Thursday, March 3, 2011

Publication #2: Underwired Magazine

I’m happy to report that one of my personal essays was published in this month’s issue of Underwired magazine.  You won’t be able to get your hands on a physical copy unless you happen to live in Louisville or southern Indiana, but don’t despair.  Here is the complete essay as published in Underwired

I refuse to wear a dress unless the situation demands it. It’s not that I’m a tomboy or a feminist; it’s just that dresses don’t suit me – much like red lipstick, bangs, and 9-to-5 office jobs. At any given time, there are two, maybe three dresses hanging in my closet. I will typically wear the same dress over and over again to countless consecutive weddings until it literally falls apart at the seams and I’m forced to buy a new one. When shopping for a new dress, I’m not looking for the latest fashion trends; I’m looking for a dress that will stand the test of time – one that I can wear year after year after year, hopefully without anyone noticing.
When I got engaged, I realized that I was going to have to break tradition and attempt to be fashionable. When you’re the bride, there’s no hiding a frumpy dress under a pashmina shawl. Knowing that I would be the center of attention on my wedding day, I obviously wanted to look good. That being said, I didn’t have any fairy-tale expectations about my wedding dress. When I went to the bridal salon, I knew going in that I wouldn’t be one of those women who fall instantly and irrevocably in love with a dress, gasping and smiling and sobbing into a Kleenex while someone places a veil on their head. I was willing to settle for a dress that wasn’t a total disaster.
When the bridal consultant asked me to describe my perfect wedding dress, the first thing that came to mind was “sparkly.” My day-to-day wardrobe has always been rather drab and boring, so I tend to equate dressing up with being covered in glitter. The next thing I knew, I was slipping into a dress that could only be described as “sparkly.” The entire gown, from the strapless neckline down to the end of the cathedral-length train, was heavily adorned with silver embroidery and crystal beading. When I first saw myself in the dress – twinkling like a giant disco ball under the dressing room spotlights – I couldn’t help but think I looked pretty.
My accompanying friend, who prefers classic, simple designs, grimaced when she saw me in the bedazzled dress. “It’s very, um, you?” she offered. That was all the validation I needed. I put down a hefty deposit, went home, and warned my husband-to- be that he should be prepared to shield his eyes at the sight of me coming down the aisle. Self-deprecating humor is really the best way to deal with buyer’s remorse; it helps lower expectations.
After months of joking about my “garish gown” with its “25,000 imported Italian twinkle-beads,” my husband was pleasantly surprised upon seeing me in the dress. I have no idea what anyone else thought – telling the bride she looks beautiful is mandatory – but as I stood at the altar, shimmering and glistening in the candlelight, I decided that I had made the right choice.
When my husband and I got back from our honeymoon, I had my dress cleaned and preserved. I felt like I should keep it, although I had no idea what for. For three years, it’s been buried in the back of my closet, along with my violin and my scuba diving equipment. Every once in awhile, I’ll dig it out and sit cross-legged in front of the presentation box, peering through the thick plastic window. The once-sparkly bodice appears dull and muted, trapped inside its coffin-like box. I feel an overwhelming urge to rip open the cardboard and let the cathedral-length train spill out everywhere. Oh, to see those sparkles sparkle again! But then, what would I do with it?
The obvious choice would be to wear it again. Unfortunately, it required dozens of excruciating workouts and tasteless salads to fit into it the first time. I was at my goal weight for all of twenty minutes during the wedding ceremony before I gorged myself on shrimp cocktail and spring rolls and truffled prosciutto popovers.
Even if I did manage to zip up my wedding gown again, where exactly would I go dressed like a disco ball? Perhaps if I had chosen a simpler style, I could have re-worn my dress to a black and white charity gala, but as it is, I would surely be recognized as a recycled bride. I suppose I wouldn’t have to go anywhere. I have a friend who often wears her wedding dress when she’s at home alone. She’s one of the happiest newlyweds I know, having finally achieved her lifelong goal of marrying a Jewish doctor. I can easily imagine her skipping around the living room in her wedding dress and veil, introducing herself to various pieces of furniture. “Hello, I’m Mrs. Herskowitz. And this,” she says while indicating the coat rack, “is my husband, Doctor Herskowitz.” It’s an entertaining idea, but being accident prone, I probably shouldn’t attempt to maneuver around my apartment with such a long train. Knowing me, I’d get tangled up on a chair and go face first into the coffee table.
If I’m not going to wear my dress, another possibility is to use the fabric to construct something more useful, like a beaded quilt or a decorative pillow. I made a pillow once, fifteen years ago, in my Home Economics class. It was supposed to resemble a hamburger. I sewed the pickles on crooked, but otherwise it turned out okay. Of course, when you’re working with fabric of great sentimental value, there’s a lot of added pressure; I’m just not sure I could handle it.
Part of me feels obligated to leave my wedding dress in the box for another twenty or thirty years in case my future daughter wants to wear it. But, really, the odds of it working out are astronomically small. Assuming that I even have a daughter and that she even wants to get married, I’m guessing that my dress will be too conservative for her. “But, Mom, that old thing doesn’t even show any leg!” I was only in elementary school when I rejected the idea of wearing my mother’s old wedding dress, with its long sleeves and high lace collar. She eventually donated the dress to Goodwill.
That is, of course, another option, and probably the best one. There are several reputable organizations that re-sell wedding dresses at a lower cost and then donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. While I like the idea of the money going to charity, the thing that I find most appealing about donating my wedding dress is imagining the woman who would buy it. She’s probably someone who couldn’t afford it otherwise; someone with a soft spot for sequins and rhinestones; someone who would see my glittery dress out of the corner of her eye and wouldn’t be able to resist picking it up and taking it home with her; someone who would love it as much as I do.

1 comment:

  1. My mother had my wedding dress preserved for me, and I keep fantasizing about ripping it out of the box and wearing it to a baseball game. If only I could find a few more brides willing to go along with this plan, I think we'd make a great spectacle... :-D