The White Dress

he had been waiting her whole life for the white dress. For years, she had planned the meal that she would eat, the song that she would dance to, the women who would envy her when she wore that dress. Once, in high school, it was short, fluffy, with cap sleeves and a bow in the back. That was short lived. In college, it was long and gauzy, completed by bell sleeves and a corset back. She wanted to look like one of Tolkien’s elves, recently materialized from the mist over a lake. Ethereal in the afternoon sun. But she didn’t have the hair for it. So usually, it was a princess-style ball gown, with jewels aplenty and a tiara on top. Every little girl dreamed of being a princess, just for one day.

Her mother had spent years considering this as well. Nothing too gaudy, nothing too ostentatious. Mother was a practical woman. And Mother was paying. So she chose simple things, without flounces or buttons or lace, with minimal rhinestones in favor of pearls. No train. Trains made her look silly. That dress is not right for this occasion. You can’t wear that. Honestly, what will the neighbors think? Be realistic. This isn’t a royal wedding, you know.

er grandmother had no strong opinions on the matter. But that white was the wrong white. White had looked different when she was younger. This white hurt her eyes. What about something with pleats? Don’t they have anything with sleeves? Well, back when she was young, they wouldn’t have worn anything like that. But I guess that’s the style these days. A heavy sigh, a shake of the head, a shrug of disenchantment and disappointment. Whatever you like, dear. I don’t have much to say about it.

Her sister rolled her eyes and glared at her. You know, this was really draining, having to watch her try on all these dresses. She wouldn’t care that much. It was just a dress, after all. Must you always be the center of attention? Little miss pretty pretty princess? Everyone is doing all this work just for you. Don’t you care about how hard this is on the rest of us? Whatever. You’re so selfish.

Her best friends told her to be true to herself. Here, this is the one you used to like. Don’t let your family talk you out of it. You love it. Why are you changing your mind? It’s your day, you know. You should get what you want. Pay for it yourself, if you have to. You can always make up the difference someplace else. You have to choose something. Do what makes you happy. This will make you happy.

The men stayed out of it. This was wise. Her father’s opinion was somehow communicated through her mother, though he professed not to have one. This just meant Mother got an extra vote.

A suitable dress was found. Of course it would need changing. A different neckline. Different shoes. Different accessories, and different hair. Honestly, honey, it’s not that difficult – a four hour drive for alterations, breaking in three pairs of shoes, finding earrings that matched for under $20. Simple things, to look perfect on your special day.

Oh my. Turn, pause, turn the other way. Can you move? Can you sit? Well, you won’t be sitting, anyway. Can you breathe? Let’s try it with a different veil. A tiara? Well, it’s your decision.

On the day of her wedding she was her mother’s delight, her grandmother’s pride, her sister’s best friend – everyone’s porcelain doll. They were all so proud of her. It wasn’t clear why. She smiled until her cheeks hurt, said hello to all of the right people, held her flowers just so, said I do. She didn’t feel like herself at all.

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