Having a little, completely ordinary breakdown


I always get this sense that there are a lot of people (probably most people in the world) who know how to do things better than me. They were born knowing. They’re innately good at life. I think they probably handle most situations involving pressure better. And situations involving lots of people. And situations involving messy food. And in thinking this about them, I am probably like most people. But that doesn’t prevent me from imagining them, whoever they are, dealing with whatever it is that I’m dealing with, and doing that gracefully, while also sending the last, perfected chapter off to their editor at Random House, squirting symmetrical dollops of wild mushroom mousse into whimsically tiny homemade puff pastry shells, and French braiding their thick, shiny hair with whichever hand is free for whichever moment. I do not have any relationship with Random House. We’re not even casual acquaintances. I am not French braiding. I am sitting on the couch, sliding backwards into anxiety. I have a mixer, from the wedding registry, but the box fell off the couch and landed upside down, and I haven’t checked to see if it’s OK, because there’s no room on the counter for it anyway, and I’m intimidated by the stack of cookbooks I suddenly own (from the bridal shower).

I thought I wouldn’t have one of those classic breakdowns that brides are supposed to have. And maybe this doesn’t count, because it isn’t oriented around the tablecloths being the wrong length or something. But maybe it does count, because it is oriented around the wedding. Maybe it doesn’t count because I’m not crying and throwing things. Maybe it counts because I did cry, yesterday. I didn’t throw anything, though.

I picked up my gown. “Kate,” said the woman who brought it out from the back. She was reading my name off the form. “Look it over.” She hung it up and unzipped the white body bag and walked away. The dress had its own breasts. They were bigger than mine. It was as tall as me, hanging there. We stared at each other. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. The dress was obviously in control, and I had nothing to say about or to it. I felt awkward, as though the women behind the counter were thinking, “Seriously? She’s going to wear that?” Like I should’ve chosen something less conspicuous. Like I was one of those tragic women who have always wanted to be a princess for just one day. Even though it’s painfully clear to everyone around them that Walt Disney would laugh hysterically at the thought.

Everyone keeps asking me if I’m excited. Everyone says, without waiting for an answer, “It’s so exciting! It’ll be the best day of your life!”

I am excited, I think. But it’s difficult to access, because the wedding, which has been so long coming, is now looming over me. I fight to hold still as it lumbers closer. It sniffs, swings its massive head, it sees me, for the first time. This is like waiting, trembling, head high, as the bull charges.

And all this is not to say that it won’t be an incredible day, by the way. Or that I am horribly, disgustingly ungrateful. But there’s something in this process that deserves reflection, I think. There’s something about the habit so many of us are in of planning and planning and planning for one intensely meaningful moment. The Olympics. The Superbowl. Ms. America. American Idol. I used to leave the room when my family watched figure skating, sometimes, because I didn’t want to see the girl’s dreams shatter as she came out of the triple axel too quickly, losing a single, critical, life-changing point. We want to push all the meaning into that jump. Into two minutes on the ice. One competition. A single day. With everyone watching.

It’s my fault. I wanted to include everyone. Alright, I sort of wanted to include everyone. I mostly had no idea what I wanted. I hadn’t thought about weddings before. I hadn’t been to weddings before. I had this image of Bear and I, standing there, gazing into each other’s eyes, while a blurry, ambiguously sized group of people appreciated our obvious love. I had not factored in the rest. And the sense that the rest gives you that what you’re about to do is THE BIGGEST DEAL IN THE WORLD.

It didn’t feel like a big deal when we got engaged. It didn’t feel like a big deal when I decided Bear was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

But being a bride feels like a big deal. My dress, as it turns out, may be prettier than me. It’s definitely better at being a bride. Maybe, I think desperately, I should’ve picked something less… bridal. Maybe I should’ve known better, back then, when I picked a venue that was too formal for pizza, that I wouldn’t be able to sneak pizza in. That suddenly the wedding party would be dressed in tuxes and floor-length gowns. And suddenly there would be self-important hors d’oeuvres. Hors d’oeuvres that look better prepared for the wedding than I do.

But that’s not even it. It’s not their fault. I’m sure they’ll be delicious. I don’t even know that I can quite explain it. Sometimes, for a moment, I’m thrilled out of my mind. I’m shocked and astoundingly happy. I think that my breasts are up for the dress, and that I will show it who’s the real bride here. But today, sitting on the couch when I should be practicing things for the wedding and buying things for the wedding and writing lists for the wedding and contacting vendors for the wedding and calming down for the wedding and getting the right amount of excited for the wedding, I don’t have any idea who I will be on the day of the wedding. I don’t have any idea how to do this. And at the same time I’m so used to the wedding being there, at a safe distance. I’m not used to it, you know, being here. And I don’t have any idea who I’ll be the next day, when the rest of my life is suddenly here, too.


*  *  *  *  * *

Un-roast: Today I love the way I look in a red flannel shirt. I was surprised by how flattering it looked, the first time I put it on. I have this fantasy about living in the mountains…

P.S. Writing this post made me feel a lot better, actually.


Kate on October 11th 2010 in beauty, body, life, wedding

19 Responses to “Having a little, completely ordinary breakdown”

  1. rachel responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Who should you be on your wedding day? Yourself!! I don’t understand why so many women seem to want to play the part of the perfect bride on their wedding days, as if the whole thing were some kind of theatre. You’ll be you no matter how ‘wedding’ your dress looks, and no matter what you have done with your hair and makeup. The people you love – especially Bear – will see passed all of that stuff anyway.

    I’m not a big fan of the kind of the thinking that says your wedding day will be the best and most important day of your life, because that discounts everything that comes after, but on that day you will have one of the best moments of your life.

    All of this is coming from someone who doesn’t ‘get’ wedding culture. Before my wedding, I hardly told anyone because I didn’t want to complicate our joy with anyone else’s ideas about what marriage should be. Even after I felt awkward accepting effusive congratulations, like somehow my identity had changed because I’m going to file my taxes differently. It was enough for my husband and I to look back and say, “It was a very good day. There’s nothing I would change about it.”

  2. Rebecca responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    Oh, girl.

    I wish I could take you out for a good martini.

    The way you are feeling is *totally* normal,
    and it will fade–just hang on through this next bit,
    and do whatever you need to do to feel like yourself.

    (If that means wearing PJ’s for three days straight
    and only eating pizza,
    do it.)

    Sending prayers and hope for serenity your way…


  3. Mary responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    “…French braiding their thick, shiny hair with whichever hand is free for whichever moment.”

    Dude, I don’t even know HOW to French braid. It’s like doing cartwheels: one of those childhood skills that I just didn’t pick up along the way.

    Anyway. Weddings are complex as hell. I was completely naive to this fact until I started planning my own. The wedding itself doesn’t really change anything for me or for my reality: I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life with Mark. I already knew that before we started planning the party.

    What I didn’t realize is that weddings stir up SO MUCH of our cultural sediment. Deep traditions, class envy, feminism, religion, judgments, and yes, love are all swirling around in this ONE DAY. It’s enough to make a girl’s head explode!

    I’m fairly new to the blogging community so I don’t know if it’s poor manners to talk about other blogs here, but I want to recommend A Practical Wedding (www.apracticalwedding.com) to you if you haven’t already seen it. It kind of keeps me sane.

    Good luck to you!

  4. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    HA! I laughed aloud at the “Dude…” line. Me either. But I always thought french braids were pretty.

    I also love “cultural sediment.” So incredibly true.

    And you’re only, like, the fifth person to recommend A Practical Wedding to me :) It is really awesome.

  5. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    OK. I’m going to get some pizza. And I’m giving you full credit for it.

  6. Justine responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Um Kate, how is it you managed to sneak into my head? I’ve been feeling this exact same way and I’m glad writing this made you feel better, it made me feel better too!

    Planning a wedding is really stressful, you don’t have to be a bridezilla or a perfectionist to be affected by the stress, it just happens and all we can do is try to breathe and have faith that everything *will* fall into place—and even if it doesn’t, it will still be an amazingly joyous and happy occasion.

    Oh, and I agree about the Pizza—and maybe some ice cream and silly movies will help too!

  7. E responded on 11 Oct 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    I just hope when you get to the day of, you can enjoy what it is and not worry about what everyone is thinking. Just remember what the day is about. I’m glad you could vent a little steam/stress/anxiety/etc.

  8. claire responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 5:33 am #

    Kate – I would love to see you eating pizza in the dress. That would show the dress who is the boss. Also your boobs will LOVE the dress because the dress will help them look awsome (am I really talking about a stranger’s boobs in the third person?).

    This entire post is the reason I started a blog. Did I feel excited enough? Did I know what I was doing? No, no. Still don’t, thought I am still managing to piece things together. Today I booked a makeup lady and felt a bit like a fraud for not feeling more excited. I rang my mum, who was more excited. That made me feel better.

  9. Wei-Wei responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 5:50 am #

    I think that you and your dress should have a good old-fashioned cat fight, and you know what? You’d win. Even if your dress, and the hors d’oeurves, and the tuxes, and the dresses, and the flowers, and the ring, all teamed up to fight against you, you’d win. You know why? Because this is YOUR wedding. You can’t lose your own game; your wedding is going to be your very own, and hey, if you demand that everyone show up in PJs and have a slumber-party-wedding with a good movie (Ferris Beuller, anyone?) and popcorn and pizza and junk food and a good reminiscing with your closest friends and family, and then serve hors d’oeurves on plastic plates, who cares?

    Okay. A lot of people care. You’d care. But still, the point I’m trying to get to is, you know you’re making the right choice, and so does Bear. The wedding day is one that you’re going to want to remember, but remember it for the right reasons.

    This comment made no sense at all. I swear. Gosh.

  10. Cindy responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:38 am #

    oh the jitters!

    before you know it you’ll be MARRIED and the rest will just be funny stories.

    Don’t over think it. It DOES have a life of it’s own. even small weddings! (trustme)

    but I have to say I am still staring at the ice skating pic.
    LOVE ice skating. I must have been a skater in another life!

    relax! breath! laugh!!!!!

  11. Kate responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Honestly, I’m kinda proud of myself for finding that photo. More analogies should be made between weddings and figure skating competitions :)

  12. San D responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Just think of your wedding as a “fantasy day” resplendent in a good Kate novel. You, the heroine, Bear, the knight in shining armor, the rest of us all decked out in our finest, at court, indulging in good food, wine and music. Essentially that is what a wedding is, dress up day, fantasy, flowers, twirling, music, laughter, exchanging of stories among the guests. But just like writing a good novel, “fantasy” takes preparation and lots and lots of details to appear beautiful and effortless. And, just like a good novel, it will be over before you know it, and when you close the book, you treasure the memories of it.

  13. Carol Adams responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Oh Kate, Kate, Kate…
    How I love how you write. Honest. Insightful. Funny!
    You & your dress will make friends and be one on your day, and you two will be beautiful!
    Yes, don’t over think things too much & and try to be present in the moment as the day just whisks by all to quickly.
    I feel certain that everything will be fine…
    Wish I could be there to give you a big hug!
    Sending many good thoughts your way!

  14. Angela Jones responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    You are going to own that dress and wear it with pride! Don’t let that dress intimidate you, you are a princess, to all of us and to your Bear. I just bought a flannel shirt at Fred Meyer the other day, it is a bit longer and it fits my curves perfectly, I love it and my husband REALLY loves it! xx

  15. Rachel responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    Only you, Ms. Bride-to-Be, could write so beautifully and articulately about pre-wedding stress! :) Seriously though, when I get married can you concoct a written account of the process? I think it will make me feel like there’s some poetic justice even in the most stressful moments of life.

    There is a really appropriate episode of 30Rock as a supplement to your post (not sure if you watch the show)…basically Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) decides that, even though she doesn’t have a groom in mind yet, it is time to buy a wedding dress for her future wedding. She proceeds to wear the dress around in public (in inappropriate situations) and eats a very messy sandwich in it. The whole episode is really funny and glorious. The point of this story (I promise there is one!) is that I think you should eat whatever YOU WANT in your dress! And DO whatever you want on the day of your wedding! (Within reason, of course.) And, after your wedding, wear the dress some more. Because it is a fabulous dress. And take each day one outfit/step at a time. :)

  16. Miss Bec responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:02 pm #


    You’re there to be with your man and hold his hand; to receive love, and loving looks from your guests; to eat a gorgeous wedding cake; and to dance your socks off.

    It’s a party where everyone is there to honour your love.

    That’s all. No expectations.

    Enjoy. xxx

  17. Kate responded on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I want to watch that episode. Sounds amazing. Especially since I’m definitely planning on eating a pastrami sandwich in my dress.

    And you’re sweet, but now you’re going to have to deal with me following you around as you plan your wedding, and taking notes for my post on it :)


  18. Ellen responded on 13 Oct 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Here’s a webcomic that might make you smile: http://wondermark.com/665/

  19. Eat the Damn Cake » A Practical Wedding (and a Jewish homeschooler) responded on 16 Aug 2011 at 12:57 pm #

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