The Worst Best Day of My Life

What does it mean to be brave? To be scared, but to do it anyway, right? That’s what I tell my kids. Writing a book and releasing it to the public scares me… but I’m doing that anyway.


How did I become this brave? It might have something to do with the most embarrassing night of my life.


I grew up ice skating. I was an international pair skater, to be precise. However, as I grew into an independently-thinking teenager, I learned more about myself. I discovered that I didn’t care about the Olympics and skating as much as I once thought I did. I hung up my skates when I was about sixteen. But the extraordinary thing that happened that year (1998) was that my best friend won gold in Nagano. The world felt right. She was a star of the Olympics and I was focusing on future college plans… and Jr. Prom.


After her victory, she flew to NYC to present at the Grammy Awards. She insisted that I meet her and have fun in the city. I didn’t hesitate -- I begged my parents to let me go and to buy me an extra special prom dress that I could also wear to the Grammys. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happen to me. Who wouldn’t be over-the-moon excited?


The dress that I chose reminded me of Audrey Hepburn. I felt so mature and glamorous in that sleek black gown, lined with white chiffon that gathered low at the small of my back. At sixteen I was excited about having boobs, no matter the size. They were actually little bumps (late bloomer), but to me they were mountains and I insisted that my mom buy me a stick-on-bra so I could have support while my back remained completely exposed. Once I stuck the bra on, I realized it would be more comfortable to go without, so I peeled it back off and threw it in the trash before getting dressed.


We acted like giddy kids getting ready -- hair, makeup, limo -- the whole package. I knew that few normal teenagers get to have an experience like this.


Timing was on our side and we stepped out of the limo and onto the red carpet right behind Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin and right in front of Tony Bennett and Donald Trump. OMG!!! I was surrounded by celebrities I never dreamed I would be in the same room with. It was unreal and it made me nervous. Really, really nervous.


The red carpet was in a large tent and because it was winter, there were several massive heating fans on the ground (a nice thing because most gowns didn’t cover a lot of skin).


My friend was having her well-deserved moment in the spotlight, being interviewed by various media outlets and greeting well-known celebrities who were thrilled to meet her. I wanted her to have her moment and I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to steal any part of the spotlight myself,  so I backed up a little. And then a little more. Now, I’m super clumsy and I have very little awareness of my surroundings. Suddenly my lower body was being pulled backwards, my arms flying out in front of me for leverage as I start screaming. MY DRESS WAS BEING SUCKED INTO ONE OF THE GIANT HEATER FANS! My butt was getting closer and closer to the fan grate as the propellers keep chopping and sucking on my chiffon train.


I don’t know who it was -- I doubt it was Mr. Trump or Mr. Bennett -- but someone grabbed my train and yanked it out of the fan. I stopped screaming but my heart was still racing. At that moment, when you realize everyone is staring at you -- the one thing I was trying to avoid -- you want to crawl under a rock and hide. But I couldn’t. I had to be strong for my friend and avoid embarrassing us any further.


I looked to her as her eyes bugged out with shock. I could have guessed a million things she might say, but I wouldn’t have guessed what came out of her mouth first. “DON’T. CRY.” That was enough to make me laugh as if no one was watching. I felt like an idiot but I still had a choice on how I was going to handle it.


That experience taught me a valuable life lesson on how to handle my mistakes and the stresses that accompany them. I know that I will receive criticism and negative reviews for the work I put out there. But it’s up to me to determine how I’m going to handle it. If I want to hide and run away, I’ll just say to myself, “Don’t. Cry.” It might be a silly thing to remember but it’s enough to keep me going because if I can get my dress sucked into a fan in front of Aretha Franklin and live to tell it, I can do anything.


The pain of this story wasn’t quite over, though. Once we were back in our hotel room, ready to call it a night, I discovered that I couldn’t take my dress off. Apparently, the stick-on-bra adhesive is only intended to stick to itself, otherwise it bonds as strong as super glue. When I applied the glue to my chest, but removed the bra material before it had dried, I failed to adequately remove the remaining glue. I was effectively gluing my dress to my chest the moment I put it on.


Unable to separate the gown from my boobs, I simply pulled it over my head and slept with it inside-out, but still attached. I cuddled with it like a teddy bear, postponing the inevitable removal until the next morning because I knew it was going to hurt and I was spent.


The next day, with a flight to catch and no desire to walk through the airport with the dress still attached to my body, I had to pull together one last batch of bravery. My friend and I ripped it off like a Band-Aid, leaving a trail of blood-spotted raspberries along the lower edge of both boobs.

Erin Lockwood