The episode opens with Donna rehearsing lines from the play A Doll’s House by Ibsen. She is not very good and is prone to overly grandiose gestures and phrasing. She stops when the family appears. The kids and Alex badger her to perform for them and she demures. They persist and she acquiesces. She performs a bit and the family struggles find a compliment. She is really a very poor actress.
Donna goes off to play rehearsal, the kids go to school, and Alex to work. Donna returns and shares her frustrations with Alex. She feels the play’s director wants her to fail so she, the director, can have the part for herself. Jeff returns home disheveled and with a black eye. Donna is outraged, but Jeff confesses that he started the fight. He refuses to disclose who the fight was with.
Donna continues to struggle with the play and Jeff comes home with another black eye. Donna announces she is quitting the play and Jeff becomes very upset. It comes out that he has been fighting with the son of the play’s director because the boy said Donna was a terrible actress. Donna confronts mother and son and decides to see the part through. Donna uses a how-to book to try and teach Jeff to fight, but Alex comes home and finishes the job.
On opening night Donna wears a stunning black cocktail dress with a laced bodice. Both Jeff and Alex come home showing signs of having been in a fight. Jeff finally triumphed over the director’s son and Alex got a shiner trying to administer first-aid to the boy. The family leaves for the play.
We don’t see the performance. The episode ends with Donna and Alex in the bedroom. She is doctoring his eye and he is offering her encouraging words on a job well done. (see episode here)
I am dividing this episode into two lessons, the life lesson and the fashion lesson.
Life Lesson: Support the ones you love and accept their support when you need it.
Fashion Lesson: When facing adversity, the right LBD (little black dress) can see you through.
I am struck by the change of the marital dynamic in this episode. During episode one Donna was the mastermind and Alex was the buffoon. This one seems to reverse roles. I am curious how this plays out over the duration of the series, but I like the pattern it is setting. I know that, in my marriage, we seem to take turns being the strong one and the one who needs extra support. There is nothing calculated about this, it’s just how it is. We both have times where the stress of life and work mean that we need a partner, someone to prop us up and help us through. This is one of the reasons I got married in the first place, I knew I had met the person who would be my teammate through everything.
One a more serious note, let us take in the dress. I WANT THAT DRESS! I also want a place or reason to wear the dress.
The fifties and sixties are often criticized for their artifice, the perfect exteriors that concealed turmoil within. I get that, really I do. But I also think that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. We have lost almost all social barriers, everything is just out there. I am never really comfortable with extremes. It seems to me that sanity usual lies somewhere in the middle, with balance. I am not a black and white girl, I am most comfortable in gray.
Sure, the Stone family is that perfect all-American family, but they do allow us to see some of their inner turmoil, it’s no Modern Family but I think it was a good example for the times. I love the dress Donna wears here for the reason I have always adored the velvet curtain dress in Gone With Wind , it is the feminine version of armor. If we are feeling vulnerable, one way to gain an edge is the perfect attire. I can’t explain it well, but it just works. When I have to perform a task I find scary or intimidating I always take a little extra time to make myself appear a bit more put-together. I feel my polished exterior may help to counteract the butterflies within and it usually works. I find a bit of extra strength in right fabric and the right lipstick. Maybe that’s shallow, maybe if I was braver I’d feel confident in torn jeans and a ratty t-shirt. I’m okay with that, it’s who I am. Anyone who has ever checked their hair or freshened their lipgloss knows what I am talking about.
Plan of Action
While I think I am usually good at giving support, I am not always sure I allow myself to be good at receiving it. I will try to be a better recipient of love and support from those in my life.
I will continue to project outwardly what I hope to be inwardly. In the words of “The Baron” (Yogi Baron Baptiste), “Fake it until you make it and you will make it.” If I appear calm, collected, and together, perhaps someday I will be calm, collected, and together.