Lately, after hearing a lot of talk about weddings and anniversaries, I started thinking back to the one and only time I was a Bridesmaid.
First, I must warn all the guys of the male gender that you might not understand some of the emotional underpinnings from a bad Bridesmaid dress, so I suggest you either rent Sixteen Candles or consult with your nearest chick friend to understand that yes, the Bridesmaid dress matters.
Let me also state for the record that I love attending weddings. Even when there's major family politics in play, they are happy occasions. They're about love (awww) and everyone is dressed so nice (awwww) and you can eat food and drink and be merry and sometimes even dance.
I loved the first third of the Wedding Crashers (the montage of weddings) which was so happy. It was a parade of joy and love across cultures and families that one does not usually see in typical studio fare. Then, the movie became a stupid romantic comedy although the football scene kicked ass---literally. At that point, I was on the movie theatre floor, rolling around in stale pop corn shouting ‘hit me baby one more time'.
Weddings are happy times. I remember when my guy friend got married, I caught half the bouquet. I will never forget the bouquet soaring through the air, then my hands rising up above my head and clapping together around the pretty pink petals as the plastic base landed in the hands of the girl behind me. Then, a moment of confusion. She was baffled. I was baffled. Neither one of us wanted to give up our half of the bouquet. I held the rose petals carefully, so they wouldn't float away. I later learned that no one in the Bride's family wanted the other girl to catch the bouquet because they disapproved of her boyfriend (or did they disapprove of her, I forget). The caterer put my rose petals into paper bag for me, and for years, they sat in a little white bowl in my apartment. When asked if I was disappointed with only half a bouquet, I said I wasn't. I hoped to get great sex out of it---and I did---now that I think about it, he was a wedding crasher.
I do not participate in catch the bouquet anymore. I consider it a loss of dignity and such rituals bring out my wayyy too competitive nature.
At my friend Julie's wedding, I cried like a baby when she walked down the aisle. I had known her for ten years, and there she was getting married. And then the tears started welling up because she looked so happy, and I was so happy, and well, (choke), it was so beautiful, and waaaaaa.
I've been to weddings all around the world. At a wedding reception in Wellington, New Zealand, someone drove a scooter into the middle of the reception. I still have a picture of that scooter somewhere. A wedding in Spain lasted twelve hours. The groom was Irish, and the bride was Spanish. That was a good wedding. The mass was bilingual and got done in 45 minutes. The priest spoke two languages like someone calling a horse race---and down the final stretch, bread and wine, but wait, here comes body and blood, and it's body and blood by a nose---sorry, Catholic humor. The meal was at long tables with bottomless bottles of wine. Then, the post reception was at a club right on the beach on the Mediterranean. All were invited, and older family members even put in an appearance.
My brother's wedding was a morning affair followed by a brunch. My brother wanted civilized, low key. When we arrived, there was a string quartet playing next to a fire in a fire place. All was calm until the bride's grandmother had to read a special poem during the ceremony. At that moment, in a moment of pure universal disharmony, my Aunt May's camera started to rewind very LOUDLY. Grandma's reading, and Aunt May's camera is going ERRRRRRRRR. The mother of the bride shot our side of the aisle a dirty look, but what can you do? I tell you, what can you do? At that moment, I realized that our family was going to be the crazy side of the family in my brother's married universe. And the funny thing is that I'm okay with that.
But getting back the bad Bridesmaid dress. When I was sixteen, my cousin, Lynne, got married for the first time. I am sooo using Lynne's real name by the way because this piece is an act of revenge. Yes, Lynne, after nearly two decades, I'm coming to get you for that dumb ass dress!
By the way, Lynne is now happily married to husband number three with a baby. She married husband number one at age eighteen, and I don't think that lasted very long. She married husband number two when I was out of the country (I love saying I was out of the country---it sounds so worldly even though I was just in England). However, I did go to Lynne's third wedding. She had one Bridesmaid, her sister, who was dressed tastefully in green. I wore a black Patricia Field dress, so yes, the bad Bridesmaid dress story does have a happy fashion ending. Who ever thought Patricia Field would play the role of Deus Ex Machina?
How bad was the bad Bridesmaid dress? Real bad.
Travel back in time with me. Back, way back, to the eighties. Some of you might have been mere infants. Some of you might have simply been a collection of cells divided between two people. Whatever you might have been, Reagan was president, and yes, people really did wear their hair like that.
Cousin Lynne is getting married and wants me to be one of her Bridesmaids. She has my dress all picked out. It's in the JCPenny catalogue.
I was young. I was naïve. I should have stopped it right there. But no, I didn't.
The dress arrives in a big brown box. It is pink and maroon and made from one of those man made fabrics with a half life of a thousand years. It's itchy too.
By pink, I mean a soft baby girl pink. On its own, it is a great color. I highly recommend it as a color. By maroon, I mean a deep purple mixed with a hint of brown. If it was just purple, okay. Just red, okay. Even just brown, okay. But when all three are together, eek! Fortunately, the maroon part was just the trim---all over the dress.
The dress had spaghetti straps and a little maroon bow on the bodice. It was cocktail length with little maroon bows all along the bottom. The designer must have really liked them maroon bows. The cut of the bottom of the dress reminded me of curtains with its drooping fabric.
This dress on its own was okay for my sixteen year old aesthetic. It reminded me of a costume in an old black and white movie with witty people drinking cocktails. But wait, there was more.
There was a second skirt, worn under the dress, which made the dress floor length. This skirt was maroon. If you had a giant hoop slip, you could go to the barbecue with Scarlett O'Hara. But alas my skirt did not billow out, and I looked even taller than I was.
On the day of the wedding, my cousin also gave me violet lacey gloves and a comb with flowers in it for my hair. At the time, I had short short hair, so I think the comb stayed in with a lot of hairspray. With my new nylons and a bouquet of pink flowers in a plastic bouquet holder, I was ready to go down the aisle and get my cousin married.
I don't remember much about the ceremony. It was in a church, and it was chilly and overcast that day. I remember standing in the back of the church and watching two big twenty year old pickup driving guys unrolling a white carpet down the aisle with great difficulty. What these guys would do for their women.
I remember the reception was in a hall that was so dark that all the decorating and flowers could not make it any lighter. The food was unmemorable, and I had to eat it with the bridal party at a long table in front of the room. I felt like a circus side show. Step right up and watch the bridal party eat food! Watch them not drool or make crumbs.
A DJ played music and everyone danced on a wooden floor that was laid down on top of the concrete floor. At the request of some of the pickup truck drivers, she played Bon Jovi, but no one danced to it. I won a bright pink T-shirt from her by answering the question, ‘which song won the recent Oscar for best song'. It was 'Take My Breath Away' from Top Gun. Yes, even then, I liked the trivia.
For years the Bridesmaid Dress sat in my closet. I never wore it again---not even as a Halloween costume. During one summer when I was home from college, I did a major throw-out of stuff I no longer needed in my new sophisticated New York existence. I donated the dress and some other bad fashion from my high school years to a local charity thrift shop.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to the bad Bridesmaid Dress. Did some other poor girl have to wear it at her cousin's wedding? Did it get transformed into a spring formal party dress after all the maroon was pulled out? Did a drag queen buy it and use it in a show? Or was it thrown out? Does it now sit on a pile of land fill in a garbage bag with other thrift store rejects that never sold? Do rats burrow in it seeking warmth and shelter? This I will never know.
I just hope that my tale of Bridesmaid Dress woe reaches some cousin who is about to get married. Please, let your bridal party wear beautiful clothes. It's all about the love, sister. It's all about the love.