Live by the cha-cha, die by the cha-cha

keeping it real The BF and I went to dinner tonight with the Happy Couple, an impromptu sort of a thing, as we all worked up a mighty hunger looking at yet another example of moderately-priced Los Angeles real estate. So many abound!

Anyway, we went to a neighborhood joint, The BF's neighborhood, which ain't the 'hood, but ain't fancy, neither. And it's Sunday, right? A day of (putative, anyway) rest. Low-key is the operative word. And the place is hummin', albeit in a decidedly non-partying, non-alcoholic, school-night-y way, because (remember?) it's Sunday! We're eating our beet salad and high-end ribs in our jeans, the people next to us are eating their pistachio-crusted salmon in their jeans, the people next to them are eating their high-end meatloaf & mash in their jeans.

And as we're mopping up the last of the delicious broth from the grilled calamari, in walks Sister Satiddy Night, rocking the cha-cha like she's there four days early for a big Valentine's Day out. Tight, shoulderless dress with boobage. Four-inch heels. Hair. Makeup. The whole, uncomfortable works, including her slightly homely fella in slightly less fancy fella-garb, whom I'm guessing, and I know, I know...I'm totally guessing, was picking up the check.

Now, of course they could have been coming from a wedding. Lots of people have them on Sunday because it's cheaper and hey, if you're being frugal, maybe you're saving by not having a meal, either. Maybe they work regular nights out and this is their big, do-it-up night. Maybe a million things. But on top of it all, that dress is not comfortable. No, I've never worn it, but I've worn plenty of uncomfortable dresses and heels and I know. I know.

The last time I wore a serious cha-cha outfit without getting paid for it was on a particularly pathetic birthday, my 26th, maybe, or my 27th. Between when I dated the Republican and married the Chief Atheist. I had no date, not a lot of friends, and one good, fun, funny, kind male friend agreed to go out with me on my birthday. I'm not certain, but I'm fairly sure we split it down the middle. Outside of a regular relationship, that's how I roll, as my feminist mother drilled into me that to do otherwise was tantamount to selling cooch for steak. Plus he was a kind friend, but a cheap one.

So I was in the cab, which again, I'm fairly sure we split, and I got attacked. Full-on mauled by my good, fun, funny, kind male friend: the whole gimme-baby, Radio Tokyo thing. My umbrage, shock and dismay were at least equalled by his. Why, if I didn't want to act like a ho, was I dressing like one?

A very good question.

Because my boyfriend had dumped me.

Because I was turning 26 or 27 and I honestly thought my stock was falling.

Because that cursed Robert Palmer video came out with the impossibly hot chicks in the impossibly tight black spandex dresses.

Because I was sad. Because I was angry.

Because I hated myself.

Because I wanted people to love me.

Because I could. Because they sold them in stores so regular ladies (okay, girls) could buy them and turn themselves from good-looking people to good-looking objects.

Because I wanted to be pretty. Because I wasn't pretty enough.

Because I wasn't enough.

That's really it, isn't it? Because there are ways to look good without the cha-cha, just as there are ways to be in relationships without compromising your integral self. Good luck finding them in this world, though, without a lot of trial and error and a lot of looking. It is almost impossible to raise a girl in this world with enough self-esteem to say no to the cha-cha, to believe in herself enough to not compromise herself, to know that she can look great without putting the goods on display. I know; my mom tried. "Don't get too attached to your looks," this breathtaking natural beauty would say. "One run-in with a bus, and it's all over."

And then she would put on a little lipstick, because that made anyone feel better.

I'm not advocating the burkha any more than I'm advocating dumping on sisters who, for whatever reason, choose the cha-cha. I know a few for whom it really seems to be an outgrowth of their personality. But I see a lot more of us putting it on, trying to be someone else, someone else who's really, really slutty-looking, because of some bullshit notion we picked up from a million signals around us suggesting that it's a logical, desirable way for all of us to be. That to not choose it is to choose invisibility or un-sexiness or some other undesirable state. And I'm calling bullshit.

If it's in your stars, go ahead, go for the cha-cha. But for god's sake, have a Plan B. Your tits and ass are not a retirement plan. Your pretty face is not job security. Do not get wrapped up in some crazy notion that by putting on the cha-cha, you are investing in yourself.

If nothing else, have a sense of humor about it. Know that it's drag, and own it. Know who you are underneath and own that. I had a dentist once whom I called Dr. Cha-Cha. She was a good dentist and hey, if she felt like pouring herself into a porn-a-licious dentist outfit and fuck-me pumps to scrape my teeth, more power to her. But that is the natural order of things, ladies: work first, cha-cha second. Not cha-cha for cash. Not cha-cha so a dude will buy you dinner and maybe later, a ring and a car and a house.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you do opt for the cha-cha, do it on your own damned terms. To squeeze or push or starve yourself to become someone else's idea of fabulous, for love or money, is a fool's game.

Of course, all this from someone who's not even sure what color her hair is under all that dye. But hey, I never said I was consistent.

Just comfortably dressed on a Sunday night...

Image by edward olive via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.