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in & Tonic by Melody Murphy

Miss Scarlett, Belle Watling, and Me


recently did something ridiculous: I bought, without trying it on, a dress that I knew perfectly well is too small for me. I’ve often said people lose their minds when they fall in love. I know I did. I saw that dress and fell head over heels into crazy for it. The dress is a rich cranberry red velvet. It is just my style and would have looked wonderful on me about seven years and an undisclosed number of pounds ago. When I saw it on the clearance rack at Macy’s, I gasped audibly. It was 75% off. It was $16. It was the wrong size. And yet: Sixteen dollars. For the perfect red velvet dress. There was only one, and it was tucked away at the end of the rack. Waiting for me. I knew, without trying it on, that it would suit me perfectly. I also knew perfectly well that it was too small. Nevertheless: I wanted that dress. I have a passion for all things red. While it is hard for me to claim a single favorite hue, I will allow that red is, as they say in Steel Magnolias, my “signature color.” My car, phone, kitchen appliances, and much of my home decor are red. I am a staunch advocate of red lipstick and red shoes (they just make you feel better), and I wear red frequently. I once ran into a friend in Publix; her little girl, who was then five, looked me up and down and asked, rather severely, “Why aren’t you


wearing red?” Laundry day, Gracie. I would go about daily clothed in red velvet if I could. It is possible that I was a whorehouse madam in a past life. Or, which is far more likely, I was strongly influenced by repeat viewings, beginning at age four, of Gone With the Wind. As a child I once told my Sundayschool teacher, a kind and goodnatured auburn-haired lady, that she reminded me of Belle Watling. I wondered why she laughed so heartily; I meant it sincerely as the greatest compliment. That was the day I found out that Belle Watling was not just a nice lady given to wearing red velvet dresses and a little more rouge than any other woman in Atlanta, which is the delusion I had labored under for years. Perhaps influenced by my lifelong fondness for Belle Watling, I have always wanted a red velvet dress. I remember vividly a gorgeous one I saw in Maas Brothers when I was 14. It was too expensive, it was too old for me, and I had not one reason in the world for even trying it on, but I had to. It actually looked wonderful, but of course I couldn’t buy it. Twenty-ahem years later, and I can still see that dress in my mind. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was The Dress That Got Away. Coincidentally, that was also the winter my great-grandmother

bestowed upon me for Christmas my own hardback edition of Gone With the Wind. I guess she thought I was old enough to absorb more of Scarlett’s tawdry exploits in greater depth. She wrote on the flyleaf, “Always be a good little girl,” which I have always regarded as her admonition to me against the wily ways of Miss Scarlett. Speaking of wily ways, I make a fierce red velvet cake with the best cream cheese frosting you ever tasted, adapted from Fannie Flagg’s Whistle Stop Cafe cookbook. Word of advice: If you ever need a recipe, a lady from Alabama who wrote a book about fried green tomatoes is always a good place to start. Red velvet cake and fried green tomatoes, however, are not a good place to start if you are trying to whittle your way down into a toosmall red velvet dress. Not even if you reassure yourself that velvet is out of season right now and you’ve got until winter to struggle into it. Did I buy that dress? Reader, I did. I bought that dress and took it home and hung it up prominently as tangible motivation for what I want to do anyway. As a further sign that it was Meant To Be, when I went to purchase the dress it rang up at even further discount and I got it for $11. Eleven dollars. For a red velvet dress that sings my name. Somewhere in fiction’s heaven, Belle and Scarlett, united at last in a common cause, are smiling down on me. And as God is my witness, I will wear that dress. Which probably means that, unlike Scarlett, I will indeed be hungry again—and again. If the red velvet dress is to be attained, the red velvet cake is not to be. But that is a small price to pay for finally getting into a fabulous red velvet dress you’ve wanted your whole life. It will take some time, but after all: Tomorrow is another day. Melody Murphy can be reached at

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“Natural Awakenings” Magazine, July 2012 issue  

“Natural Awakenings” Magazine, July 2012 issue. The full-color monthly magazine about green, local, organic, wholistic, natural, fun, health...

“Natural Awakenings” Magazine, July 2012 issue  

“Natural Awakenings” Magazine, July 2012 issue. The full-color monthly magazine about green, local, organic, wholistic, natural, fun, health...