At the tender age of 12 something dreadful happened to me at a concert that has scarred me permanently. I was playing in one of my first concerts ever on my bassoon and I didn’t have a black skirt to wear. As an early developer I felt horribly self-conscious about the hair darkening on my legs and, ahem, other hormonal changes. My mother scrummaged through her closet and pulled out a black wraparound skirt to cover my girth (as if bassoon playing wasn’t enough, I was also a “husky” kid) and a pair of ancient old lady pantyhose to cover up the hairs. I was ready.
I felt weird wearing my mother’s clothing. The pantyhose were old with non-existent elastic and kept slipping down. A fire alarm went off during the concert and everybody had to evacuate. I followed the crowd attempting to walk normally and keep the pantyhose from falling.
It was a false alarm. Everybody slowly filed back into the auditorium. Ascending the stairs to the stage, at a high point, I couldn’t take it anymore and reached around to yank the nylons up. I reached my seat and the bass clarinet player informed me that I had “opened up my skirt to everybody”. Moments later my mother appeared at the edge of the stage also to tell me I’d exposed myself while going up the stairs. My face was on fire!
I didn’t touch the pantyhose again. The rest of the evening I walked in small shuffling steps, my knees pressed tightly together. When I got home I spent a long time in front of the full length mirror in my parents’ bedroom trying to recreate the maneuver I’d done to see how much of myself I exposed to the crowd, alternating cursing at the pantyhose, the wraparound, and then the fire alarm.
I can only imagine how much worse this would have been if digital photography and social media had been around. My whole tween existence as a husky, hairy-legged, bassoon player would have been even more tragic.
To this day, 20+ years later, I’m still nervous about wearing, or even buying, any kind of wraparound clothing. The other week I went out in a wraparound dress and felt my usual twinge of residual “tween” panic while dressing. I wrapped and re-wrapped the dress several times, then double knotted the tie for extra security before I felt comfortable.