I bought a wedding dress today. It’s flattering as hell, fits like a glove, and was so ridiculously low-priced that I had to check the urge to ask the sales consultant if it was on discount because someone had been violently murdered while wearing it. When I tried it on, my friend applauded and started taking hundreds of pictures on her phone. My mother cried. The girl in the dressing room next to me nodded enthusiastically and her mother put a hand to her breast and sighed with longing. Everyone agreed—it was The Dress. And because of all that and because of the price (the price, it cannot be said enough, was insanely low), I plunked down the debit card and snatched up the dress. So why did I find myself, twenty minutes later, sighing glumly into my small cup of conciliatory fro-yo?
Even though I am embarrassed to admit it, I’ve had certain expectations of how I would look at my wedding. These were only compounded when I met my fiancé—I started to imagine the look on his face as I walked down the aisle. I wanted to knock his socks off. I wanted him to be speechless. I wanted to look totally different than how he sees me all the time. Not, like, bleached-blonde and biker tattoos level of different, but stunningly lovely, instead of practical and cute. My dress would be soft and romantic, vintage-style (I’m not so carried away that I for one moment entertained the notion that my giant boobs would fit into an actual vintage dress). I’d have flowers in my hair and I’d look, for once in my life, graceful and delicate and pretty, an ethereal woodland goddess floating in to marry my one true love.
Okay, okay, you can stop laughing. I know, it’s all a little Disney inspired and frankly nauseating. But I really did want that feeling of stunning my fiancé, not to mention the crowd of gathered friends and family. “Erin looks so… lovely,” they’d whisper to each other. “I never knew she could be so beautiful.”
what am i saying yes to?
And I thought I’d found that dress tonight. The perfect dress, a concoction of lace and organza—layered and beribboned and festooned, yet still simple and manageable. I was going to have to add some sort of sleeve, but that’s easy enough. It was a little heavy and it didn’t really do my figure any favors, but it certainly didn’t make me look bad. It was pretty and soft and everything I wanted. The price tag was reasonable, if not fantastic, and while wearing it, I was going to be that ethereal woodland goddess, damn it. Maybe not a floating one so much as a shuffling one (it really was heavy), but, hell, beauty is pain, right?
I sighed over the dress; I stroked it longingly; I thought about naming it Cassandra and consulting it as if it could talk back. This was the dress, the dress I wanted. The dress that would show everyone not who I was, but who I could be.
And then I tried on another dress, one tucked into the seemingly endless rack outside the dressing room. Its neckline was totally flattering to my “fall-back-career,” as I call my chest, and the wide-set straps (straps! Actual straps!) made my neck look slender. The lightweight chiffon and organza floated down to the floor and my waist—well! It made me look like I actually have a waist! In fact, as I was watching myself in the mirror, I said aloud, “You know what this dress needs? Pockets!” And while miming myself putting my hands in my pockets… there they were. The dress had mother-effin’ pockets, y’all.
Everyone flipped their collective shit over the sight of me in this dress. They loved it. And I did too—if that dress had been a sundress or cocktail dress and fit that well and was that cute and had pockets (they really cannot be oversold) and was that damn cheap, not only would I have immediately bought it, but I would have just as immediately emailed every single one of my friends and have them separately concoct an event that I could wear that dress to. It’s a good-looking dress, is what I’m saying.
nothing changed at all
But I just didn’t feel that wonderful, transcendent moment that I thought I was supposed to feel. Was this really the dress? Was it really this easy? Was it really so cheap that I could buy it without sweating the budget even a little? I wasn’t even looking to buy a dress yet—the wedding’s over a year away. I just wanted to try some on so that I could get an idea of what kind of silhouette and neckline worked on me! I haven’t even had one emotional breakdown about how I’ll never be able to afford my dream dress and briefly dabble with selling plasma for extra cash! I was being robbed my experience! I didn’t want to buy a dress yet! And I especially didn’t want to buy a dress that, damn it, looked so damn good on me already that I didn’t even need to lose those twenty pounds I’ve totally convinced myself I’m going to lose, just as soon as I finish this last glass of champagne. How dare this fucking dress validate me as a person? That’s not how wedding dress shopping is supposed to work!
And, besides, it’s not how I was supposed to look! It’s not old-fashioned; it doesn’t have lace and ribbons and frippery. No ethereal woodland goddess would be caught dead in this dress. It’s lovely, a little bit plain, unexpectedly whimsical, and it’s—that dreaded word that any girl with freckles hates hearing—cute. It’s a cute dress. But it isn’t overtly romantic, and it isn’t going to blow people away. No one is going to whisper at the ceremony, “Oh my goodness! Did you ever expect Erin to look like that?” Nah. They’re going to come up to me during the reception and say, “I love your dress; it looks so perfect on you!” Because that’s the kind of person I am—a little bit plain, unexpectedly whimsical, and, f*cking hell, cute.
embracing it all anyway
But maybe I should embrace who I actually am. Maybe I should just try to look like a slightly-more-dressed-up version of me on my wedding day. Maybe, instead of worrying about stunning my fiancé on the day of the wedding, I should instead focus on being the me that he loves so much. And maybe instead of shocking my friends and family with a heretofore-undiscovered romantic side, I should remember that who I really am is worthy of being celebrated too. And, hell, if nothing else, they’ll be shocked by how much money I saved, right?
This was originally published in 2012