Authors: Erin Duffy
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Literary, #General
For my girlfriends, who manage to find the fun in everything
HERE HAS GOT
to be a reason why they do this,” I said as I turned and checked out the back of my dress in the three-way mirror. “I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. This is without question the most expensive dress you will ever buy in your life. Explain to me why the sample size is so big you need clothespins to hold it up? You can’t even tell how it’s going to look when it’s the right size!” I stared at the back of the ivory strapless Vera Wang gown, in all its beautiful satin and lace glory, being held up by heavy-duty clothespins that cost two dollars for a bag of three hundred from the corner store. Personally, I thought the wedding dress industry was pushing the concept of shabby chic just a little too far.
“That’s not even the worst part, Abby,” my best friend Grace said from her perch on the chair in the corner of the room. “You go to a sample sale for normal clothes and the average size barely fits a six-year-old. The fashion industry is all kinds of screwed up.” She downed a glass of champagne. Free cocktails seemed to be the latest trend in customer service for soon-to-be brides and, in this case, their friends. I was pretty sure the booze was the only reason Grace was so eager to follow me to bridal shops all over the city, but I didn’t mind. I figured there was no harm in having a few drinks as long as Grace, not me, was the one who got buzzed. The concept of getting love-struck girls liquored up in a bridal salon seemed a bit risky. The last thing I needed was to overdo the bubbly and end up putting down a nonrefundable deposit on a dress with a forty-foot train or something.
Kate Middleton I am not.
“On the flip side, it does make me feel skinny,” I admitted.
“You may have just answered your own riddle,” Grace said as she finished her glass of Moët. “Do you think we could get some of our other friends to pretend they’re getting married so we can keep coming in here for free happy hour?” she asked. Most people would have laughed this off, but I knew Grace well enough to know that she wasn’t kidding. These were tough times, and you’d be surprised how creative you can be when you’re looking for ways to cut down on bar bills.
“That’s got to be bad luck,” I said as I shook my head. “Of all the wedding superstitions I’ve ever heard, pretending to be engaged so you can save money on alcohol has got to be right up there with wearing someone else’s ring on your ring finger.”
“It’s bad luck to wear someone else’s ring?” she asked as she peeled chipped pink nail polish off her thumb.
“The worst. Don’t ever do that,” I scolded her.
“Well, I’m screwed. I’ve been doing that for years. We’ve been friends since we were six. Why are you just telling me about this now?”
“Clearly, I’ve failed you,” I said as I piled my bottle-blond hair on top of my head to simulate actual wedding hair instead of the unbrushed mess of frizz that it actually was. “I’m going gray. Look at this,” I said as I smoothed the hair around my part. My overgrown, mousy brown roots were now showing random strands of gray. “I need to get my highlights done.”
“You spend so much money on highlights! You don’t need them. You’re not going gray.”
“Not all of us have perfect hair.”
“I’m a redhead. Not perfect.”
Grace’s hair wasn’t red. It was an ethereal, natural shade of auburn. It was a color that girls spend hundreds of dollars on trying to simulate and never come close to achieving. Grace was a stereotypical Irish girl. She had gorgeous red hair, shocking blue eyes, pale skin, and the ability to guzzle booze like a three-hundred-pound man. When I looked at the thousands of pictures of us from over the years, she always looked the same, while I transformed from the short girl with mousy brown hair and brown eyes to the short girl with bottle-blond hair and brown eyes. I wanted to hate her for her God-given beauty, but I loved her too much. I have, however, stopped standing next to her in pictures.
The annoying perky bridal lady who was helping me popped her bobble-head into my dressing room. “How are we doing in here, ladies? Can I get you anything?” she asked in a voice so high it sounded like she had sucked on a helium tank.
“The bride needs a glass of champagne,” Grace said with authority. “She’s a little jittery.”
“Not a problem, I’ll be right back,” she said as she pushed her way back through the heavy curtain.
“I don’t want a glass of champagne,” I said to Grace after the perky lady had left.
“It’s not for you, it’s for me.”
“Why do you need to drink to watch me try on wedding dresses?” I joked, though I already knew the answer.
“I don’t. But it’s free, so why wouldn’t I?” she said with a shrug.
I laughed. I loved Grace for her blunt honesty and her ability to find the fun in any situation—even sitting in the corner of a dressing room wallpapered in satin wedding dresses that more or less all looked the same. “Well, for what it’s worth, I do think that dress looks beautiful on you,” she said. “You know, assuming you ditch the clothespins and have about fifty yards of fabric removed. Do you want me to take a picture to send your mother?”
I shot her a knowing look. “No. If my mother was at all interested in seeing me in my wedding dress, she’d be here instead of at the day spa, covered in mud or seaweed or some other crap.”
“She just wants to look her best for your big day. Don’t let it upset you—I’m here!” Grace said, hoping that she’d assuage the dull pain I felt from once again having my mother be absent for a defining moment in my life because she was too busy taking care of herself.
I swished the skirt from side to side, listening to it rustle and trying to picture myself wearing it on the most important day of my life. It was early September, and I didn’t have a lot of time until my “Winter Wonderland”–themed wedding in January, so I had no time to waste before buying the perfect gown. I was planning my entire wedding in only six months, which to some people doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re thirty-one and have dated your boyfriend since college, six months might as well be six years. I was ready for my real life to start. And once you’re ready for that, you want it to start immediately—as in yesterday. Six months was more than enough time to plan the wedding because I was planning on sticking to the basics: dress, band, church, flowers, guests, add champagne, stir, and bam-o, instant wife. Just like instant cookie mix, but slightly more expensive.
“What’s up with Ben?” Grace asked as she typed on her iPad. Clearly tired of looking at the reflection of her best friend in triplicate, she preferred to post a picture of her champagne glass on her Facebook page. The world’s obsession with social media completely baffled me. I could think of no reason on earth why anyone would care that Grace was drinking champagne in a bridal salon on a Saturday afternoon, but still, she felt a need to alert people she was “friends” with all over the country that that was what she was doing. Girls these days no longer seemed to value their privacy in the slightest, which I found profoundly sad. I wasn’t sure when exactly the shift toward total voyeurism had occurred, but I was pretty sure it was right around the time women started getting bikini waxes on national TV.
“Not much,” I said as the lady returned with another champagne flute, smiling another game-show-worthy smile before she left. I handed the flute to Grace and fidgeted with the top of my dress, trying to place it so that my chest didn’t squish out the sides. “He’s been really busy lately at work. I think he’s stressed about the wedding and stuff. It’s going to be hard for him to take two weeks off for the honeymoon.”
“What does he have to be stressed about? He’s not the one people are looking at. You are. He could show up in a stained tux with a rip up the ass and no one would notice. You, on the other hand, better not show up with so much as one hair out of place or people will mock you for the rest of your life.”
“That’s comforting,” I said as I turned to the side for the millionth time to check out my silhouette. “Other than that, he’s fine.” And that was the truth. He was completely fine; he was just, I don’t know, different. Weddings can do strange things to people, so it was a good thing that I was the picture of calm while we finished up this planning process. All he had to do was book our honeymoon in Hawaii, and I’d take care of everything else. The less added stress I put on him the better, and besides, everyone knows that as long as there’s an open bar and a good band, guys don’t give a damn about anything else. When you think about it, if your fiancé cares about or even knows the difference between a peony and a hydrangea, you’ve probably got a whole other set of issues you need to deal with. So I was perfectly content with him not caring about anything in any way whatsoever. “I called him this morning before my appointment, but I got his voicemail. Maybe he can meet us for lunch after this or something. I’ll call him when we finish up.”
“Cool,” she said. “I think you need to try on a few more, though. I’m not ready to leave yet.”
“I don’t need to. This is it.
is the one.” I could hear the wedding march music in my head just standing in it. The satin gathered perfectly at my waist, the small crystal-encrusted appliqué at the hip added just enough sparkle to make it special without looking cheesy, and the flare of the skirt had just enough volume without making me look like a cream puff. It was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
I continued to twirl on the circular platform in the middle of the dressing room like one of those ballerinas in little girls’ jewelry boxes. I never thought that I was a girly girl, but I was starting to second-guess myself because I could have stood on that platform and twirled until I got dizzy, pitched over, and fell face first off the pedestal and onto the floor.
I heard my phone ring and glanced at it in the corner, lying on the floor next to my purse and the pile of discarded clothes. I ignored it because I was pretty sure it was my mother trying to explain to me for the millionth time why she simply could not miss her microderm abrasion appointment to come with me today. My wedding day, in her mind, was all about her, and the approaching date had turned her into a bigger narcissist than she usually was. If she wasn’t having something wrapped, scrubbed, plucked, or lasered, she was popping anxiety medication and lying around the house with cucumbers on her eyelids moaning about how she simply wasn’t old enough to be the mother of the bride. Most people wouldn’t consider this normal motherly behavior, but anyone who expected my mother to be normal had never met her.
And should consider themselves lucky.
Anyway, I didn’t need her to come with me. I had Grace, and Grace had her champagne, so everyone was happy. Things were going great. I loved this dress. I imagined I’d love it even more twelve sizes smaller so I could raise my arms without it falling down around my waist.