Friday, July 29, 2011 | By: Brianna

I Wish to Go to the Festival...and the Ball!

Q:  What's this about a ball?

A:  I'm going to a ball!

Q:  A ball?

A:  You don't have to be so surprised about it.  Don't people get invited to balls all the time?  Don't the dreams of every young girl culminate in dancing with a prince at a ball and transforming into Cinderella?  Don't you ride in pumpkin carriages to balls every time you fall asleep?  Okay, maybe not the last one, but the rest are true, right?

Tonight I'm going to a ball.  The Printer's Ball, actually.

When my friends and I went to the Printer's Row Lit Fest earlier this summer, we were walking around, gazing longingly at the scrumptious leather bound books and the beautiful journals and the tiny little car crammed with books, and we happened upon the Poetry Foundation table.  Now I had heard that the Poetry Foundation was in the process of establishing an address downtown because I have my sources, but I had no idea that they would have a table at the Lit Fest.  And my being a great fan of the Poetry Foundation, I decided to drag my friends over, and we chatted with the literary folks running the table.  They gave us a bunch of free stuff (including a button with a Pegasus on it) and also a flyer for the Printer's Ball which they described as the biggest party for literary people in Chicago, where you need to bring a very large bag to carry all the free stuff you'll get.

We decided then and there that we would go.

When I looked up the Printer's Ball online, I found that it was themed.  "It's Aliiiiiiive!"  And also that costumes are encouraged because there would be a costume contest.  I had no idea what I would dress up as.  I had a list that looked something like this:
- Cat in the Hat
- Hester Prynne
- Miss Havisham (even though I've never read Great Expectations)
- Mary Poppins
- Nancy Drew
- Tonks
- Jane Eyre
- Mrs. Bennet
And on and on.  I consulted my mother, and she added to my list, but no decisions were made.  Until this week when my mom said, "Let's face it, Miss Havisham is the best costume on this list.  Let's do it."  And I said okay.

So we adventured to the local Salvation Army with the view of picking out a wedding dress.  The only dresses that were hanging from the ceiling that looked vaguely bridal were over our budget of $20-40, so we went into the aisles where we found multiple white dresses, none of them fitting until we found The One.  Which was cream, but perfect, and a high collared shirt I could wear under it to give the appearance of a high collar on the dress itself.  Turns out the dress was "missing a piece" (apparently) and we got it for $7.50 instead of $15.  A bargain.

I then ventured to my "local" library in the nearest suburb with my mother's library card, and I got Great Expectations, the book on tape.  Which I learned had 17 hours and 28 minutes worth of some man reading the book aloud and providing voices for each character.  And just looking through the DVDs on a whim (because the website had told me the movie was checked out), I found that the website had lied to me and I could watch the movie if it turned out that "reading" Great Expectations in a matter of three days wasn't doable.  (Though I'm happy to say that I'm 3/4 of the way through and the ball is tonight.)

The last couple days I went searching for suitable shoes and tights for my costume, to no avail.  Until yesterday, after offending the people at Fantasy Costumes by asking for a pair of slippers, I found a pair of decent white shoes.  Now all I need is the tights.

And tonight I put on my veil and my wrinkles, and I go to the ball.  A modern Cinderella dressed as a sadistic, cruel, old hag, Miss Havisham.  I'm certain to meet my Prince Charming (or Mr. Darcy) at this assembly.  Fingers crossed Miss Havisham doesn't interfere.

"Oh well.  What's a royal ball?  After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and-and-and boring, and-and completely...Completely wonderful."
- Cinderella (Disney's 1950 version)


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