In which I buy a new dress


My boyfriend doesn’t like my new dress.

I know this, because when I appeared in it for the first time doing the purposeful, swishy ‘new dress’ walk, the walk that is an “AHEM” in movement form, he looked up and said, “Ooh. Yeah. It’s nice.”

In the algebra of this scenario, if nice = ‘unfortunate’ and ‘yeah’ = ‘no’, nice x yeah + a fixed smile and enthusiastic thumbs-up = a very definitely disliked outfit. 

“So you like it?” I replied, because he clearly didn’t. “Yes!” He insisted, eyes wide and voice shrill, like someone trying to shuffle their way out of a bear enclosure they’ve accidentally fallen into at the zoo. “It’s very cool.”

“Cool” is not necessarily bad, you understand. Some of my oddest garments he likes specifically for their coolness, as though his 19-year-old self would approve of him having a girlfriend whose clothing would confuse the average Nan. A dress I bought online from Hong Kong and kept guiltily in the cupboard for two months because it looked like bedsheets only got worn in the end at all because he found it and declared it “cool” so enthusiastically.

But cool can also be a consolation prize. In the case of this dress (bright pink, 80s, stripy, mid-calf, elasticated waist, buttons), ‘cool’ is the best it’s going to get. But it could have been worse. It could have been “snazzy”. Or, “what a lovely fabric,” which is basically worse than just retching and leaving the room.

Still, we’re still in the delicate aftermath of rucksackgate, the fateful day I accidentally referred to his well-worn brown Jansport bag as “horrible” when what I meant to say was “functional and sturdy,” so I can forgive him going all Anna Wintour on me. Weeks of cooing, “what memories this rucksack must have… and big enough to fit TWO board games in at once, wow…” have helped us reach a point of acquiescence, but I know there’s still bitterness inside.

Besides, I don’t care as much as he does. Since buying and subsequently discovering he didn’t like the dress, I have worn it five times in nine days. It is my new favourite dress. I love it so much that I’ve gone off three other dresses in order to make room for it in my heart. Every time I have it on, I feel slightly sad for him, not being able to appreciate its artistry. 

Meanwhile, after claiming my zero tolerance stance on flip-flops (they’re an insult to the noble name of feet, a total waste of a shoe opportunity) made no difference to him, he notably hasn’t worn them once all summer. 

So I win, sort of. I am a winner, in a very cool dress.