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.
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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.
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