Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Dress

I bought my wedding dress today. I didn't plan on it at all, but it was sort of meant to be.

I woke up this morning, my day off, and had nothing to do. So I thought I'd be productive. I'd chosen a wedding dress from an online store and had planned to buy it. After custom fitting and shipping, it'd come to $300. And being a pro online shopper and all, I saw nothing amiss with this.

But you tell enough people your plan and you wind up second guessing yourself. So I figured I'd try on some silhouettes to make sure I was making the right choice. I went to a discount place that had no selection and poor assistance and I tried on two dresses. Mostly it was to feel like I didn't waste my trip. They didn't work out.

I recalled a few bridal shops I was aware of in the city; I'd been noting them for a few months time now for just such an occasion. So off to Spadina I went, knowing there were at least a couple non-ritzy places that likely would welcome a walk-in.

Let me tell you something about bridal gown shopping. It's a weird way to spend a Monday afternoon. Most people go with at least a friend or two, a bridesmaid or their mom. I was alone. Now, I didn't ask anyone and this was on the fly, so that makes sense. And I have no mom and all three of my bridesmaids are in other cities, minus McPal (the fourth attendant and a bridesman, as it were), who is in town, but who would not have been free on a workday.

I never asked anyone, or even alluded to this shopping trip as a group activity. I have a few reasons for this. Some are practical and others are emotional and rooted a little more deeply in my psyche than I'm completely comfortable with.

Practicality wise, when it's just me, I can make a trip quick and efficient. I don't need to wait on anyone. I also don't need to consider anyone's feelings or tastes about the dress. I can just go with my own instincts and hunches, passing over whatever I feel like passing over.

Emotionally, I can't shake some conflicted feelings I have about planning my wedding. I think not having my mom to call about it is getting to me a bit. She's the one who'd be the most excited about it. Our friends are jazzed for us, and our families are happy for us. I'm happy, Dude's happy and all is well. I'm just feeling a flattened affect with the whole thing, that unclaimed-daughter emotion I get sometimes.

Way inside me was the feeling that since my mom couldn't be there, I didn't want anyone. It would only draw attention to the fact she was missing. Going it alone was easier. Back in college a classmate talked to me about his family's philosophy. They were Chinese and had a collectivist culture viewpoint that pleased me. They see the family as a bunch of chopsticks. The more that stick together, they harder they are to break. I remember hearing that and thinking, I am a single chopstick. I'm a metal chopstick, but I'm on my own

It's not like I have no family at all. I do. But I've been on my own in many ways for quite some time. Though no one has ever made me feel this way, I've never been able to shake the burdensome feeling I'm intruding on other families when I get too close to my aunts. My aunts are my surrogates, but they all have their own children. I never forget that.

So entering this bridal store solo had me feeling ambivalent. Despite not arranging or even trying to arrange a group of people to come with me, I felt a sense of loss and loneliness about the whole thing. But it still felt right, as right as it would under the circumstances.

I saw this one dress. It was beautiful, and completely not what I had been looking for. But it drew me in and I asked to try it on. I then picked two more, both empire waists with the sort of fabric I like, swishy and floaty. The lady had me try those ones on first. One was cute, the other not for me.

Then the dress. The sales woman helped me do it up, as it required help. And as she was fastening everything, she told me she had a feeling about this one, that she wanted to save it for last and that though she didn't normally do the full strapping-in for a try-on, she wanted me to see the full effect.

And I did, and my eyes welled up and I knew I'd accidentally stumbled upon my wedding dress. I only wanted an idea of good fits, but this was it. And while it was not $300, it was under $800 after tax. That was still affordable. I couldn't believe my good luck.

In this place I tried on three dresses. I made my choice. Gut instincts, no hesitations. And I reaped the few benefits of being a lone chopstick. I don't know anyone else who has the total autonomy that I do. Easy as that, I made my choice, confident in my ability to please myself, and with no one else's feelings to consider, I made my deposit and left.

I'd been waiting for this for awhile. All of my happiest moments make me a little sad. It's just how it is. Getting married is the hardest yet because it's the biggest mother-daughter thing I'm missing thus far. The only thing that will be harder is getting pregnant and giving birth.

Most people won't tell you this, but I will, and not because I'm dark or pessimistic. Rather I'm a realist and I think it's shallow to pretend it's not true. When you truly love somebody and they die, you never really get over it. You can find happiness again and you can enjoy your life. You'll cope and move forward. But nothing of real importance will ever make you fully joyful again because there will be that missing piece and it's never coming back. You learn to live with the ache.

Today the ache spoke, and I heard it. You let it say it's piece, you cry and then you reach into your inner resources and you get on with things and recall how beautiful the dress is. You play in your head how things would go if she were alive and what she'd say and how happy she'd be for you. It's like a fake memory you get to create. It's all you get, but that's okay. You're okay. That small moment in your life is passed now.

I'm okay.

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