Pride – a short story by Sophie Cooney

For my 21st birthday, my best friend bought me a beautiful dark green dress, made of silk, tight fitting with a low neckline which I adored. I had never worn anything like it before, and as I was getting changed I held it in my hands, running my fingers over the straps, the silk, the delicate petticoat underneath.

On the dance floor of a dirty, sticky club, I was approached by a stranger who asked me to dance with him. I said no, but thank you, and smiled politely. I turned around, back to my friends, and thought nothing of the exchange until I felt a hand slap across my backside, grab for a moment, and release.

He looked at me once when I turned around, laughed, and disappeared into the crowd. He didn’t look at me again the whole night.

It was a small thing. It didn’t hurt. But suddenly, in that dress that I had admired so much at home, I felt dirty and uncomfortable. I wanted to rip it off of myself and toss it to the ground. I hated the way the fabric had rubbed against my skin with a strangers hand pressed to me.  I hated the way hot tears pricked my eyes as I stood on the dance floor [being] blinded by lights.

This man thought I was too proud. He read my no thank you as condescension, or haughtiness. He must have done: as why else would he have felt the need to grab me that way in spite of rejection? Why else would he try to make me cry? He took the only course of action he imagined he could to knock me off of the pedestal he had decided I stood on.

The truth is that I cried before I left my house because I felt ugly in my beautiful dress. I felt I was letting down the undulating fabric by stuffing my undeserving, lanky body inside of its beautiful seams. I didn’t need to be brought down by anyone else.

When I went home that night, I buried my beautiful green silk dress and never reached for it again.