by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Twenty years ago, a dress changed my life. I was living a modern-day Cinderella nightmare. The villain: my physically abusive husband. Instead of worrying some prince would never rescue me, I agonized over how to leave my pseudo soulmate without dropping out of the MBA program I needed to secure a future free of bruises and erratic terror.
In the middle of this drama, a long-standing upper crusty friend took me to New York City.
Over lunch at Bergdorf Goodman, she gave me a pep talk (cue picture of Marine drill sergeant) on how to leave my husband.
Then she bought me a teal blue Ferragamo suit that cost five times my monthly rent.
Poof! Just like my own personal fairy godmother.
I’d never worn a designer outfit. I’d never even had a pair of designer pantyhose.
For months, I wore that dress to every job interview. By spring I had five offers with signing bonuses, guaranteeing me the money I needed to leave my husband when I graduated school.
For years afterwards I wore the Ferragamo for important dates and killer presentations. It made me feel strong enough to accomplish anything, including reinventing myself.
Fast forward to this morning.
While packing for a women’s leadership conference, I decided to pull out the Ferragamo ensemble. Ten years have passed since the last time I donned it. I’ve been married to another, decidedly nicer, husband for 15 years. I’ve had three babies and a 45th birthday and more dream jobs than I could have ever dreamed up.
Ladies, I couldn’t get the skirt over my thighs.
No problem, I told myself.
I’ll just wear the top with some slick black pants. I’ll update the Ferragamo with a modern mom look!
I couldn’t button the jacket over my chest.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a frumpy stepsister trying to pass for 20 years younger.
I had OUTGROWN the Ferragamo.
To my shock, I didn’t moan and wail. Instead I laughed a little. I’m so old and wise, all I felt was a brush of sadness as I took off the jacket and looked at the label that used to inspire me:
I don’t need my magic suit anymore. Somewhere along the way, it lost its powers of enchantment. I guess I absorbed its fairy dust into my soul as I found my own strength and real happiness. It was another kind of shock to look in the mirror and realize THAT.
Think I’ll look for a deserving young Cinderella who needs a fairy godmother – and her own, gently used, enchanted dress.