When autumn rolls around, my high school friends know that it’s time for something we’ve affectionately dubbed “The Listen Center Challenge.” Listen Services – for those of you outside the Upper Valley – is a multi-branched thrift store with NH locations in Canaan and Lebanon. It’s an incredible community resource with proceeds going toward heating fuel assistance, camp scholarships, meals, and more. Also – it’s a treasure trove of fashionable items.
Here’s the gist: us aging Mascoma graduates draw names from a hat. We then head on over to the Canaan branch and dress our designee for about five to ten dollars. This is doable when savvy shoppers follow the tag sales. But your outfit is a secret – this is very important for the reveal later.
There are some ground rules. First, cross-dressing and outright costumes are discouraged. The idea is to put together an ensemble that could, in some recognizable universe, be considered plausible as an everyday outfit. We’ve received genuine compliments some years.
Next rule: no underwear. Or, after the Year of the Dog Mask, no masks.
When everyone has cashed out, we dress our designees and shower each other with compliments. After all, we usually look very nice. Following some obligatory photos, we go public.
In the past, we’ve apple picked (Poverty Lane Orchard in Lebanon and Riverview Farm in Plainfield are good ones); roller skated (Enfield still has a roller rink!); and/or corn mazed. The more popular the destination, the better. Embarrassment is key. We try to grab lunch, too, just to make sure our outfits get plenty of wear.
This tradition started when Columbus Day weekends brought us all home from college and we wanted something to bring us back together. Over the years, we’ve invited significant others and siblings into the mix. Fresh blood helps when you’ve dressed the same person in one too many velvet pantsuits.
Now in its seventh year (yes, this was happening before Macklemore), we continue to get deep belly laughs from dressing each other up in pleather skirts, matching quilted onesies, leotards, fringed anything, faux fur, unicorn hats, Cabbage Patch Doll slippers, and sequin vests.
You’re welcome for this affordable idea that guarantees to deliver even more autumnal pleasure.