Sometimes in life you can set the scene for a situation that you never anticipated to happen. And so it was for me two weeks ago when I sent a rather innocuous (or so I thought) email to volunteer at a parade for my Latin dance studio.
To my mind, as I have always been a bit of a joiner, I thought I would possibly help marshal the performers, or maybe assist with sticking on a sequin or two so that no nips were protruding from tiny bling-tastic costumes.
But, oh no, little did I know at the time that my email of probably less than 20 words was actually a confirmation of my tacit approval to be part of the parade adorned in a costume of every single colour that has ever been invented – except black.
The night before the parade – actually called Carnaval because you know it’s Latin – I still hadn’t received a reply from my email of a week before, so I gathered that they didn’t need my help or perhaps they had heard about my scary seamstress skills.
Alas, I had been lulled into a fall sense of obscurity, because a few hours later, an email lobbed into my email in-box with the subject-line: Carnaval Parade Details. So far, so reasonable, I thought as I opened it. However, my beige-ness about the situation was about to be turned on its soon-to-be head-dress wearing head. The first line read: “Thank you for all putting your name down to parade with us (emphasis added) on Saturday night.” Oh dear.
The email went on to outline that I should review “the attached list with details of the costume that has been allocated to you.” Oh dear. I opened that aforementioned list and found my name next to a costume called Fantasia. For those of us of a certain vintage, the word Fantasia brings with it connotations of a 1940s Disney movie – popular still in the 70s – in which there were dancing hippos in tutus from memory. It all seemed quite apt to me.
With my heart in my throat, I googled “Fantasia Latin Dance Costumes” and was greeted with a variety of hardly-there outfits which no woman in her 40s should ever wear – except perhaps in the bedroom when all alone.
I text a fellow dancing friend to find out whether she too had been foolish enough to volunteer for a bout of public exhibitionism. Alas, no, she is much too smart for that. She did altruistically offer to come along to document my humiliation on celluloid though. Thanks love.
The next day, I turned up at the allocated time to learn of my Fantasia fate. I was praying that it didn’t involve a vast exposure of my belly as while I had had good intentions to fast that day, I had failed miserably and imbibed one too many sushi rolls which usually makes me bloat up like a pregnant lady in her second trimester.
I was ushered into the change room where my allotted dresser began holding up one after another after another pieces of the costume (see image above) which included sequins, faux jewels, a cape, MC Hammer-like pants, feathers, and so much gold satin I felt like I was Shirley Bassey singing the theme song to Goldfinger.
The head-dress weighed about 100 kilos but it was the first time in my life I was thankful for having such an unnaturally long neck as at least I could still walk in a straight line. How I was going to do the samba or salsa down the street was beyond me at that point though.
About 30 nerve-wracking minutes later, about 60 of us were herded towards the main street. Latin beats were banged out by a bunch of hot blokes with drums and crowds of people swarmed each side of the street to watch the unfolding sexy spectacle.
Then something magical happened. My feet started moving. My arms started swinging. And somehow my giraffe-like neck managed to balance the cacophony on top of my head and I strutted my stuff up and back that street like no-one was watching. Clearly, there were people watching. Hundreds of them. And I loved it.
About 45 minutes later we were back at the start and a young girl came up and asked me to be in a photo with her. I smiled and said yes and tried to strike a pose which didn’t involve sweating on her. Under all those sequins, you see, lay an over-heating, dehydrated, exhausted but utterly exhilarated woman. It took me about two days to recover but holy shit those memories will last for at least a year when I will be one of the first people to sign up to do it all over again.