Red Dress – 1946 by Alice Munro, 1965
The magic trick:
Timeless themes, timeless story
The year in which this story is set, you may notice, is in the title. That is the only way you’d know, though, and that is one of many remarkable things about this one.
Nothing about this story isolates it in the ’40s or the ’60s. It’s absolutely timeless. The themes shine through. The embarrassment and confusion of youth. The love-hate competition of high school friends. The implied veer toward lesbianism is downright modern. It’s a story that refuses to age, no matter how much the title wants to isolate it. And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.
I found that I was not so frightened, now that I had made up my mind to leave the dance behind. I was not waiting for anybody to choose me. I had my own plans. I did not have to smile or make signs for luck. It did not matter to me. I was on my way to have a hot chocolate, with my friend. A boy said something to me. He was in my way. I thought he must be telling me that I had dropped something or that I couldn’t go that way or that the cloakroom was locked. I didn’t understand that he was asking me to dance until he said it over again. It was Raymond Bolting from our class, whom I had never talked to in my life. He thought I meant yes. He put his hand on my waist and almost without meaning to, I began to dance.