My friends on Facebook have probably already seen the “prom picture” that Sarah posted of us – here’s the story on that one:
The first time I went to prom, I was 16. I had gone to visit my friend Karla, who was a senior at Colegio Roosevelt in Lima, Peru and while there I attended her prom as her date. I wore a gold floor length gown I would later wear again to several Marine Balls. The second time I went to prom, I was a junior at the Anglo-American School of Moscow. Because our classes were so small, and because it was the job of the junior class to organize prom for the seniors, we were invited to attend as well. Unfortunately, that was also the year I had destroyed my ankle playing Varsity Soccer and by the time prom had rolled around, I’d had surgery and was in a cast and almost decided not to go at all. At the last minute, I borrowed a very conservative red dress from my father’s administrative assistant, wrapped a red feather boa around one of my crutches, and went solo.
If you look at those prom pictures carefully, you’ll only ever see one foot as I was trying to hide the cast in all the photos. The third time I went to prom, it was my senior prom, which I attended with Jay, my boyfriend at the time, wearing a turquoise dress I’d designed and had made in Thailand.
Clearly, I’ve had my fill of prom and prom dresses.
So when Kevin Blackwell passed me in the main corridor of 155 a couple weeks ago and called out to ask if I was going to prom on December 15th, I laughed. But then I thought, you know, I’ve missed every major party on station so far this season (Halloween, Freezing Man) because of work so maybe this is my chance to finally see what they’re all about. The only problem is that I didn’t bring a dress that even remotely looked prom-like. In fact, I even recall my brother and Sadie laughing at the addition of “formal wear” to my packing list. Of course, this being McMurdo, I knew that costumes would probably be acceptable too, so I started trying to come up with some kind of costume I could pull off, preferably related to my work.
The predominant inspiration was Wellesley’s Dyke Ball, where the men must dress in drag and the women wear as little as possible. One year, my friends and I attended this party wearing dresses made of multi-coloured plastic wrap. As it happens, in our kitchen here, we use a lot of plastic wrap because we lack adequate lids for our hotel pans. In fact, one of the PM shift’s tasks is to wrap up a smaller portion of whatever we’re preparing that night, put it into plastic hotel pans WITH a lid on top, then cater-wrap the whole thing (basically wrap the shit out of it, for those not in the industry) for transport out to the airfield to feed the people stationed out there. This plastic wrap stays completely clean but is discarded after transport. So I had a little chat with the woman in charge of dinner for the airfield and she agreed to start saving the clean plastic wrap as much as possible. I was a little skeptical that I’d have enough in two weeks to make an entire dress so I went ahead and got my bosses’ permission to make a dress out of plastic wrap, just in case I had to use some from a new roll. Russell laughed and said, sure, why not, and didn’t some guy out at Palmer Station go to a party wrapped in bubble wrap once? I’m not sure he believed I’d actually do it.
The day of the party, I hit a couple snags. To start with, I wasn’t feeling very much in the party mood… People here often have downswings from time to time and I guess this was mine but I was just feeling kind of blue all day that day and wasn’t really sure I wanted to go to Prom at all, despite having multiple “dates”. Then Sarah saw our office admin going through inventory and using usage rates to project what our inventory would be by the time our huge cargo shipment gets here at the end of the season: apparently we’d only have about 5 rolls of plastic wrap left. Hmmm, if I didn’t have enough scraps and had to use any from a roll, that could be problematic. I was feeling less and less in the mood for this and Sarah was beginning to get worried about me in general. By the end of the work day, our plan was for me to go home, have a shower, have a drink, and relax a bit and if I didn’t feel better by 8pm, I’d just skip it. Otherwise, she was game to help with the wrapping.
Well, leave it to aul’ Bushmills to get me in the mood but needless to say, I think Sarah and I did a fantastic job – even better than when I was 20 and did this.
Using the smaller scraps was perfect because all the edges created more opacity, so we didn’t need nearly as much as I thought we would, although we did have to stick to a two piece outfit (skirt and top) as opposed to a whole dress. It got very favorable reviews for not only being flattering but being environmentally friendly – McMurdo works very hard at keeping our footprint small and I’d like to think I helped a bit by finding an alternative use for what would have normally just been discarded.
I’m actually still hearing about it from time to time, occasionally even from people standing right next to me who are talking about the girl who wore plastic wrap; they don’t recognize me because I look so different in my work clothes! So that is the story of how I wound up wearing a plastic wrap “dress” to Prom in Antarctica. Leave it to a woman who will…