway, the other issue of the skirt was that it had a kind of mermaid-style train at the back, a few inches longer than the front of the skirt. Just long enough to catch one’s heel. I spent a half-hour basting the hem of the skirt since it had ripped the last time I wore it.
Within 30 seconds of my putting the skirt on again, my heel caught in the hem and the whole thing ripped out. So I suspect I spent the better part of the evening trailing red thread.
Luckily, for most of the evening it was dark enough on the Wall that a few trailing threads didn’t amount to much.
And we had a great time, drinking, dining and dancing in the shadow of the Wall at Badaling, which was lit up for a quarter mile or so. We were sitting at a table of Germans, Australians, Norwegians, Dutch The evening stayed warm and the sky was clear enough to see a crescent moon and a few stars in the night sky.