I found my wedding dress the other day, encased in a box that was piled over with old magazines and socks that had long lost their mates. Just glimpsing the box, not even the dress within, sent my mind time-traveling back to the delicate days that are the run-up to a wedding.
I hadn’t cared about most of the elements behind the big event, assuming the guests would probably drink enough that none of them would matter. I did, however, care about my dress. I wanted the right dress. I have a complicated body to dress. I’m tall and thin, but I have the shoulders of a linebacker and the decolletage of a prepubescent boy. I knew the standard strapless A-line would leave me hoisting up the rigging every time the photographer’s lens fell upon me. So I set about finding a different style in the typical fashion of brides. I dog-eared magazine pages of styles I liked. I dragged girlfriends to bridal boutiques. One of my friends is probably still attempting to grow new corneas from the imagery of my stark-naked body upon a halogen-lit pedestal.
The try-ons went on and on. I couldn’t find one that I liked. Then it occurred to me that I was never going to find a dress if I kept relying on friends because instead of choosing the dress I wanted, I would wind up choosing the dress they wanted. After all, they had to sit there like the interviewers in “Basic Instinct” while I was manhandled by bridal store attendants. I realized, like most important decisions, I was going to have to do this one on my own.
One day, while at work, a co-worker who had recently married happened by my office. She gasped when she learned that I hadn’t found my dress yet.
“Honey,” she leaned in as though she were about to tell me my marriage was doomed, “There’s only one choice if you’re in New York.”
I stared back at her blankly, assuming she was about to draw the Yankees into this scenario.
I checked my office door to make sure it still read Erin Donovan across it. I could barely afford the burritos I ate every day. I bought toilet paper on credit. Surely she misunderstood my life circumstances. I can’t even look, I told myself.
But I was a lover of all things patently New York. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge a few times every year. I took the Staten Island ferry to glimpse the Statue of Liberty. I visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum every season. I never passed old men playing handball without stopping to watch. Surely visiting Vera Wang, even if I would be ushered out by security, was a New York experience to have.
And so I went.
I was assigned an older woman as my attendant. She walked with a straight back and emanated a crisp upper crust edge. I followed behind her as though she was leading me to a death tribunal. As we passed dress after dress that I recalled on the bodies of world-famous celebrities, she suddenly stopped, turned toward me and said, “I sense you’re not looking for a gown that will make you look like Cinderella.”
“I like simpler things,” I replied.
The unforgiving look in her eyes caused me to stammer, “And, to be honest, I’m not even sure I can afford anything here.”
She pursed her lips and squinted her eyes, “I have one dress for you. Only one. And I think you two were meant for each other.”
I smiled politely but impolitely uttered a four-letter word under my breath since I knew this dress was going to cost more than our monthly rent. And I was also very afraid of this woman, particularly afraid of denying her when she claimed to have my soul mate in the back room.
And then she unsheathed it. It was simple and beautiful.
“I’m sure I can’t afford it.”
She didn’t miss a beat as she ripped off my shirt, like I was an ungrateful toddler, “Do you think I’d waste my time showing you something that is $10,000? This was cut by Vera herself. You’ll find dresses floating on the Hudson River more expensive.”
Then I looked at myself, bracing for the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t look like me. Yet I still was me. I knew the search was over. That mystical connection that everyone had told me of washed over me.
And so I bought it. Or Amex bought it. When I returned home, Greg said, “Did you get a dress today?” I told him that I had with an air that was probably a bit too casual.
“From where?” he asked.
I considered lying, but then I erred on the side of truth. “At Vera Wang.”
“That’s not good,” he muttered after a pause.
“Because I’ve heard of that.”
And so it became the Wang heard round the world, but it was a masterpiece on our wedding day. And I had it steamed and folded and preserved like Walt Disney’s body when it was over so that it will be a masterpiece at the wedding of one of my children. Because if it’s not worn by one of my daughters then — by God — it will be worn by my son.
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the Midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog “I’m Gonna Kill Him.” Follow her misadventures at imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.