I had been dressed in my outfit three hours in advance. My hair was perfected. My makeup applied and reapplied at least 4 times. My skirt was properly altered. My bustle was on par. I debated for an hour over weather or not to wear my corset under my dress., then I realized I valued breathing and if I was going to be able to dance properly, I had to decide against it. Everything from my goggles to my striped stockings screamed Steampunk Time Traveler. I was so ready for this, while also, absolutely terrified.
“You should flirt with someone tonight. Do it for me.” One of my lady friend had encouraged me when she talked to me a few hours before on the phone. I sighed. “Okay, I’ll try.”
I offered to drive. A nice change of pace for my Bestie, since she was usually the one to drive us places when we went out somewhere. Mainly because she was the one who knew where we were going. This time I told her that she could play copilot while I drove, which was what I absolutely needed to do for redemption over every time she drove us places, as well as what I needed to do to keep myself from having some kind of panic attack. I could focus on driving. I could keep us all from being killed by crazy Illinois drivers trying to get up North to their weekend homes. I could navigate the construction. It would be a much less daunting task than worrying about the impending social interactions I would be forced to have with complete strangers.
Thankfully the conversation was always cheerful. I drove and added commentary as needed while my Bestie, her Fiancé, and his sister (her future sister-in-law) chatted about wedding plans and life. I had told them all about my crazy past two weeks and how much I needed to get away and pretend to be someone else. They agreed, feeling the same necessity for their own lives. I came up with a back story in between lulls in conversation. I was form the year 3100 PA…Post Apocalypse. We were experienced the industrial age all over again, but this time with time travel theories perfected, and finally mastered by yours truly. I was a lovely, single, adventurer and inventor. Amazing how you feel more yourself when you are not yourself at all.
“So many boys are going to ask you to dance.” My bestie encouraged.
I was suddenly struck with full terror. There were going to be men. Civil War Period dressed men. Probably with handsome beards. Probably a bunch of them had come to these kinds of events all the time? I began to calmly ask questions about the event and venue. Trying to get a feel of what I was up against. From what I gathered, tons of people come every year, some with partners and some without. Oh great. Some without. I scolded myself for thinking this was a good idea. What was I thinking going to an event with men who might be single when I wasn’t ready to be pursued? I was an idiot.
Upon arriving the ladies and myself retired to the restroom to clean ourselves up and talk without my Bestie’s Fiancé to overhear. I played with my goggles, just to give my nervous hands something to do. Pulled my gloves off and put them on again. Adjusted the bobby pins in my hair. “You look fine.” My Bestie assured me. That was what I was afraid of. Too fine. Things never went right for me when I was pretty. People fell in love when they saw a pretty face. I didn’t want love. I didn’t want to be pretty. Next thing I knew the girls took me by the arms. I was being dragged out of the bathroom when I wasn’t quite ready to face the room full of patrons in their hoop skirts and tailed shirts. It was like living in Pride and Prejudice with the exception of the love story.“I saw a cute ginger across the room I’m really hoping asks you to dance.” My Bestie told me on the way to our seats against the wall.
Almost everyone, but some children, were in costume. I was the only Steampunk one there. Which had clearly been a mistake, because everyone and their brother came up to talk to me and ask about my outfit and tell them how happy they were someone showed up as Steampunk. I played a wallflower for a while. Terrified I was going to be asked to dance by some handsome or equally as bad…a horrible man… and look like a complete idiot. The dancing began, and I began to feel a little sorry for coming. If I didn’t dance, I looked just as foolish as if I did. After a few minutes and half way during the instruction segment of the dance, I began to feel even more foolish. Maybe I was wrong to come? Maybe no one would dance with me? Maybe I would just be a wallflower and feel excluded like so many times before?
“May I have this dance?”
Terrified, I turned to see where the voice came from, only to see a young man about the age of twelve in a tailed coat and a big grin on his face.
I smiled and honestly replied “I really don’t know how.”
He took my hand anyway “Don’t worry m’lady I’ll show you. I’ve done this one a million times.”
He wasn’t kidding. In our group of line dancers, he was probably the most well versed. He showed me all the steps quickly before we jumped in the group. It was extremely fun. Similar to some dances I had recalled from middle school gym class. Square dancing style mostly. He talked for a short while after the dance. He had been coming with his family for years. His mom wouldn’t dance with him tonight, because she claimed he was “old enough to ask a girl.” So he did. I was the first girl outside of his family he had ever danced with. I told him I felt honored.
Third dance I was asked for, was by a young man about my age. He was a bit shorter than me. Dark. Handsome. The kind of handsome that made you feel stupid to say anything. While we danced I felt super weird. He kept asking me questions about myself, fishing for information about the mysterious Steampunk girl. I answered vaguely. Mostly because I was so focused on not stepping on him because I had no freaking idea how to really do a waltz. Clearly he did, but I was so out of practice I found myself apologizing left and right for being so bad. “You’re doing really well,” he assured me. I didn’t feel so assured. I practically fled from him after the dance in horror. I went to tell my Bestie how awkward I had been.
“They’re making a pretty big deal over you.” She speculated. I rolled my eyes at her and she laughed.
“Seriously though, most of the people here are actually family. This whole thing was started by a few homeschool groups who were related when the Reenactment society left. We’re odd balls here. We aren’t related to anyone. That’s why he was pumping you for information. You’re like, quality potential!”
“I don’t know how I feel about being ‘quality potential’ when the other options are his relatives. Does’t feel much like quality. More like a process of elimination.” We both chuckled at the novelty of being one of only a handful of women who weren’t related, and therefore, options. The my Bestie shook off the novelty for after a brief moment and went to dance with her Fiancé for about an hour. I took the dances that came after that. Mostly from adorable young men, and a few fathers who’s wives decided to dance with their sons, and left them to save a wallflower from feeling left out.
The dances later in the evening (after parents with children left) were what my Bestie and I called “Speed dating dances” where you danced fairly slowly, but got to meet every man on the dance floor if not in the room because you switched partners so many times. Brief conversation were ongoing only after the dance was over. I was thankful no one came running back to talk to me privately afterward as I was observing left and right around me. I wasn’t ready for that, but found it cute to watch the next slow dance be full of new couples. It was romantic, and only slightly tinged with a smug realization that the couples on the floor were options only because of the vast amount of relatives surrounding them. I found the thought amusing.
The evening came to a close and I walked back to the car with my party. The drive home was quiet as my passengers began to nod off. Everyone was dropped off safely at their vehicles and drove away. I walked into my house and collapsed in my bed. Nearly leaving all my costume on. I felt like I had been hit by a Time Machine…and I never slept so well in my life.