It’s January 2004, and we all know what that means: It’s time to empty the house of junk food and start the New Year’s Diet.
Which is why I’m sitting at my laptop, finishing off a bowl of Christmas cookie dough–a rich combination of butter, sugar, and chocolate that somehow never made it onto a cookie sheet.
Impossible to alter past bad decisions, of course. What’s done is done. Still, I can’t help wondering, as I scrape up the last spoonful of dough, what on earth the church fathers were thinking, putting the celebration of Christ’s birth–a feast day–just seven days before a holiday requiring a sleek and slinky dress.
My own New Year’s gown is a shimmering, strapless black affair. On New Year’s Eve I pulled it the dress off its hanger and slipped it on. The long zipper down the back makes the dress difficult to get into at the best of times. Following a season of gastronomic sins, the zip’s fastener–facing a steep ascent up a Mount Everest of fat–rebelled after a mere three-inch climb.
Clearly, this was a job for a man, and I summoned my husband to the bedroom. He arrived looking very handsome in evening clothes (which he’d been able to get into without difficulty despite a triple serving of persimmon pudding, hard sauce, and whipped cream on Christmas Day). “Zip me up, please,” I said, sucking in my breath.
Long years of marriage have made my spouse an expert at zipping his wife into her clothes. But this zipper wouldn’t budge. My husband grabbed the sides of my dress, held them together, and with his free hand, yanked hard on the tiny plastic fastener. He almost knocked me off my feet, but the zipper stayed put.
Perhaps this is a good time to note that my husband is a decorated member of the United States Armed Forces. He’s very much a “See the zipper, take the zipper” kind of guy–the sort you can count on when you absolutely, positively have to have it zipped up right away.
“Lie down on the bed,” he commanded. I obeyed, and the Battle of the Zipper was rejoined.
Five minutes later, my perspiring spouse threw off his jacket and wiped his brow. “Why do they put these %&$#% cheap zippers into expensive dresses?” he exploded. I giggled weakly and began to get up, ready to concede defeat.
Not so my spouse. “Let’s try it one more time,” he said, planting his knee on my spine and forcing me back down.
And try he did. For the next 10 minutes he yanked and pulled and strained, his valiant efforts accompanied by a fusillade of gasps, grunts, and occasional bursts of non-family-values language.
It didn’t help that I couldn’t stop laughing, even when–during one ferocious yank on the zip–my husband nearly brained me on the mahogany headboard.
Clearly, a change of tactics was required and my husband–his knee still planted firmly on my back to prevent my escape–gave the matter some thought. He suddenly brightened. “Don’t move,” he ordered. As he disappeared into the hallway, our miniature dachshund, intrigued by the odd noises coming from the bedroom, raced through the door, leaped onto the bed, and licked my ear.
My husband returned moments later with his medical bag. He extracted several surgical clamps and attached them to the sides of my dress, closing the wound, as it were. He then picked up a pair of forceps.
“All right, you little bugger,” he muttered, triumph gleaming in his eye.
Five minutes later, the zipper still hadn’t shifted a millimeter; it remained stuck in a kind of zipporial quagmire. My enraged spouse suddenly threw the forceps across the room, leaped atop me, grabbed the fastener with both hands and yanked with all his considerable might. Unable to breathe, I began turning blue. The dog looked on with interest.
In the end, my husband was forced to concede defeat, and I resigned myself to wearing a different dress. But it will be some time before my husband fully recovers from this couturial Waterloo.
The dress, back on its padded hanger, hangs gracefully from the top of the wardrobe. Each time my husband sees it, he gives it a baleful glare. The dress leers back at him. I know my spouse is already strategizing for next year’s Zipper War. It’s a matter of honor.
I plan to keep the dress out in the open, a silky reminder, as I fight the annual Battle of the Bulge, that slimness–like freedom–requires eternal vigilance.
–Anne Morse is a freelance writer in Virginia.