I tried on my wedding gown for the first time since I picked it, ages ago. I wore the bra. You know, the strapless bra from the post I called The Girl Without Any Breasts. I’m standing there, in my massive wedding gown, which has nearly swallowed me whole, and this tiny seamstress comes up to me, edges around the hem, and touches my chest.
“Why are you not wearing bra?” she asks tersely.
“I am,” I say. “I am wearing bra.”
“No,” she says. “No bra.” She gestures at my chest.
I pull back the bodice to reveal the bra. “See?”
“Oh.” She bustles out of the room and returns a moment later with two huge pads.
“Wait—“ I say. “Do you mean I should have those AND the bra?”
She shrugs. “Maybe.”
My friend Liane starts laughing. I start laughing. The seamstress is very serious.
An hour later, after I have been soundly scolded for moving my arms too much while the hem is painstakingly clipped, and I have remained on the edge of yelling, “Just cut the damn thing! I don’t care if it’s crooked!” for about forty-five minutes, we are free. We wander out into the light of day. Liane reports that one of the other brides in the room was explaining repeatedly to the seamstress, “No. It has to SKIM the floor. It can’t bunch. It has to SKIM. It’s supposed to skim.”
I hadn’t heard. I was too distracted by my image in the mirror. There have been very few times in my life when I’ve been forced to look at myself in the mirror for an hour. I don’t think I’ve ever done it before this, actually. And for good reason. It’s painful.
But it’s also a bit like how they describe meditation (I’ve never lasted more than four seconds. Really. Exactly four). The first ten minutes or so feel like torture, and then there’s this weird release, and you begin to let everything go. I don’t know what that means: “let everything go.” People are always going around saying things like that. “Just let God into your heart.” I’d need specific instructions. Even those aren’t enough sometimes. The food processor manual said, “Fit the disc over the metal stem on the disc stem with the raised-blade side up.” The blade looks raised on both sides, depending on what you consider “raised” to mean.
So I don’t know what I meant when I said “you begin to let everything go.” But I guess I mean it felt simple after a while. Looking in a mirror is always a complicated experience for me. There’s too much information to process. Why do we have so many sense organs on our faces? They’re all crowded together. It’s overload. And then the whole body. Forget it.
I’m almost completely convinced that I will not be a beautiful bride. Whatever that means. OK, I know exactly what that means, because there are approximately a billion images of beautiful brides. They seem to be everywhere I look. I expect to open my eyes tomorrow morning and see one projected on my bedroom ceiling. “Study of Beautiful Bride #One Billion and One, in White.”
Some days, I really don’t care. Because, for real, it doesn’t matter.
Some days, it annoys me a lot that I couldn’t be standardly lovely just this once. JUST THIS ONCE, GOD.
I am a bad typical bride. But I’m an even worse unschooled bride. Back when I was a kid and a teenager, before I went to college and learned about all the things the world expected of young women, I was totally convinced that I was the hottest thing ever. And this is what really gets me now, in retrospect: I thought I was hot because I looked weird. I was really convinced that all the things that were unusual or different about my appearance were what made me sexy and compelling and gorgeous. Just like the things that were different about my mind and my skillset made me stand out in a positive way intellectually and artistically. It seemed totally logical to imagine that the particular composition of my body, which was completely unique to me, was just as strikingly awesome as everything else I did well.
Which makes me think that people don’t learn about beauty until they’re around a lot of other people the same age. Or at least, they don’t learn about the way beauty functions in larger society. I knew all about beauty, but I understood it in totally different terms.
At my bat mitzvah, I wore a pale pink satin embroidered gown. It had a dramatic skirt with fluffy petticoat material underneath. I loved it. My grandmother wanted to know what I would do with my long, curly hair. I said I guess put it up. And then, a few weeks before the event, I cut it all off. I was so excited about my short hair. I looked like a gangly boy, with braces and pimples and shaggy short hair. And there I was, at my bat mitzvah, wearing this sweet pink ballgown. And I thought I looked fabulous. It was me. Feminine and boyish and spunky and weird and awesome.
And now here I am, standing in front of an enormous mirror, looking at myself in another enormous gown. This time white. There is an initial moment, when I see myself for the first time, and I think, “Beautiful!” And then that is quickly replaced with familiar criticisms. But then, slowly, they slide away, and I see the awkward tomboy with the braces and pimples and the short hair and big nose, in her ballgown. And how beautiful she is. Simply because she is herself. Not to go into all that stuff about how you’re beautiful if you think you’re beautiful and you just have to believe. I’m always bad at believing. So not that— but something else. It wasn’t just that she believed she was beautiful, it was that beauty was different. It was broad enough to encompass her uniqueness. It wasn’t so, so, so narrow. And it isn’t so, so, so narrow. It’s that my mind has gradually narrowed.
But there is nothing narrow about that dress. And I kinda think I may have to expand my ideas to even fit into it. Even if my breasts will never fill a bodice to the satisfaction of the seamstress or the industry.
* * * * *
Un-roast: Today I love my ability to occasionally cut all my hair off. It’s reassuring that I have the confidence to do that. Thanks to those who included un-roasts in their comments yesterday. Way to go! Always feel free to send me yours for the day.