People can be attractive their whole lives, but everyone has a moment of maximum sexiness. Mine lasted for just a few months.
I was 23 and travelling alone in Israel. I was nearly broke – post-university but pre-work – and found myself at a free youth hostel. I soon realised that it was run by a Jews-for-Jesus cult, whose members wanted us to attend classes in exchange for free lodging and hot dogs. To escape, I headed into town for a day with a friendly, middle-aged Finnish woman. We wandered into some shops, and in one I held up a short-sleeved dress made of cheap, unlined polyester in electric lime-green, with white flowers and buttons down the front.
It was the most primitive form of dress: just two pieces of fabric cut into an hourglass pattern, crudely stitched together on an assembly line. Would it even fit? I mostly wore baggy bermuda shorts and hardly knew the shape of my body. But when I walked out of the dressing room, some magic fission between the green dress, the exotic setting and weeks of subsisting on yoghurt and lentil soup, transformed me into the closest I’ve ever been to a sexpot. Even I had to admit that, perhaps for the first time ever, I looked hot. The Finnish woman gaped hungrily and soon offered to pay for us to share a hotel room, ostensibly to escape the cult. (I declined.)
Not long afterwards I wore the dress to a party thrown by Russian emigrés on a Jerusalem rooftop, where I was pulled and spun between partners on the dance floor. The man who’d brought me – an Israeli named Israel – seethed from the sidelines, then insisted we leave. The next day one of the Russians told me that soon after we left, the heated dancing had evolved into group sex, and that me and my green dress had helped to set it in motion. Israel said he’d seen it coming but I was shocked: I didn’t know how to spot an impending orgy, or that I was capable of launching one.
Though I liked the attention, I didn’t trust my new superpower. I couldn’t control it: the hunger it apparently stoked felt animal and dangerous. I also knew it couldn’t last. And since no other outfit had the same mesmerising effect, I was never sure whether the magic was in me or the dress.
Perhaps most important, the steaming sexpot in the dress didn’t seem like me. I finally looked like I’d always thought I should – willowy and alluring – yet I still felt like the chubby girl in bermudas. It was my first adult lesson in the surreal nature of growing up: the mind doesn’t always catch up with the body.
About six months after I bought the dress, I moved back to New York for graduate school and then started working in an office. My new life required pressed woollen trousers and black sweaters that signalled worldly competence. There was no place for an orgy-launching ingénue in a flimsy lime-green number. I never wore it again, and later gave it away during one of my periodic wardrobe purges. My moment was gone.
Now I wish I’d saved the dress. I probably wouldn’t wear it and I don’t miss the lust it once inspired. But I’d like to have stashed it in a drawer, like a talisman – proof of the strange power I once had.•