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My Red Dress
© August 1989, Roy Stucky

I have a red dress
In the dark of
The closet of
A friend.

It's for my first prom.
That's what I pretend.

It's among my hidden jokes
Spun from the dreams
Crushed by my folks
To try and keep me pure -
A maiden too demure
To show any grace,
Kept safe by the lack
Of paint on my face.
Held tight in their rack
Of barbed wire embrace.

Hidden from their war on lust,
My red dress hangs in the dark
Like me gathering dust,
Another unseen expense
For which I'd have no defense.
They treat me like a concubine,
Read my mail with a suspicious hand.
Tap my calls from the other line,
Search my bedroom for contraband -
My clothes for telltale sand.

Brighter each day
Grows that dress in my mind,
A symbol to remind me
Of how it might feel to be free
From their Pharisee clutch -
To give myself the trust
Their crutch will never yield.

I have a red dress
In the dark of
The closet of
A friend.

I'm facing forces I can't comprehend.
But I have a message to send.
I've come of age.
My red dress and I
Will dance on the stage.

I pray it's not another cage.
 


This song was drawn from the experience of a certain high school girl.  It is used here as an extreme to counterpoint the relationship between parent and youth.  The parent sees danger everywhere; the youth their restraint.  Both are right, and both are wrong.  When one or both sides become utterly obsessed with the attitude of the other, provocation seems to rise from the very ground.  Once trust is worn away, once the frail threads of communication are shred, they will often push each other to extremes an outside observer would view as nearly insane.  Her parents were right in wanting her to hold what can only be given once as of great value, but in their negative extreme they sullied the sexual relationship they should have been enshrining.

"Red dress" is the symbol of the relationship.  The parents want to keep her a child, she imagines herself being the wild untamed modern woman.  The nuance here is Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter.

"In the dark" is that the forbidden fruit is hidden in an area outside her parent's control.

"First prom" is the dream her parents would ever permit her the least normalicy of youth.

"Paint on my face" is that her parents acted as if making her conform outwardly would protect her from bad decisions.

"Rack" as in medieval torture device.

"Barbed wire embrace" is a nuance of the camps.  The parent's love was expressed as a cruel bondage.

"War on lust" is that her parents took a totally negative attitude toward her physical maturity, fighting a war of denial instead of teaching her it's significance.

"In the dark//Like me gathering dust" is that she feels like a relic kept in the dark of a dusty attic.

"Another unseen expense" is that the dress being unused is just one more thing lost in this relationship.

"No defense" is that there is no logic they would accept for her definance.

"Concubine" is her feeling that they see her as so immoral she would sleep with anyone given the chance.

"Telltale sand" of a roll in the hay, so to speak.

"Brighter each day" is the siren call of freedom, overshadowing concepts like prudence.

"Pharisee clutch" is that her parents have become blind to everything but the taste not, touch not mentality.

"Crutch" is that the parents have been trying to keep their daughter dependent upon them.

"Forces I can't comprehend" is that the world is far more complex than she imagines.  People are motivated by desires she does not yet understand, and thus cannot anticipate.

"I've come of age" is the great cry of youth, little realizing this assertion demonstrates it is false.

"Another cage" is her hope this flight will not lead her from one bondage into another.  A vain hope.