Unlike the terror-filled apocalyptic dreams of late, last night’s was in some senses a little more prosaic, though not without its oddness. The organisation I work for (in conscious life) was (in the dream) sponsoring a kind of high-brow beauty pageant – if such a thing exists. The idea, I gather, was to have a selection of women who were not only striking to look at, but were also great achievers in the field of human rights and law. It was a bizarre amalgamation of abject sexism and serious female intellectual achievement – a combination I clearly had difficulty reconciling in the dream, as I stood at the periphery, clipboard in hand with a look of confused derision on my face. I was there as a representative of the committee sponsoring the event and while not at all responsible for its management, I was there to oversee it and ensure our interests were being met, with a view to reporting back to the committee at a later date.
As I scribbled away in my notepad, I was approached by the event director and told to go and get my costume on for the dress rehearsal. I told her there was some sort of mistake at which point she bellowed at me to get myself organised. I ran off backstage and was half-arsedly thrown into an ill-fitting dress and pushed toward the curtain. As I waited for my cue, the stage manager asked me what my talent was. I completely bricked myself. You’ll just have to sing something, she replied rolling her eyes at my ineptitude.
Once on stage, I saw nothing but blackness before me as the hot lights beamed down, inhibiting my vision. Come on! boomed the director’s voice, clearly exasperated with my lack of professionalism. In a horrifically reedy and wobbly voice, I began to bust out a solo from a primary school play I once had the misfortune of performing:
I’m a wee-ping, wall-owing, Wil-low Tree…
After the second line, I was shouted off stage and told to get my act together.
Skip to the event night. In a panic, I kept trying to explain to various event staff members that I wasn’t supposed to be in the pageant; that I was in fact representing the sponsors and if anything, I should be judging it. I was wholly ignored by all. I pleaded with the fat woman doing my hair and make-up, I pleaded with the interns. No one seemed to be listening. I heard all the other contestants practising their speeches and talents – all of them multilingual, sharp, polished, leaders in their field. All incredible. All beautiful. All of them for some reason at least five inches taller than me. I felt like an oompa loompa, or, to rather embarrassingly invoke a line from Sex and the City, like I was wearing patchouli in a room full of Chanel. To add insult to injury, the event director, a tall buxom woman with a strong Eastern European accent, tossed a kind of 90s style formal dress of red satin effect and sequins at me, saying Put this on – you didn’t organise your own so you’ll have to make do with one of my old dresses. It looked about a hundred sizes too big. You’ll be representing Spain, she declared and strutted off.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with representing Spain (aside from the fact my knowledge of contemporary Spanish culture is sparse at best and I know even less about the language – a point blatantly obvious in the dream), all the other contestants seemed to be representing monumentally exotic places; places I can’t even pronounce because they were spoken in alien or mermaid language. The pageant began to traverse into the terrain of the fantastical, like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or Star Wars, or The Fifth Element. Women were both French/English/Urdu speaking solicitors as well as inter-galactic emissaries in ball gowns made from the Milky Way, with voices like Heaven and eyes like glowing solar systems.
On stage. My horrible dress hanging off me. An auditorium filled with the most distinguished legal practitioners in the UK and Europe. I am slowing dying a painful and humiliating social death as we all stand in a row, each taking our turns at the podium. I am next in line. The heat from the lights is unbearably hot and my skin becomes dappled with red rashes, my hair stinking to me face with sweat and pools of perspiration leak from my armpits and trickle down, staining my dress with unsightly wet patches. As the Helen of Troy-esque woman before me finishes her presentation at the podium to the sound of thundering applause and sashays past me in a wave of ethereal incredibleness, I begin to shuffle my way forward like a slimy little maggot, my throat completely constricted, channelling all my zen powers in a valiant effort to avoid prolapsing on stage in front of all these distinguished and well-dressed people.
Mercifully, my subconscious blacks out as to what then transpires, for we are suddenly backstage again and the pageant is finished. I am handed a score and comments card by the stage manager, citing the various feedback from the judges. It is an unpleasant read. I exhibit little talent, no team skills, no desire to cooperate and a distinct lack of professionalism and ability to think on my feet….
I didn’t need my subconscious to tell me that.
Image source videojug.com