When I went shopping for a wedding dress, I took my girlfriends JM and KL.
You might be wondering why I took my friends instead of my mom. You might also be wondering if there will be any “Mother of the Bride” stories. No, there will be none of that. My mom died when I was in high school. It was awful, and if I told the entire tragic story of her death and all the sobbing children she left behind, Kleenex would offer to sponsor my blog.
But this is not the place for that story, and so you can put away the tissues. Promise. If I were to write that story, I would put a “Hanky Rating” at the top of the page, in giant red letters: WARNING! DO NOT READ WITHOUT 5 TISSUES!(Imagine the cute little tissue graphics.) I would also add, “NSFW (unless you want your coworkers to think you are dying.)”
But back to my ABSOLUTELY NOT TEARFUL, regularly scheduled post. It’s not about my mom. It’s about dresses.
It’s also about the two obnoxious friends I took to shop for the dress. They set up chairs in front of every dressing room. I’m pretty sure the shops did not allow food, but picture JM and KL holding some movie popcorn. Because that’s how I remember them. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it out of the dressing room before this:
JM: “Nope! Not that one!”
KL: “Go back!”
JM: “Oh, no. No nonononononono!” (This is where I remember her throwing popcorn at me.)
KL: “What is that? Styrofoam?”
JM: “Did you WANT to look like a meringue?”
KL (covering her eyes): “Ahhhhh! Make it stop!”
Or even this:
JM: “Aw, hell no!”
KL’s throat must have been sore from yelling. She made a raspberry noise and gave me violent thumbs down.
Thanks to my brutally honest friends, I was in and out of the bridal shops pretty quickly. Nothing seemed flattering. Nothing fit right. The only dresses my friends liked were off-the-shoulder or tight sheaths. Which made me feel like Ralph’s brother in A Christmas Story: “I can’t move my arms!” Who designs these creations and why do they prefer their brides imprisoned? Crazy me, I planned on dancing at my own wedding.
It looked hopeless until I stepped out of the dressing room in bridal shop #56, wearing a square-necked, Renaissance-inspired gown of heavy silk.
KL gave me a thumbs up with one hand and wiped her eyes with the other.
I admired myself in the mirror for at least twenty minutes before I came to my senses and asked the price.
Sales Associate (brightly): “$$$$$$.” (Which loosely translates into: “Unfucking believably expensive.”)
Me (sighing): “Oh, well. I probably couldn’t dance in big sleeves like this anyway.”
Sales Associate (even more brightly): “You don’t have to!” She reached up and ripped off a sleeve.
Me: “Did you guys get that on video? That was all her!”
Sales Associate (laughing brightly): “Oh, don’t worry! The sleeves are attached with Velcro! They come off.” She demonstrated with the other sleeve, then put them both back on the dress.
The dress was perfect, down to the Velcroed sleeves. And way, way, WAY out of my budget. I gave up the dress and gave up shopping.
About a month after my first attempt to find a dress, my Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister joined us for Christmas in New Hampshire with Ex-Stepmother #1 and our two younger half-sisters. We introduced my fiancé Andy to Christmas caroling and obnoxious Christmas headwear. We stuffed stockings, decorated the tree, and laughed when it fell over.
There was a four-mile hike I did every day, snow or no snow. It wound up into the hills and culminated with a gorgeous view of the lake and the White Mountains. Hawaiian-born Andy came with me exactly once, before opting to stay by the wood stove. That was fine with me. I liked walking in snowy solitude, far from all things Los Angeles.
Lawyer Sis insisted on tagging along the day before she left. Lawyer Sis, like Andy, HATES being cold. She sniffled and shivered until we got to the view.
And then she said, “Hey. Do you remember the time you bought me the prom dress?”
I did. Our mom was gone. Our Dad was having marital and financial trouble (again). I worked 30+ hours a week at a snobby women’s clothing store my junior and senior year of high school. The store had a gorgeous dress, the same blue as my sister’s eyes, covered in blonde lace that matched her hair. If I saw a picture of it today, I might think it was tacky as all hell, but back then, I thought it was the perfect Princess dress for my little sister. Usually Future Lawyer Sis got stuck with castoff, crappy, hand-me-down dresses from Judgmental Genius Future Doctor Sister. (Both of them are too adorably tiny to fit in my Amazonian sizes.) But for her first prom, damn it, I really, really wanted her to have a beautiful dress of her own.
So I bought it for her, along with matching accessories. (I’m a sucker for stuff that matches.) And I think I was more excited for her prom than she was, that year.
Fifteen years later, her nose running from cold on a mountain in New Hampshire, Lawyer Sis said, “I want to give you money for that wedding dress.”
Of course she knew about my dream dress. We talked on the phone every week and at the time my life was all wedding, all the time. It was a testament to her patience that she still called, actually. I said, “But…you can’t.”
She said, “Yeah, I can.”
I said, “Well, yeah, I know you can, I’ve seen the obscene Mercedes convertible you drive. But this dress is really, really expensive. And also, it’s not exactly fair. I used my discount to buy your dress.”
The wind picked up. My sister wiped her running nose on her glove and glared at me. “Shut up. I’m buying the dress.”
We stood there, awkwardly, until I said, “Okay. Thanks.”
She nodded, turned, and trudged down the hill. I followed, wiping my face with a mitten. My nose was running because it was 5 degrees out.
The tears in my eyes were only from the biting wind.