Overdressed (5): On Samantha and the Art of Omnipresence

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“I hold on to them for when I get married,” Samantha told me as she opened the wooden chest in her one bedroom apartment, pulling out layers of plastic and fiber.  She smiled, delighted with her statement, and adds, “I guess I should find someone to marry, then.”

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Sam has chosen her mother’s wedding dress, pulling the 1981 lacy, dramatic garment from its disguise of a black garbage bag and laying it out for display.  Unlike the smooth, sleek silk of the dress that belonged to her father’s mother, this matriarchal beast of a garment comes complete with a hat and a veil that must be secured with a pin– neither of which Sam intends to bother with this morning after a late shift bartending.  And, somehow, the moment she puts on the blast-from-the-past, the dress– and Sam– are transformed into a serene archetype of classic beauty.  “Cool,” says Sam, looking herself over in the mirror, “I’m not going to do my hair.  I’m hungry.  Want coffee?”

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It should be noted that Sam isn’t a stranger to the camera or the spotlight.  A singer-songwriter in Nashville, Sam has been plucking away on various stages around the country for years, crooning lovesick and homesick country songs like someone destined for a cliche break:  a smoke-filled honky-tonk, dirty cowboy boots, and one important person who happens to be present and ready to bring her out of her ass-busting touring schedule and give her a proper chance to sing her songs under brighter lights.

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That hasn’t happened, yet.  So she waits, in the constant transition of career, for a break or the right song.  It suits her.

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It is here, in her prided apartment-for-one, with every room a different color, and every piece of furniture and artwork Sam-picked in a style that weds family heirlooms with stranger’s lost vintage treasure, that she recovers from her stints on the road.  Like every performer-homebody dichotomy, she confesses the need to force herself out of the house and see people instead of Netflix, all while getting her health back– pulling each piece of the road’s gravel from her skin until it’s time to go back out again.  This is Samantha of the Present.

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Samantha of the Future talks about buying a house, something small, “I won’t need anything bigger.  It’s just me.”  But Just Me Samantha is making hints at Samantha of the Future to give a sign about a certain Mr. Samantha.  The moment is brief, though, and Sam is back to being happy just being Sam.  Friends and strangers often shake their heads and declare her too special to find someone right away.  I think they’re right.

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While her encounters with Samantha of the Future seems brief– a quick Kramer-style drop-in– she also maintains a more consistent roommate.  Samantha of the Past has been entrusted with more family heirlooms than space to fit them.  She declares the framed old-timey pictures and two wedding dresses and knick knacks a default, “I’m sort of everyone’s historian.”  This hitch-a-ride roomie seems to be what is simultaneously driving her away and pulling her home.  Maybe it explains her need to perform– to be the one documented instead of the one documenting.  Or to have both at the same time.

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Regardless, Samantha of the Present seemed well adjusted to the constant time travel– the pull of what was and what is and what’s to come.  She looked lovely in her mother’s dress as a photo of her mother in the same dress peered from the refrigerator with full approval.  In spite of Past and Future Sam, making breakfast seemed like a good enough occasion to wear it as any.

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