What to wear to a Snobsville funeral? And since when did I start worrying about what to wear to a funeral? The gaggle were all going to be attending, and even though I didn’t know her very well, (or at all really), Caroline thought it would not be proper for me to miss paying Jamie her last respects. Or, whatever respect I could muster for someone who died during a routine butt lift.
So I sat cross legged on my bed staring at my open cupboard and hoping for inspiration. I scanned the Snobsville standards section of my wardrobe – my safety outfits. Black puffa vest was out. Definitely too trendy for a funeral. White capris? Although I’m sure not everyone wears black to a funeral anymore, I wasn’t confident enough of pull off white. Perfectly faded jeans – too casual. Looks like I would be taking a fashion risk today.
I selected a long sleeve black dress and simple black heels, with a turquoise silk scarf from the standards section. I bundled Layla into a pink onesie, which I had been doing regularly since Linda had first met her. Initially I was going to be one of those mums that didn’t impose gender stereotypes on their girls. But the first time Linda had laid eyes on Layla, she had said to me “Oh, isn’t he sweet?” I knew she was perfectly aware of Layla’s gender, having mentioned my daughter previously in conversation. Still, I never wanted to give her the opportunity to have a dig at me.
Caroline greeted me with a generous smile and a ‘mwah’ on each cheek. She gave me a once over, and for the first time ever nodded approvingly.
“You look gorgeous dear!”
“Thanks. You too.” Looking gorgeous was Caroline’s full time job.
“So. The girls are all here.”
“How do you think they’ll get the butt lift into the eulogy?”
I smirked. “I don’t know! Stop making me laugh this is a serious occasion!”
“See Linda over there in a bright red suit?” Caroline rolled her eyes – we did that at Linda a lot. Linda looked striking in a fitted red suit, with no camisole underneath and just enough cleavage to be moderately immodest. The girls were giggling under their breath about something. I suppressed my inner teenager enough to feel a modicum of distaste for their collusion at such a sombre occasion. Just enough – deep down she was thrashing around and searching for freedom, desperate to know what they were talking about.
As we approached, Linda raised her eyes to meet us. “Oh Marley. How sweet. You wore black to a funeral.”
Brita smiled. “I love your scarf Marley. Such a beautiful colour for winter.”
“So girls. What are we nattering about at such a solemn event?” Caroline tried to take the high ground but was clearly incensed at being left out of the sewing circle.
Sarah pushed on ignoring Caroline’s tone. “You will not believe it. You will not! It’s shameful.”
The gaggle all nodded in agreement. “As shameful as behaving like a bunch of fishwives at the funeral of a friend that died well before her time?” Caroline arched one eyebrow, not ready to let them off the hook yet.
“Well, friend is a bit rich, dear, I barely knew her.” Elizabeth interjected.
“Anyway, Jamie’s husband Ainsley is here.” Well of course he was, I thought, but I got the sense there was more to Sarah’s comment. “And so is his PA.” She said it under her breath and to perfect effect, so quietly I had to stop inhaling to hear the end of the sentence.
I looked over at a svelte, well dressed woman. She was standing with her back to us, beautifully adorned in a black printed, (and very fitted), knee length strapless dress. She was dripping in diamonds and from behind I could see the red sole of her impossibly high Manolo heels.
I exhaled again. “Wow, that’s a nice outfit for a secretary.”
“PA dear. They haven’t been secretaries since the nineties.”
“Oh. Of course.”
“Besides I don’t think she actually has any secretarial skills. We don’t know her name. We’re calling her Penny Anne. You know, for P.A.” Sarah was positively giddy. Caroline’s eyes narrowed.
“What else?” She asked skeptically. “There’s something you’re not…” Caroline’s sentence trailed off as the PA turned around. We both took a sharp breath in and stared at each other wide eyed. As “Penny” turned around, slowly, and grabbed hold of her back, I noticed something very familiar about her posture. Once she was facing us it was clear why Sarah, (of all people), was so utterly excited. Penny was sporting a small, perfectly round, neat and very fashionable bump.
“Could she just be a bit, you now…”
“With his history? No. No one puts on weight like that. She’s pregnant. 5 months I’d say.”
“Oh my God. And she’s here? In front of his kids?”
“Hang on, she could be married or be in a relationship-“
“Nope. She’s the best friend of Brian’s niece. Not in a relationship. Not married.”
“Well maybe she’s fallen pregnant unexpectedly. You know, from like – what do you call it Sarah?”
“A hook up Brita. You need to get out more.” Sarah, it seemed from her glow, was getting out as much as ever.
“Yeah, a hook up! Like a one night stand?”
“Maybe. But Brian’s niece was around the other day – she just graduated from uni and the family came over for a bit of a do.” After going to Elizabeth’s casual birthday party for her 5 year old I wondered what a ‘bit of a do’ looked like. I’m sure it involved canapes, prosecco and seasonal fruit. And there was probably a theme.
She paused for effect. There was no need, we were all hooked. Even Linda, who casually inspected her perfectly manicured blood red fingernails was finding it difficult to appear nonchalant.
“Yes and?” Caroline was never one to hold back.
“She said that Penny – her real name is actually Paisley, can you imagine? – Penny is in a relationship with an older man.”
“I thought you said –“
“A secret relationship no one knows about!”
Finally Linda’s bored expression sensed an opportunity and morphed into an evil grin. “And then there’s the rock on that finger.” She said in a flat voice, still inspecting her nails.
I was surprised the other women hadn’t zoned in on it straight away, either through their finely honed detective skills borne out of an irrepressible thirst for gossip, or just because they can sniff out diamonds by colour and clarity a mile away.
No one spoke for a minute. The inference was clear. Ainsley was having a baby with his very young mistress – and getting married. I hardly knew the man. In fact I’d never met him, but this story was so titilating. I admonished myself as I realised I was becoming the very cliché of a Snobsville housewife. And how day by day, I was being assimilated into the gaggle. The old Marley inside, (the one who didn’t go to the funeral of someone she didn’t know even if there was free champagne – and who would have dressed in something much more sensible), laughed at Snobsville Marley. I was picturing a giant borg like creature sucking me into it’s shared consciousness. It made me laugh out loud, and despite the narrowed eyes from the gaggle around me, (who had recovered some of their sense and were attempting to appear circumspect), I felt like myself again if only for a minute.
A very short minute.
Could it be true?
Did it matter?
Linda, imperious in victory, broke the silence. “Think I’m going to change nail technicians. The girl made a real mess of these. Off to get some champers – Caroline, I’m sure you’ll indulge won’t you?”
One by one the gaggle followed in a euphoric gossip induced trance and I stood alone for a moment in the glorious sunshine, looking a million dollars in my funeral outfit, and wondering what I would wear to a Snobsville wedding if I were invited.