Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bridesmaid Panic Attack

Once upon a time, or in reality, five years ago, I had a borderline panic attack at a David's Bridal. The next day, I wrote about it.

I've been looking back through a lot of my old writings lately, thinking more about my plans for my book (you know, that one I talk about all the time), and although I'd like to say I would write this essay better now, I decided to share it here exactly as I wrote it that day five years ago.

Mostly because I hope, if you're reading this, and you're in the middle of this place I was in five years ago, missing someone you've lost, feeling alternately terrified and pissed off, to know this: It does get better. I promise. I also hope you have someone like my aunt to come rescue you.

with the beautiful bride
And the other good news—I managed to find a dress that fit.

But I still fucking hate David's Bridal.

Read the essay after the jump.

Bridesmaid Panic Attack

“Everything okay in there, hon?”

“Fine! I’m fine!” 

No, everything is not fine. I’m standing in a dressing room at David’s Bridal fighting panic. My face is bright red and I’ve started to sweat. I am stuck in a bridesmaid dress that is too tight and squeezing my boobs up and together in a sick, painful way. No, everything is not okay. 

I can’t undo the zipper. I grit my teeth together and stare at my wide-eyed, sweaty reflection. My own breasts are starting to scare me. This dress is cutting off my circulation. Must. Unzip. Dress.

I make a final, dramatic tug at the zipper. Finally, it moves, and I frantically start to pull the dress down to release my breasts so I can breathe. Success! Wait. The dress is now stuck on my hips. I didn’t get the zipper down all the way. I turn, slightly, and tug hard on the zipper.
Fuuuuuck. I have now ripped the dress. 

But at least I’m free. I step out of the dress and study the rip. Can I get away with not saying anything about the rip? 

There’s a knock on the door. “Hon? I thought you might want to try a size bigger as well. Sometimes the measurements can be a little off.” 

Sometimes the measurements can be a little off? You think? I make a face at my reflection as the saleswoman slides another bridesmaid dress under the door. 

“Thanks!” I squeak. Meaning: Please go away and leave me to my misery.

This time, the dress slides on easily. My boobs can breathe, and so can I. It fits, right? I smile at my reflection, now that I’m a little less sweaty and look like me, only the bridesmaid version. Just as I breathe a sigh of relief, I overhear:

“Mom? How do I look?”

“Oh, baby, you look beautiful! You’re going to be the most beautiful bride!”

“Oh, come on, Mom, I’m being serious.”

“Well, I’m being serious! You look perfect.”

My heart starts pounding fast as I overhear this exchange. I have to get out of this dress. Now. I unzip quickly and leave the dress in a pile at my feet as I step out of it and grab my clothes. I dress quickly, swallowing the tears that I know are coming. 

Because there’s no one outside my dressing room to tell me how beautiful I look. I came here alone. My mother is dead, and she’ll never tell me how beautiful I look again. She’ll certainly never proclaim that I’ll be the most beautiful bride. My mother is dead, and I’m here alone. 

You can’t cry in David’s Bridal, I tell myself as I scoop up the two dresses and slowly open my dressing room door. Don’t let these women see you cry. I step out and try not to look at the mother and daughter whose conversation I overheard, but I can’t help it.

The daughter is standing on a stool in front of a three-way mirror, and her mother is behind her, beaming. They look just alike: the younger and older versions of each other. I hate them. I hate David’s Bridal. I hate weddings.

I walk as quickly as I can around the store, searching for the woman who was helping me so I can thrust the dresses at her and get the hell out of here. But I don’t see her. All I can see now is mothers helping their daughters pick out wedding dresses, and bridesmaid dresses, and shoes. There are no men here. Fathers don’t come to David’s Bridal. 

Now I’m angry. I hate all this crap. If I were here with Mom, I’d be bitching about how bridesmaid dresses are always unflattering and that weddings make me angry with all the patriarchal “the wife must obey her husband” bullshit. And she’d tell me that my wedding wouldn’t have to be like that and I should be happy to help celebrate my friend Eileen’s marriage. Then we’d laugh together and she’d tell me I could look good in a burlap sack, so it wouldn’t matter what the dress looked like, anyway. When we saw that the bridesmaid dress wasn’t ugly at all, we’d both agree on Eileen’s great taste and that she’d never pick out ugly, unflattering bridesmaid dresses. 

But she’s not here to have this conversation with me, so all I have to hold on to is my anger. Why do these women get to have their mother, and I can’t? Why don’t I get to have my mom help pick out my wedding dress? How can I ever get married without my mother to help me? Without her to meet my future husband? 

And where in the fuck is that saleswoman?

Finally, I see her. I storm over to her at the counter. She’s all smiles, her measuring tape that clearly doesn’t measure right draped around her neck.

“So how did those work out for you, hon?”

“Well, the first one was so tight that I ripped it trying to get it off. The second one fit. Is that all you need from me for now? Do I need to pay for the dress that I ripped?”

“Oh, honey, don’t you worry about that! It happens all the time.” She’s leaning close and whispering in a conspiratorial tone. I can’t stand her. My mom hated when people called her ‘hon’ or ‘honey.’ Now I hate when people call me ‘hon’ or ‘honey,’ too. Especially when they work at David’s Fucking Bridal. 

“Well, I’m really sorry about ripping it. It was just really tight. So that other one fit. The 8. Is that all we need for now?”

I have to get out of here before something bad happens, and The Indianapolis Star’s headline tomorrow reads, “Young Woman Flips Out at David’s Bridal, Kills Workers and Mother-Daughter Customers.”

“That’s great, hon! Now just let me write that down, and we’ll call you as soon as your dress comes in. Then you just have to come back in so we can see what alterations are needed.”
“I have to come back in? Why would there be alterations?” I’m freaking out. 

Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…

She laughs. “Well, you want it to fit perfectly for that special day, don’t you?”

Today’s my special fucking day, I think. “Right. Okay. Well, just call me then. Thanks!”

“Have a great day!”

I’m already halfway out the door at that point. As soon as I step into the parking lot, the sun glaring off the cars, I lose it. I sob all the way to my car, barely noticing another mother-daughter duo looking at me with sympathetic, confused stares.

I cry all the way home. It’s a good 45 minutes from Indianapolis back to my dad’s house, but I cry the whole time. I cry harder after Eileen calls and I try to explain what happened without making her feel guilty. It’s not her fault, after all. She’s sympathetic, and it makes me feel worse. It’s not her fault her mom is alive to help plan her wedding. Then my dad calls and I cry even harder, because I don’t know how to explain what I feel:

I’m 22, I’m single, and I don’t know if I even want to get married. But all that doesn’t matter, because my mother is dead and she’ll never see me get married. She will never help me zip up a dress again. She’ll never wait outside a dressing room to tell me how beautiful I am. She’ll never roll her eyes at me while a saleswoman takes my measurements and calls me ‘hon.’ Never, never, never. 

Later that day, I tell my Aunt Deborah what happened. She gets it. “You’re not going back there alone,” she says. “You just tell me when we need to go.” 

A few weeks later, back at David’s Bridal with Deborah to protect me, I let her talk to the saleswoman and make sure the alterations are right. I don’t say much, but this time, I don’t really feel like crying. Deborah and I don’t look anything alike, but I pretend that the other people in the store think she’s my mother. It’s easier that way. 

Maybe my mom isn’t there, but at least I have someone like Deborah to fill in. Nonetheless, that will be the last time I ever step foot in a David’s Bridal.


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