A year ago this week, I wanted nothing to do with the country that had been my home for the last five years, and yet I was about to do the most American thing I could possibly think of.
It hadn’t occurred to me that I would be trying on wedding dresses a little more than twelve hours after the 2016 elections had been called for Donald Trump. It hadn’t occurred to me because I had made the appointment more than a month earlier, because oh-it’s-your-wedding-dress-it-has-to-be-perfect-so-don’t-wait-too-long-to-find-THE-ONE. It hadn’t occurred to me because I am a woman from South India and terms like “empire waist” and “floral appliqué” had only recently entered my vocabulary.
Like much of the rest of New York City, I was sad and teary. That morning I had sat next to my fiancé and wept as Hillary Clinton conceded. I spoke to my dad, who anxiously asked whether Trump’s election would affect my immigration status in the Unites States. My boss at the time sent out an email reminding everyone of counseling services available through our insurance.
I had considered canceling the appointment. It was wet and drizzly, and my hair frizzes out at the slightest touch of moisture. I was supposed to feel beautiful. I felt like a wreck.
But I kept the appointment and arrived on time because what else are you supposed to do except the thing that you said you would do? I had planned to meet my brother, who was my best man, at the bridal boutique in Midtown, but he was running a little late and told me to get started without him. Bridal salons are designed to make you feel like you’re surrounded by everything that’s soft and good and delicate in the world. The lighting is flattering, the couches are low and cushy, and mounds of satin, tulle, and lace seem to float all around you.
Today is going to be special, they say.
I don’t necessarily believe that wanting to wear a pretty dress on your wedding day is anti-feminist. But on the day of mourning for womankind, I didn’t exactly feel like I was fighting for my sisters.
The consultant asked me to walk through the shop and pick out dresses I thought would work for me. She was enthusiastic, and I tried to mirror her spirit. I circled the racks and chose a few to try on. When my brother walked in, I was standing in the dress I would wear on my wedding day. It was covered with pink embroidered flowers, and green vines and crept over the bodice and around the airy tulle skirt. The consultant grabbed a sparkly headband and tied it around my head to complete the look. I felt like a woodland nymph.
I didn’t buy the dress right then. I wrote down its name, thanked the consultant, and like much of Manhattan, my brother and I made a beeline to the nearest wine bar. We probably talked about everything you talked about that evening. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, what in the fuck just happened.
But now it’s a year later, we’re more than ten months into the Trump administration, and my wedding was two months ago. I’m married to an American citizen, and my connection to the United States is an indelible part of my life.
My wedding dress doesn’t remind me of sadness. It reminds me of the happiest day of my life. It reminds me of my husband’s face when he saw me for the first time. It reminds me that the future is female, and we’re going to look damn good while we’re at it.