When I signed on to cover Girls Night Out at the Historic McFarland House in Martinsburg, I read the flyer with much curiosity.
It promised an enticing mix: hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and burlesque dancing lessons by Teresa Powers, owner of Sassy Girl Fitness in Martinsburg.
“Bring your feather boas,” the flyer said.
I must admit, a “girls night out” for me usually involved a quick coffee, a church event or a “wild and crazy” dinner out with my three mommy buddies – usually wherever our coupon takes us.
For the event at the McFarland House, the upscale 1878 Queen Street bought by Michael McCarty and Donna Cobean in 2010 and painstakingly refurbished with elegant pieces from the 1870s, I decided to dust the Playdough particles out of my hair, peel off my peanut butter-stained “Mommy” T-shirt and otherwise transform into the butterfly I knew I could become.
One black dress, pair of heels and hot-pink feather boa later, I headed out, stopping only to gather up my friend Jane, a married mom of 5-year-old twins and an independent consultant at Traveling Vineyards.
Upon entering the Historic McFarland House, I saw a charming space filled with beautiful furniture – sparkling grand crystal chandeliers, gorgeous wooden floors and an upstairs that included beautifully appointed offices, a bride’s sitting room and a groom’s room. Downstairs there is a grand living room, a sitting room where the bartender Jennifer was perched, the dining room, a party room and a garden.
After Jane and I had oohed and aahhed about the McFarland House, we were stopped in our tracks by something that I guess I could say I liked a little: A fun photo booth.
We ended up taking nearly two dozen photos with various hats, boas, glasses, masks and so on. If you haven’t tried a photo booth at a wedding, party or other event, I have one question for you: Why in the world not?
After exhausting ourselves at the photo booth, we decided to recharge with a drink and some hors d’oeuvres.
Because I’m both gluten-free and a non-drinker, I’d wondered if there would be any refreshments for me to enjoy at the event. I shouldn’t have worried. Nobody goes hungry at the Historic McFarland House, least of all during Girls Night Out!
After securing a Shirley Temple – my “living on the edge” drink of choice – I left Jane at the bar with her wine and began to chat with Sarah Case, who has worked as the sous chef at the Historic McFarland House for the past year.
She explained the theme of the night, “Sweet and Savory.” All the items Sarah had chosen featured a key ingredient, something many of consider essential to our happiness: chocolate.
I lay my fears of hunger aside and picked up succulent selections such as chocolate ganache bacon (oh yes!), fennel- and cocoa-encrusted pork, and chicken with chocolate barbecue sauce – all delicious and all gluten-free!
The menu also included cream puffs with white chocolate drizzle, brown sugar chocolate brownies and chocolate ganache-dipped espresso cookies. Though I couldn’t indulge, all the desserts were rumored to be delish.
Clutching my Shirley Temple and balancing a plate piled high with chocolate-covered delicacies, I approached my table in the dining room. I chose a seat near the back where the female DJ was playing music. (I sat in the back because, after all, I was there as a serious journalist to observe the festivities. That stance didn’t last long.)
Soon our host introduced our burlesque instructor for the evening: the talented Teresa Powers. She pulled up a chair and asked us all to stand by our own chairs and then the DJ queued up Christina Aguilera’s “Express” from her album, “Burlesque.”
Outwardly I smiled as I scanned the room full of ladies, some 30 in all, as they giggled with youthful anticipation of our upcoming dance lessons.
Inwardly, I was plagued with concerns, including What exactly is burlesque? Is this the type of dance I can do on Friday and still come into church straight-faced Sunday morning?
(I’d been warned by a dear friend a few days earlier that burlesque could mean two kinds of dance, either vaudeville-style or the more risqué business of striptease-style.)
Well dear readers, I could describe our burlesque lessons. I could name names, as I recognized some local business women in the crowd. I could describe to you each move our fearless instructor taught us.
But I won’t.
What happens on Girls Night Out at the Historic McFarland House stays at the Historic McFarland House.
I will confide, however, that our dance routine did leave me feeling liberated and empowered. At one point I stopped to scan the sea of smiling faces. I saw in the room 30 beautiful women ranging in ages from 20s to 60s, all smiling, each embracing her femininity unapologetically. No one appeared to be lamenting her age, her size or her ability to dance.
In fact, that evening, even with crumbs of chocolate-covered bacon on my chin and stray boa feathers stuck in my hair, I found myself forgetting. Forgetting about my job hunt; forgetting about my children’s upcoming doctor’s appointments and birthday parties; forgetting about my long to-do list; the two or so stray pounds (OK, 20, but who’s counting?), that I still want to lose.
Instead I remembered how to be a girl. I smiled, waving my boa proudly in the air with everyone else.
The organizers of the McFarland House’s Girls Night Out know that the sage words of Cyndi Lauper from the 1980s still hold true – girls do just want to have fun.
WANT TO GO? The next Girls Night Out doesn’t happen until November, but the Historic McFarland House, located at 409 S. Queen St. in Martinsburg, has a number of other special events on the schedule: